I hate the beginning of the year because the curriculum is so boring for me to teach. We go over globes and maps and talk about government all at lightning speed, hoping the kids will absorb something that can resemble a sufficient background for future content. After that we get to start the ancient civilizations, which is where I have all sorts of fun and exciting lessons. Just two more days and we'll be able to get into the good stuff!
I have managed to work in two really engaging lessons so far. The first of which involves a volcano. What kid doesn't love volcanoes? (I'll share the second lesson in another post.) During our exploration of the different types of maps, we discussed elevation maps, which are quite daunting. They require the kids to have enough brain power to look at a flat diagram with numbers and visualize a landscape. Ha! I find that difficult enough to do and my brain is fully developed (as far as I know).
I mean, just look at this thing. Stare at this for one minute and you'll either develop vertigo or be hypnotized.
So, to make this kind of map a little more exciting and understandable for the kids, I have them make 3D models of Mount St. Helens before and after its eruption in 1980 using elevation maps. I got this idea from one of my fellow teachers my first year of teaching and I've used it every year I've taught 6th grade. This activity takes about 45 minutes for students to complete and they really enjoy it. The only down side to it is that it wastes a lot of paper, so to cut down on that, I put kids in pairs and each pair made one replica together. Half my groups did a before version and the other half did an after version. Once they were made, we looked at both versions and talked about how elevation maps are used to show different altitudes.
This is how we did it:
- Supply groups with the same elevation map copied onto multiple colors of cardstock. The number of pages depends on how many "levels" the map has. Our before map had 14 and our after map had 10.
- Students cut out one level per page, making sure to cut around the elevation numbers, and put the pieces in order.
3. The students glue scrap pieces of cardboard onto the bottom of each piece (except the bottom) and attach to the previous level, creating a kind of 3D effect. The top pieces are smaller and more delicate so the kids have to really take their time at the end.
4. Voila! You have a 3D volcano made from an elevation map! :)