Sunday, January 29, 2012

Topographical Map for Landform Study

In January, my kindergarten class spends a number of weeks studying landforms. We do many hands-on activities that bring this concept to life for the students. One of the ones they love the best is when we build salt dough topographical maps of the continental United States.

We use a paper copy as a template.












This paper template is glued onto card stock with a glue stick so that it can be popped off after the dough dries out.

We use this recipe:
2 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
1 cup of cold water

Mix together by hand and add a little extra water if it is too dry and salty or add a little extra flour if it is too sticky.

Give each student a fist-sized ball of dough to begin spread over the paper template.






As the students work with the dough, their hands will become "salty" and a bit dry. Encourage them to finish with the dough before asking to wash their hands. (They are also tempted to wipe them on their shirts.)

If the students work from the center and "smoosh" the dough to the sides and tops of the map, it will thin out. If it is spread too thickly, it will take over a week to dry. If the layer of dough is thin, it will dry in about 5 days. 

Give each student a small extra ball of dough to be used to make the Sierra Nevadas, the Rocky Mountains, and the Appalachian Mountains. They then use the back end of a small paintbrush to carve out the Mississippi River.

Also encourage them to use their fingers to flatten out the plains in the middle of the country.

As this project dries, the students will then paint the map with water color paint. I have tried tempera paint before, and it comes out too dark and not as pretty looking in the end. We paint on this card stock because the students WILL drip some paint and mess up the background a bit.

As the project dries, it can be "popped" off with the white template attached to the dough. I then use wet Elmer's white glue to glue this to a rectangle of poster board. The students then add a paper cut out of Alaska up in the left hand top corner and a paper cut out of Hawaii in the lower left hand corner. They also add a map key on the lower right hand corner with the following categories: 
Water 0
Mountains 0
Plains 0
Desert 0

They then color code the circles after the words the same colors they painted each land form. The maps are glued onto blue poster board to represent the ocean and I do show them how the United States is not entirely surrounded by an ocean on a real globe and map. Finally, have them use a white crayon to add a title at the top, something like "The United States of America" and sign their name somewhere small on the project.

This project may seem complicated, but I do it by myself with all 23 students. It is not as difficult as it seems. Those that get the hang of how to work with the dough and finish early are welcome to help those who are having a harder time working with it. This project is always highly enjoyed by the students each year. The picture below is small but it gives you an idea of what they look like when done and I will add some larger ones when we have painted the new ones.

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