Photograph courtesy National Park Service
Geography is a data-rich field of study, but long lists of facts and figures can be over-whelming and have little meaning unless they are organized in a way that encourages thoughtful analysis. This activity provides students practice in sorting, organizing, and displaying elevation data in order to learn about the physical landscape of the United States.
Examining the Data
Provide students copies of Activity #13 Handout 1 (PDF). Have students scan the data, identifying the highest and lowest state elevations throughout the United States. Also have them locate the state in which you live. Where does your state fall in terms of elevation.
Sorting and Organizing the Data
Distribute copies of Activity #13 Handout 2 (PDF). In this handout, the data has been sorted from lowest to highest state elevation.
- Have students evaluate the data to identify patterns in elevation. In general, where are the highest elevations? …the lowest elevations?
- Can the students make generalizations about elevation in different regions of the U.S.?
- Have student re-sort the data according to states that are east and west of the Mississippi River. What observations can they make based on this organization of the data?
Displaying the Data
Have students work in pairs to plot the location of the highest elevation in each state. [Use this blank map of the U.S.] They should label each state, the highest point, and the elevation. Remind students to include a title, key, and source on their maps.
Provide students quarter-inch graph paper. Divide the class into three groups.
- Have the first group plot the elevation data as bar graphs from lowest to highest elevations.
- Have the second group plot the data as bar graphs divided according to location east or west of the Mississippi River.
- Have the third group plot the data as bar graphs based on state location, working from west to east, and north to south.
Have students compare the graphs they have made. How does the presentation of data influence the way we understand information?
Extending the Activity
National Geographic Bee Competitions
The state competition of the National Geographic Bee was held on March 27 in each state and the District of Columbia. Fifty-one state champs as well as champions from the United States Territories and Department of Defense schools will travel to National Geographic headquarters in Washington D.C. for the national championship on May 11 to 13. View the list of state Bee champions.
The national championship preliminary rounds will take place on Monday, May 11, in Washington, D.C. The national championship final rounds, featuring the top ten finalists and moderated by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien, will be held on Wednesday, May 13, at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. National Geographic Channel will air the final round of the National Geographic Bee Championship at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Friday, May 15, and on Wednesday, May 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Nat Geo WILD. It will also air on public television stations; check local television listings for dates and times.
Gain a Global Perspective
The 2014 National Geographic Bee finalists gush about geography.
How to Help
Donations help fund schools to participate in the National Geographic Bee.
Teachers can use these activities in the classroom to prepare students for the bee!
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