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Land Survey Activities:
Purpose: To understand measuring, note taking, and the importance of these skills in creating a useful map.
Age Group: This activity may be adapted for a wide age range. Younger children may be assigned smaller spaces to survey, with fewer objects and less exacting measurements. Older students may survey areas that are larger and include a greater diversity of objects.
Materials: A rope (10 to 12 feet), duct tape, milk cartons filled with a bit of sand or stones, anything that may serve as a temporary marker out on the playground. Notebooks - one for each group of students working together. Pencils. Materials for drawing a map of the schoolyard. Graph paper for construction of a map - any size grid will do. Color pencils would be nice, but are not required.
Methods: Students work in groups of three. Select a grid size appropriate to the size of the schoolyard. Have students lay out the grid across the school yard. Since compasses, etc, will not be used, the grid should be rather forgiving (not too tight, with few sections). Using a rope that has been marked with duct tape at some fraction of a grid section, (e.g. a grid section that is 12 ft. square is measured using a rope that is marked with duct tape at approximately 8 - 12 inch intervals), have the students survey the schoolyard, taking measurements and setting milk cartons, stones, whatever is convenient and available at corners on the grid. One of the students should be in charge of taking notes and describing the objects encountered along the gridlines, while two others manipulate the rope and take measurements. When the survey is finished, students should collaborate to produce a map, complete with any features crossed by the grid lines ( e.g., swingsets, jungle gyms, trash cans, and puddles, as well as descriptions of asphalt, gravel, sand, wood chips). Conversions of their measurements into fractions of acres etc., may also be made, depending on the age of the student.
Upon completion of a map, the students should be encouraged to discuss the map. Is it accurate (Can they locate the objects they described in their notes? Are they at the distances that they originally measured)? Did they miss objects that did not intersect the grid lines? How might they improve their surveying technique? How did their experience compare with that of the early surveyors described in the Land Survey section of the Web exhibit? Discuss the use and importance of original land surveys in reconstructing past vegetation. Will the schoolyard survey benefit anyone; a future student, perhaps? How?
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