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.
- Make copies of the icon sheet.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.