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Exploring Topography with Play-Doh

Sixth graders in Lauren Sinclair's digital design class learned about topography and the history of mapmaking by experimenting with Play-Doh. 


After constructing "mountains" out of Play-Doh, the students explored different techniques of representing elevation on a map. Giving consideration to the limitations of early mapmakers (who didn't have access to a bird's-eye view), the students first drew hill profiles. Next, they learned about the more refined technique of hachure marks, which they demonstrated with their Play-Doh mountains. Finally, students explored the modern topographical standard of contour maps, using string and a ruler to measure their sculptures before translating their findings to paper.