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Finding Ourselves
Paths of Travel

Overview: Using the topographic map from an on-line source, students will examine the paths of animal, people and water through the local area.


  1. Transportation through the region. Using downloaded topographic maps, students will identify roads, rivers, train tracks and other transport routes through the local area. Students will then analyze and evaluate the impact of transportation on the local community. For grades 7 and 8, this activity can be ramped up to include statistical analysis of number of vehicles/ hour or evaluation of transportation on the settlement patterns within a community.

  2. How did we get here? This activity seeks to identify current and historic migration patterns through the local community. Both current generational level (oral interview/ research) and early settler level. (Internet sources) allow students the opportunity to identify migration patterns within the local, regional and national context. (Grades 6-8)

  3. Where does the water go? This activity will allow the students the opportunity to track the watershed movements through the local area. Using topographic maps, students will identify the local watershed areas by tracking the blue lines on the map. By following contour lines, the students can track the path of movement of water. Elementary students can focus on the water movement and the impact on the terrain. (Grades K-4)

  4. Down the Drain? Similar to the above activity, but for older students. Students will identify the source point and non-source point pollution potential along the watershed in their particular area. Point source pollution is pollution that can be traced to one particular point within the watershed. Examples of this would be factories, towns, dumps, or other specific locations that could pollute the watershed. Non source point pollution is pollution that cannot be traced to a single geographic point. Examples of this would include that the runoff from streets and parking lots, the seepage of improper septic systems or the runoff from fertilizers used in the fields from farming operations. (Grades 5-8)

  5. Future settlement. How do we fit more people in the local area? Urban planning and growth patterns are identified. Students will look at census data online and track county population through the last 50 years. The will develop charts using excel and show how population has changed over time. They will then project future population growth and plan for that future growth. (Grades 5-8)

  6. Send the migration maps, watershed maps and the urban planning maps (scanned or digital picture) as e-mail attachments to .

  7. The information will be compiled with others to create an online Watershed Digest, Migration Digest, or Urban Planning Digest.


US Census Bureau This site offers links to various demographic data from the U.S. Census bureau
US Census Bureau Census Counts 1900-1990 This site offers census data county by county from 1900 to 1990.
EPA Watershed Locator This website allows users to identify local watersheds by a variety of search options
Topographic Maps This site provides printable copies of topographic maps for most areas of the United States.

Updated 7/18/02