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
Join 11,000 schools and participate in this year’s National Geographic Bee. Get a notification to alert you when registration opens in August.
About the National Geographic Bee
Each year thousands of schools in the United States participate in the National Geographic Bee using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society. The contest is designed to inspire students to be curious about the world. Schools with students in grades four through eight are eligible for this entertaining and challenging competition.
The national championship preliminary rounds took place on Monday, May 23, in Washington, D.C. The national championship final rounds featuring the top 10 finalists and moderated by humorist, journalist, and actor Mo Rocca were held on Wednesday, May 25, at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.
The national champion receives a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and a Lindblad expedition to Southeast Alaska provided by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic.
Watch the 2016 National Geographic Bee Finals
The National Geographic Bee aired on the National Geographic Channel on Friday May 27, and may still be available via streaming services. It is also airing on public television stations; check local television listings for dates and times.
Meet the 2016 Champions
National Geographic Bee contestants aren't just geography geniuses. They're also savvy park planners! See where they would create a National Park in their own state.
Host Mo Rocca interviews the Top 10 Finalists on stage during the 2016 competition.
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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