Photo: Mount McKinley

Mount McKinley National Park (Denali National Park and Preserve)

Photograph courtesy National Park Service

Download this activity as a PDF.

Geography is a data-rich field of study, but long lists of facts and figures can be over-whelming and have little meaning unless they are organized in a way that encourages thoughtful analysis. This activity provides students practice in sorting, organizing, and displaying elevation data in order to learn about the physical landscape of the United States.

Examining the Data

Provide students copies of Activity #13 Handout 1 (PDF). Have students scan the data, identifying the highest and lowest state elevations throughout the United States. Also have them locate the state in which you live. Where does your state fall in terms of elevation.

Sorting and Organizing the Data

Distribute copies of Activity #13 Handout 2 (PDF). In this handout, the data has been sorted from lowest to highest state elevation.

  • Have students evaluate the data to identify patterns in elevation. In general, where are the highest elevations? …the lowest elevations?
  • Can the students make generalizations about elevation in different regions of the U.S.?
  • Have student re-sort the data according to states that are east and west of the Mississippi River. What observations can they make based on this organization of the data?

Displaying the Data

Have students work in pairs to plot the location of the highest elevation in each state. [Use this blank map of the U.S.] They should label each state, the highest point, and the elevation. Remind students to include a title, key, and source on their maps.

Provide students quarter-inch graph paper. Divide the class into three groups.

  • Have the first group plot the elevation data as bar graphs from lowest to highest elevations.
  • Have the second group plot the data as bar graphs divided according to location east or west of the Mississippi River.
  • Have the third group plot the data as bar graphs based on state location, working from west to east, and north to south.

Have students compare the graphs they have made. How does the presentation of data influence the way we understand information?

Extending the Activity

View state maps, including elevation online.

Each year thousands of schools in the United States participate in the National Geographic Bee using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society. The contest is designed to inspire students to be curious about the world. Schools with students in grades four through eight are eligible for this entertaining and challenging competition.

Registration for the 2015 Geo Bee has ended. Schools can register for next year's Geo Bee in August 2015.

School Geo Bees have all been held. Please mark your calendar for the upcoming State Geo Bee on March 27, 2015, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. To find out the location of the State Geo Bee for your state, email us at ngbee@ngs.org.

The national competition of the Geo Bee will be held May 11-13, 2015, at the National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. It will be televised on May 15, 2015, at 8 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel and NG Wild.

Gain a Global Perspective

The 2014 National Geographic Bee finalists gush about geography.



How to Help

  • Photo: Geo Bee Winners

    Fund a School

    Donations help fund schools to participate in the National Geographic Bee.

Winners' Video

  • geobee-2014-kids-990.jpg

    2014 State Winners

    Fifty-four of the nation's brightest young geography whiz kids gathered in Washington, D.C., last spring to take part in the 26th annual National Geographic Bee.

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