Universe Cycle - Geography (6)

  • Discovering the importance of map reading.
  • Exploring military defense strategies using a map.
  • altitude
  • latitude
  • longitude
  • quadrangle
  • topographic map
  • worksheets
  • glue or gluesticks

Students use a map to create a defense strategy.


Map reading skills become very important in military operations. Military strategists use maps to locate opposing forces, plan operations, and to coordinate logistics. When an operation is planned, the directions must be precise in terms of time and location. The military has many personnel who are experts in reading topographic maps. Topographic maps portray the physical features of an area. They show the locations and shapes of mountains, valleys and plains, the networks of streams and rivers, and the locations of man-made features such as trails, roads, towns, boundaries, and buildings. They also show what the terrain is like including its steepness, distances, and the kinds of vegetation. All of these are important considerations in military planning. It is easier to move personnel and supplies along a level, paved road than across a series of brush-covered hills and valleys. Topographic maps contain the information needed to decide where to go and where to position things.

In many parts of the world there are detailed topographic maps. In the United States there are 7.5 minute quadrangle maps for every state. These are detailed maps that can locate your position precisely.

In this lab the students are asked to design a strategy to defend a position on a topographic map against invaders. They will use a 7.5 minute quadrangle map. This will get them to think accurately about topography, as they seek to create a successful defense. The students will use the cut-out icons on a following page arrange their "forces." Note that they can create their own icons if they wish. We have placed this exercise in prehistoric times, to avoid the use of guns and other modern weaponry. The clear emphasis in the student's directions is to design a defensive strategy rather than an offensive strategy.

  1. Make copies of the icon sheet.
  2. Explain the purpose of the exercise to the students. Make sure they understand that they are defending the "Flint Outcrop," not launching an attack. Explain that a good defense makes use of topography, to locate such things as lookout posts, supplies, and reinforcements.
  3. Have the students answer the questions in Exercise 1 before they design their strategy. Emphasize that it is always important to look at the legend of a map before you use it.
  4. Have the students cut out the icons. Allow them to create new icons if they wish, but remind them to keep the prehistoric time frame in mind. Use the icons to help illustrate the positioning of the strategy and movement of forces.


    Exercise 1: 1. Blue Lake , CA; 2. 820 feet 3. A stream, called the Mad River; 4. Probably come up the valley. 5. Spread resources between home and the outcrop; have reinforcements ready to move either place.
    Exercise 2 will be individual. Evaluate the groups ability to use and understand the map.

[Back to Universe Cycle Grid]
   [Back to Geography (6)]