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I know I talk a lot about my 3D printers, but that’s not the only way to create in 3D.  With a few simple items from the dollar store, you can have your students create colorful three dimensional topographic maps to show contours and elevation.  What a great visual for a social studies or geography lesson.


You’ll Need:

  • Foam Sheets – the local Dollar Tree has these in packs in two different sizes, large and small
  • Printout of a topographical map (2 copies per student)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Pen or marker

This is such a simple project, and it only takes a few minutes to do depending on the complexity of your map.  Here’s how it works:


First, take one topo map, and cut around the outermost line so the map is cut out completely.


Next, place the cutout on a foam sheet, and use the pen or marker to trace around it.


Cut out the shape you traced on the foam sheet.  This will be the first layer of your map.


Take the paper map you cut out, and cut along the next next line.  Then, trace your new cutout on a different sheet of foam, and cut it out.  Glue it to the first layer of foam in the correct position.  Use your second topo map printout to help you position it accurately.

IMG_3910Continue these steps until you have all of the layers completed and glued in place.  Try to use a different color for each layer to make it easier to see the elevation differences.



When you are done, you will have a 3D representation of your topographic map.  Awesome!