The Run for the Ridges

Subject Areas:
Math, Physical Education, Social Studies

The student will:

Two one-hour class periods

50-yard measuring tape
Stop watch
Paper and pencil for recording times

Must Know Info:

This lesson is the third of three related activities on topography and creating a model of the Poverty Point site. Topography Training, the first lesson, was designed to teach students about topography. The second lesson, Building a Mound for the Birds!, resulted in the construction of a cardboard model of Mound A based on a topographic map of the site. This final activity will challenge students to do The Run for the Ridges in which they will run a 50-yard dash and then use the results to determine the amount of time it would take to run the diameter of the ridges at this speed. Students will also use the map scale to determine what this distance would be scaled to on the model.


1. Measure and mark a 50-yard race course on the playground or an open area. Look for obstacles like holes, ant piles, etc. before marking your course.

2. Introduce The Run for the Ridges to students as a fun way for them to see just how big the Poverty Point site really is! Tell students that they will be timed while they run the 50-yard dash and that later they will use their race time to find out how long it would take them to run from the southernmost ridge to the most northern one at Poverty Point.

3. Use a stop watch to measure and record student times for the 50-yard dash. If possible, obtain more than one stop watch and run multiple students at the same time. Students who know how to operate a stop watch may serve as timers.

4. After the races, brainstorm with the class to find how long the 50-yard dash would be on the scaled version of the Poverty Point model from the Building a Mound for the Birds! activity. If 1/8 inch cardboard was used in that activity, then 1/8 inch equals 5 feet on the scale, 1/4 inch equals 10 feet, 1/2 inch equals 20 feet, 1 inch equals 40 feet, etc. Students can continue in this manner or use division. In either case, the answer is 3.75 inches. Remind the class that the scaled distance across the outermost ridges is 98.7 inches and listen to the groans when you suggest that they run the entire distance!

5. Tell students that they may use math to determine how long it would take them to run the entire ridge race, assuming that they didn't get tired, take water breaks, or slow down one little bit! Challenge students to figure out how to solve for the amount of time in hours and minutes that it would take to travel the entire distance across the ridges. Remind students that the distance between the outermost ridges is 3,950 feet and that they have a race time for the 50-yard dash. If necessary, guide students to the discovery that 50 yards is equivalent to 150 feet. This is a very complex problem involving several steps. It may also be successfully solved in a number of ways. Let students attempt this on their own in order to develop thinking and problem solving skills.

6. For checking purposes, the following information may be helpful. Dividing 3,950 feet by 150 feet (50 yards) equals 26.33. Therefore, the student may take his race time for the 50-yard dash and multiply it by 26.33 to get an approximate time for The Run for the Ridges. Students would need to take that time in seconds and convert it to hours and minutes. To convert from seconds to minutes, the student will need to divide the number of seconds by 60 to get the number of minutes. To convert from minutes to hours, the student would need to divide the number of minutes by 60 to get the number of hours. In both cases, left over seconds and minutes should not be ignored. This is a terrific multi-step math problem which requires thought to determine which math operation is called for and a working knowledge of time concepts. If necessary, give students some hints, but do try to let them struggle to success with it. Another option would be to allow students to work with a partner or a cooperative group to solve the math problems.