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State Map Poster

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Kathleen Abbott Blasland, Bouck, and Lee
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This is a midterm project where students have the opportunity to investigate in-depth the physical features of a state. This poster project introduces students to diverse data and provides the opportunity to compare, contrast and interpret the data in a geologic context.
GSA Poster (Acrobat (PDF) 1.4MB Nov24 03)

Learning Goals


Higher Order Thinking Skills:

Comparing and contrasting data sets, drawing conclusions from data.

Other Skills:

Basic research skills, communicating results in a poster and oral presentation.


Instructional Level:

Initially designed for undergraduate majors but could easily be modified for undergraduate entry level or grades 9-12.

Skills Needed:

Understanding of basic physical geologic concepts, general research skills.

Role of Activity in a Course:

The State Map poster project has been the mid-term project in the North American Landscapes course. It builds on what we have covered in labs and lectures and allows the students to take these concepts and apply them to an investigation of a state they choose.

Data, Tools and Logistics

Required Tools:

Access to library, access to computers to create poster and use the internet for research. The project could be adapted to a GIS course which would require more specific software.

Logistical Challenges:

Some students have a difficult time with presenting material in the poster format and can benefit greatly from reviewing an example poster.


Evaluation Goals:

Are students making connections with the landscape around them?

Evaluation Techniques:

Students are evaluated on a brief oral presentation to the class and the overall content, organization and creativity of their poster (36x48").



As will become apparent throughout the duration of this semester, the landscape of the conterminous United States is highly diverse, and includes plains, mountains, valleys, prairies, lakes, rivers, and deserts that have been sculpted by a variety of geologic agents. The landscapes found throughout the U.S. thus reflect the interplay between geological processes and the underlying bedrock. The purpose of this exercise is to familiarize you with the "landscape" in a particular area, in this case, one of the lower 48 states.

Formally, the U.S. has been divided into several Physiographic Provinces, which correspond to regions that share certain geomorphic features in common, whether they be mountain belts, plateaus, plains, coastlines, etc. As such, the boundaries among the various Physiographic Provinces typically cross state boundaries, such that most states lie within more than one province.

As an example, two colored maps of the state of Virginia, downloaded from the Web here, courtesy of Professor C.M. Bailey, College of William & Mary) are attached. The first one is a colored relief map showing Physiographic Province boundaries, and the second map highlights the provinces themselves. Each map is accompanied by an explanatory legend about the various physiographic and geologic segments of the state of Virginia.

This assignment asks you to select a state, to learn as much as possible about the nature of its landscape and its bedrock geology, and to produce a report that explains how the landscape achieved its present configuration. The product of your efforts will be a poster (on a single 36x48" board), and a brief oral presentation to the class during the week before spring break.

One way to proceed is through a series of panels within your poster, each devoted to a different aspect of your state. You should make sure that an explanation accompanies each diagram. Things to consider include topography, drainage, surface features, bedrock, geologic history, and anything else that contributes to understanding the "lay-of the-land." Limitations of space will force you to be creative as well as to be succinct with your explanations, while being informative and at the same time avoiding overcrowding within your display.

You should select a state as soon as possible, which will enable you to obtain appropriate resources on a timely basis. Our EPSc library contains a set of digital relief maps for each state (or at least those that are available), which will enable you to gain a good feel for your state. Our EPSc library also is a depository for state documents, so you should be able to get started right away. However, it might prove necessary to contact a state agency to obtain information and maps (like the attached ones for Virginia). I must insist that each student select a different state.

After this exercise is done, we will hang the posters from the cases in the second floor of Wilson Hall. When we did this exercise two years ago, the poster display attracted a lot of attention and received a considerable amount of positive feedback.

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