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Topographic Maps Lesson Plan

Teach Your Students About Mountains, Maps, and Topography


Submitted by Tony Nastasi

Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of mountains by creating a topographic map in this lesson.

Prerequisite Knowledge: This lesson introduces the concept of topographic maps. Thus, your students should have previous knowledge about the formation of mountains and locations.

Required Materials: Paper mache, clay, or other materials, sample of a topographic map, ruler, knife, colored markers, poster board, rod.


1. Teacher introduces the activity with a review of mountains by asking relevant questions such as what is a mountain and do you know where the tallest mountain is?

2. Teacher introduces topographic maps by:

  • Showing an example of topographic map.
  • Asking what a topographic map shows and how does it show it.
  • Asking what type of person would use a topographic map.

3. Teacher will have each group make a topographic map (out of paper mache, clay, or other materials) of their own collaboratively-designed mountains in three dimensions. Additionally, each student will make a corresponding poster board, with scale, that needs to match the mountain represented on the topographic map. The students should:

  • Indicate 1" increments on their mountains.
  • With teacher assistance, put a 1/4" rod through the mountain from top to bottom to indicate center of mountain. Mark side of mountain to indicate the constant side.
  • Slice mountain horizontally, again with teacher assistance.
  • Draw a line down the center of poster board and put a dot in the middle of the line.
  • Starting with the top, lay each piece of mountain on the poster board and trace the outline of the piece making sure the center rod is on the dot and the marked side is on the line. Each layer should be different colors and marked on the legend of the map.
  • All maps will be posted on a bulletin board.
Assessment: At the conclusion of the lesson, the teacher will check for understanding by having each group exchange mountains and try to match the map on the bulletin board with its corresponding mountain.

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