Cape Hatteras

TITLE: Finders Keepers!

OVERVIEW: This introductory activity is used to familiarize learners with the information found on Aerial Photographs and Topographic Maps. A variety of objects and locations was selected to introduce the use of different styles and symbols.


GRADE LEVEL: Middle School


To introduce topographic maps and the representative colors and symbols used.

To provide exposure to the skills of aerial photographic interpretation


National Geography Standards

Essential Element 1. The World in Spatial Terms

Standard 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools and technologies to acquire, process and report information from a spatial perspective.

Standard 3: How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth’s surface.

Essential Element 3. Physical Systems

Standard 1: The physical processes that shape the pattern of Earth’s surface.


Mathematics: comparing scale

Language Arts: Communication

Art: development of pattern recognition

Earth Science: Identification of surface features and processes

TIME: Teacher: 30 minutes for preparation of material packets

Class time: one 50 minute class


Student: 1987 Aerial Photograph, Cape Lookout, North Carolina

1:24,000 Topographic Map, Cape Lookout, North Carolina

Magnifying glass

Topographic symbols chart


As the students receive the materials packet, encourage group exploration and quick comparisons. Simple discussion questions should be used to have the students notice the use of colors, symbols, and labeling techniques. Use sections 1,2, and 3 for this.

Introduction to color, symbols, and scale.: Ask the following discussion questions and have the students identify and locate topographic symbols.

Using the topographic map symbols chart and the topographic map:

Blue colored features represent?

Green colored features represent?

Black colored features represent?

Purple colored features represent?

Using the topographic map symbols chart:

Identify the symbol for marsh.

Identify symbol for a power line.

Identify symbol for a school.

Identify symbol for a dual highway with median.

On the Cape Lookout 1:24,000 topographic map

Locate a benchmark

Locate a telephone line

Locate a sand flat

Locate a marsh

Using the 1:24,000 Cape Lookout topographic map

Find the scale in feet

Find "0" on the scale. Why is there 1000 feet to the left and 1000 feet to the right of "0"?

Using the edge of a piece of paper, determine the distance in feet from the Coast Guard Station radio towers to the Cape Lookout lighthouse.

What is the straight line distance?

What is the distance following the unimproved road?

Section 1: Given the table below, first find the object listed on the topographic map and then locate the identified site on the aerial photograph.

Object Location

Cape Lookout lighthouse Near center of map

Flats and beaches Northeast quadrant of map

Cedar hammock Central, north edge of map

Diamond City Hill Near center of map

Morgan Island Center, north edge of map

Section 2: Identify the differences between the topographic map and aerial photo for:

Barden inlets

Western spit of Cape Lookout

Cape Point


      1. The instructor will circulate throughout the room questioning each group to establish student mastery of the materials and to troubleshoot and direct student attention to features an objects.

      2. If the materials have been laminated, students may label the objects or places in Sections 1- 2 using a washable marker.

      3. Student journal entries on the objectives of the activity.

      4. After completing the search and location tasks provided in Sections 1- 2, the student or cooperative group may select other objects or sites to develop peer quizzes.



Packets of local topographic maps and aerial photographs for the students to identify known and unknown sites.

Student construction of a school topographic map completed to scale and properly oriented.