Lesson 4: Representing Landforms on Maps

Getting Started

In Lesson 3, you learned about a wide variety of landforms and how they were created, how they change over time, and how they influence the lives of the people who live near them. In this lesson, you'll learn about how geographers measure landforms and how they represent those measurements on different kinds of maps.

Stuff You Need

  • The Geography Book: Activities for Exploring, Mapping, and Enjoying Your World by Caroline Arnold
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils
  • Fine-tipped permanent marker
  • Flour* (Activity 3 - optional)
  • Large potato, cut in half by an adult
  • Modeling clay* (Activity 3 - optional)
  • Newspaper* (Activity 3 - optional)
  • Ruler
  • Salt* (Activity 3 - optional)
  • Sawdust* (Activity 3 - optional)
  • Tape measure
  • Wallpaper paste* (Activity 3 - optional)

* - denotes an optional material that may or may not be needed

Ideas to Think About

  • How can the physical environment be represented visually, and how might different kinds of visual representations be useful?
  • How can mapmakers accurately represent landforms like mountains or represent differences in elevation on a map?

Things to Know

  • Surveyors have specialized tools and procedures for measuring the height of features of the Earth's surface.
  • Relief maps, color-coded maps, and contour maps can all show changes in elevation (the height of features like valleys, hills, and mountains).


  • Identify and use models and maps as ways of representing landforms. (SS)

Introducing the Lesson

In the previous lesson, your student learned about a number of different landforms. In this lesson, he'll have the chance to learn more about how surveyors measure the height of things that are too tall to be measured easily and how mapmakers represent different elevations on maps in different ways.