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Geological maps in 3D in science class

Blog Type:  STEM Middle School
Date Posted:  Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Maps can be profound, beautiful works of art...and they can convey a great deal of scientific information!

The Seventh Grade class has been exploring the art and science of cartography in their Science class. They have practiced making their own maps, allowing them to better understand what goes into making maps and how best to interpret them. Middle School Science teacher George Speckman is laying the foundations for their study of geology, a study that will pay close attention to the formation and character of our local, fascinating SF Bay Area. Geological maps, watershed maps, and topographical maps are all essential tools in gaining a rich understanding of the land under our feet.

The most elaborate of the maps that the students made was a three dimensional topographical map of the Berkeley and Oakland hills. The entire class contributed to this intricate creation—the map was made in five sections, each section constructed by a team of four students. Each "contour line" or layer of the map represents 100 feet in elevation gain from the previous one.

Each team was provided with a paper topographical map of their section, carefully selected and printed from the USGS National Map. The teams followed a multi-step process of cutting the paper map along the contour lines one line at a time, tracing that shape onto a cardboard layer, cutting out the layer in cardboard, and repeating for each layer, and then carefully hot-gluing each layer in the correct location on top of the previous layer. 

The students displayed a tremendous grit and attention to detail through this project, ultimately creating a stunning and accurate representation of our hills.

Stop by the Science Lab some time to admire their work, and Mr. Speckman will be more than happy to tell you all about maps and about our fascinating local geology!