Listen to the Land
In this section, students will discover how we use the land. There are many
choices we make when we use the land. Some of decisions lead to better living
conditions for all of us, while some choices are made without thought of the
consequences. Sometimes this leads to great erosion and the loss of soil or the
contamination of ground water we depend on for our drinking water. In this section,
the student will gain insight into the way we use the land, both for benefit
Activity 1: On Top of the Soil
To help students understand the importance of soil and how easily it can be lost.
• Copies of student worksheet
• Copies of topography map
Chapter 5 Outcomes
1, 2, 3, 4
As your students have already discovered in the first section of this packet,
soil requires a number of factors to be present to form, and it does not form
easily. Considering this, it would follow that we should take extra special care
of our soil resources if they take so long to form. Unfortunately, this is not
always true. Many times the value of the soil is overlooked as plans are made,
whether they be plans for fanning or business. The soil which took time to form
is easily destroyed by man's carelessness. In this activity, students will learn
how to 'listen to the the land' as they make decisions on how it should be used
and the consequences of unwise use.
Begin the activity by explaining the use of topographical maps and how they
are read. For the purposes of this activity, each line on the map has a value
of 10 feet. Using the student worksheets, go through the first two questions
with your students to make sure they understand how to read the map. When all
of the students understand map reading, have them work singly or in groups of
two on the remainder of the questions. Upon completion of the worksheets, have
a discussion about the worksheet based on the students' answers. Have some of
your students share their zoning of die area in question seven. Do the rest of
the class members agree? Why or why not?
Follow up this activity with a look at your community. Bring in zoning and topographical
maps. of your am and have the, students look at how the zoning engineers have
laid out your community. Did they give thought to the topography? Are there
areas where the runoff might affect the water supply? Are them places where erosion
or flooding could be a problem to anyone building in that area?
After comparing the zoning and topographical maps, if your students have questions
about how something was laid out% ask an engineer from your city or township
office to come in and speak to your class. Have your students find out why an
area might have been set up as it was.
Activity 2: Where Has All the Soil Gone? (and where is it going?)
To develop a stewardship of our soils by taking an active look at their loss and how to prevent it.
2 class periods
• Topographical maps of your area
• Collection containers for water
• Masking tape (for identifying containers)
• Map pins
• pH testing paper
Chapter 5 Outcomes
1, 2, 3, 4
Activity one looked at how topography affects soil erosion and land use, but in real
situations, how much soil is really lost? When erosion takes place, where does the sod
go? This activity takes an active look at the problem of erosion and the effects it can
have upon leaving its natural setting.
This activity requires your students to do some out of school
collecting of water samples at different times. You may wish to collect the
samples at a time prior to the actual week of the activity. Have your students
collect samples from a creek, stream, river, or any flowing water source.
The first sample should be collected at a time when there has been no rain
for several days. The second sample should be collected on a day when it
has rained. Have the students mark the collection jars as to where the sample
was collected and on what date. The two samples should be taken from the
Allow the two samples to settle for a few days, and then compare the amount
of sediment in each of ft samples. Which sample has more? What is the color
of the sediment? Take a pH t= of both samples. Is there a difference between
the two? Using 4x topographical maps, try to determine the origin of the sediments
found in the water samples. Is there construction or fanning occurring somewhere
upstream causing erosion of the soil? Do streets or parking lots drain into
the creek during a sum? What affect might this have on the stream?
The Great Lakes Project 278
Land, Soil and You
To understand the land and soil which covers it, we must first have an understanding of
the topography of the land. The shape of the land determines what uses the land has. Using,
the topographic map and this worksheet, think of yourself as a land developer. How you decide
to use the land could affect the way people will live many years in the future.
1. Begin by finding the highest point on your map. What is the elevation of
2. What area of the map is the most level?
3. As a developer, you need to know what happens to the land during all seasons
of the year. If you are not familiar with what will happen, the people you
develop the land for may be very unhappy at a future time. With this in mind,
if it were to rain on your map, what paths would the water take from the highest
points to the lowest? Hint: Water follows the path of least resistance. Mark
your answer on the map.
4. You have discovered through local sources that each spring the river tends
to flood. If you were planning a housing development, what area(s) would you
want to avoid? Mark these on your map.
5. You are looking for land which would be suitable for a farm. Which land
would you choose? Would it matter how you tilled the land?
6. Another developer, not as concerned about the environment as yourself,
has decided to build an expensive house on the steep hillside overlooking the
river. However, before a lawn can be put in rainstorms enter the area for a
span of two weeks. What do you think will happen to all of the topsoil at the
building site? What will happen to the land around the house?
7. You have been elected zoning supervisor of your community based on your
fine development skills. A new piece of undeveloped property has just been
added to your area of supervision and you must decide on the zoning ordinances
for the area. Using your wise judgment, lay out the zones for industry (A),
business (B), residential (C), and agriculture (D). If you do not think your
area can support all of these zones, it is not required. When you have finished,
give the reasons for laying out your zones as you have (The town's people will
surely want to know).
Problem Scenario #1
You are the president of a fairly large, democratic South American nation.
Your people are very poor and have little to eat. After 10 years of effort,
a new road has been built which opens up an entire rainforest area for development.
Your people enter the rainforest in great numbers, cutting down trees to sell
and clearing the land for farming. Your science advisors report the soil is
so fragile that it can only be farmed for three years before it is so badly
eroded that it can't support farming or the rainforest anymore. The farmers
then move on and cut down more forest. Your science advisors also say the international
community, which gives your country foreign aid, is becoming concerned because
the rain forest makes a great deal of the earth's oxygen, and your people are
destroying it. Your political advisors tell you that if you forbid people from
entering the rain forest your government will be overthrown. Someone who will
not object to the destruction of the forest will take your place.
Problem Scenario #2
You are the mayor of a small town. You have just been notified by your waste
disposal section that the town landfill will be filled to its maximum level
in one year at the present rate of usage. The only place with soil suitable
for another landfill is the town's beloved park.
Problem Scenario #3
You belong to a group of kids who own ATVs (All terrain vehicles). After school
and on weekends, you spend time riding around on trails you have created in
a nearby wooded area.You notice several of the hillsides your group uses are
no longer covered with grass and wildflowers, but are bare and eroding because
of all the ATV traffic.
Problem Scenario #4
You have always been a good conservation minded farmer and used the best management
practices on your land. You have worked hard all of your life and now, at 65
you wish to retire in style. A neighbor, who is not a good conservationist,
offers to buy your land at the price you ask. Another neighbor, a conservation
farmer like yourself, is also interested, but can only pay half your asking
price. After a year on the real estate market, these are your only two offers.
Problem Scenario #5
You live in a suburban neighborhood overlooking a creek. Every year most of
your neighbors have their lawns chemically treated to prevent weeds and insects
from bothering them. However, this year you noticed after the spraying was
finished that there were fewer birds, especially the insect eaters, using your
bird feeders. In fact, as you walked through the neighborhood, you found quite
a few birds lying dead along the sidewalks. Finally, the fish are not biting
at all, when last year you had no problems catching your limit.
The Great Lakes Project 278
Listen to the Land (Adobe PDF document)