Mapping the Adirondacks
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Grade: 8th Grade
Class: Mathematics
Author: June Dewhirst
NYS Content Area Standard:
Math, Science & Technology:
Standard 3: Mathematics
NYS Interdisciplinary Standard:
Social Studies:
History of the United States and New York
Adirondack Curriculum Content Area:
Human History
Keywords: mapping, triangulation
The Challenge:
Investigative Question or Issue: How were the Adirondacks mapped?

This challenge was designed specifically for students in the Tupper Lake area with nearby mountains to actually climb. It should be adapted for specific school districts to take advantage of their nearby mountains. It might also be of interest to climb one of the fire tower mountains that has a map table (the observers used triangulation to locate fires).

The Challenge:

Can you identify mountains using degrees/compass and a map after climbing a local mountain?

Quality Standards:

1.  Can you identify points on the New York State map, Crown Point and Westport. (towns with the two lighthouses used by Mr. Colvin to begin his mapping project.)

2.  Can you figure out how Mr. Colvin used these two points and the known distance between them to figure out how far it is to Bald Peak Mountain? (He used triangulation.  the students are not expected to repeat this math, but should understand the concept of determining the exact measure of angles and sides to determine any unknown angles or sides of a triangle.  Triangulation will be presented as needed.)

3.  Imagine you are on mountain A (Mt. Arab) with a compass and map. How might you find the distance on the map from your location to Fish Creek State Park?  The distance betwen Mount Arab and Mount Morris is known.  (Which side of the triangle will be the shortest? Longest?  How do you know?)  Using a handout with North, South, East and West on the sides of paper with cooresponding degree designations and a given point of orientation in the center, your location, like having a compass in one's hand, use a protractor to measure the two angles and draw rays.

4.  Can you and a partner come up with a list of what Mr. Colvin needed to do this work? (Students should come up with tools he needed and practical items: food, proper clothes, and so on, as well as specific measuring tools. Excerpts and maps from the books below could be used as resources.  "Adirondack Explorations: Nature Writings of Verplanck Colvin" by Paul Schaefer

"Footsteps through the Adirondacks: the Verplanck Colvin Story" by Nina Webb.  

 (Ideally a guest with a transit could come to the classroom and demonstrate its use.)

5. On another day students climb Panther Mountain. Use a compass and map to identify lakes and mountains we can see from here?

Notes:  The mountains, Arab and Morris, and the Fish Creek Park create a right triangle for trigonometry. Panther Mountain offers a 180 degree view.  Both Arab and Coney mountains have 360 views.  Arab has a tower with a map - contact Friends of Mount Arab for access.

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Standard/Criteria: Points Possible: Points Awarded:

Identify points on NY map Crown Point and Westport

Figure out how Mr. Colvin mapped (triangulation)

Compass use/degrees practiced

Create list, use excerpt of Colvin book of needs

Climb Coney, Arab or Panther mountain and use compasses maps to identify other mountains or lakes.

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