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Across Five Aprils—Civil War Battlefield Landforms

Subject Area: Science

Grade Level(s): 7-8

Duration of Activity: Five, 50-minute class periods

Description of Activity:

Students will research various Civil War battles. The students will choose two battles in which local landforms played a key role either as key offensive or defensive positions desired by one or both sides. The students will determine how the landforms might have played a significant role in the outcomes of the battles. Students will create Microsoft PowerPoint presentations depicting the battles and containing at least one illustration/picture of each battle and landform. Pictures/illustrations will be created using a draw/paint program, drawn using traditional media and scanned into digital format, scanned from print materials or downloaded from the World Wide Web. This lesson can be used in conjunction with the following C·R·E·A·T·E for Mississippi lessons in a cross-curricular unit:

Objectives: The student will

  • conduct research to identify the landforms impacting Civil War battles.
  • choose two major battles for in-depth study.
  • identify the landforms involved in each of the battles.
  • create a PowerPoint presentation.
  • insert a picture from the World Wide Web, print material, or student-created illustration using either traditional media or draw/paint software tools.
  • cite sources for any graphics used from World Wide Web or printed material.
  • explain throughout the presentation the significance of the landforms in relation to the outcomes of the battles.
  • save presentation to 3 ˝" floppy diskette.


  • Computers with Internet access
  • Floppy diskettes
  • Microsoft PowerPoint or other presentation software
  • Draw/paint software such as Microsoft Paint
  • Handout1: Microsoft PowerPoint Assessment Rubric

Prerequisites (skills or background needed):

  • Students will need basic knowledge of how-to navigate through the World Wide Web.
  • Teacher will need knowledge of the presentation software.
  • Teacher will need to have completed a lesson on Mississippi Landforms.


Teacher Component: The teacher will

  1. assist students throughout research. Students may need assistance in locating Civil War battles in which landforms played a significant role in determining the outcomes. Some examples include the Battle of Lookout Mountain known as "The Battle Above the Clouds," and The Siege of Vicksburg. A simple search at Google.com / http://www.google.com consisting of the search string Civil War Landforms or Civil War Geology will yield a number of sites dedicated to the study of the geologic landforms that played a role in many of the battles of the Civil War. A number of the sites are listed in the URLs section of the lesson, but as many of the Web sites listed are specific to a single battlefield, it is advisable for the students to conduct their own search for the specific battles chosen for research.
  2. assist students in creating PowerPoint presentations.
  3. instruct the students about how to copy and paste graphics from a Web site or scanned from print materials. Give the students specific instructions on how to cite the source for any graphics taken from the Web. Citations should appear with the image on the PowerPoint slide and include the site name and URL.
  4. demonstrate how to open Microsoft Paint and use the drawing tools to illustrate the landform that the students have identified in their research as having played a role in a particular Civil War battle.

Student Activities: The students will

  1. conduct research to identify the landforms impacting Civil War battles.
  2. choose two major battles for in-depth research. It is best to choose battles with specific ties to geographic landforms that were of importance to the battle. Students should look for battles in which a particular location was strategically important to both sides because of its geography, making that location a position worth fighting for. Students also should look for battles in which the geography of the area gave an advantage to one side over the other and had a significant impact on the outcome.
  3. identify the landforms near which the battles were fought.
  4. create PowerPoint presentations discussing how the local topography impacted the battle.
  5. insert at least one picture downloaded from the World Wide Web, scanned from print materials, or created using traditional media which is scanned into digital format, or created using Microsoft Paint other draw/paint program. Pictures should depict the type of landform identified as having played a role in the battle.
  6. cite sources for any graphics used from World Wide Web or print materials.
  7. save presentations to 3 ˝" floppy diskettes
  8. share the presentation with the class.


  • If floppy diskettes are not available, save presentations temporarily to computer hard drives.
  • Pair students according to technology experience. For example, pair students with more technology experience with those students who have little technology experience.

Extension Activities:

  • Students will research how other geological formations were important to the function of troops in the Civil War. Salt, coal, lead, and saltpeter (niter) were all critical in providing the armies with materials necessary for war and the necessities of life.
  • Students can research other wars and the impact that landforms have had in planning the battle strategies during those wars. They could combine their research and create a database of the facts about the different types of landforms and determine if the influence of battle strategies were impacted differently due to the advent of new technologies and weaponry.


  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Technology


  1. Handout1: Microsoft PowerPoint Assessment Rubric


Curriculum Frameworks


  1. Explore the composition and changes of the Earth System.

    1. Research landforms and fossils specific to Mississippi.

National Educational Technology Standards (NETS):

  1. Exhibit legal and ethical behaviors when using information and technology, and discuss consequences of misuse. (2)
  2. Use content-specific tools, software, and simulations (e.g. environmental probes, graphing calculators, exploratory environments, web tools) to support learning and research. (3,5)
  3. Apply productivity/multimedia tools and peripherals to support personal productivity, group collaboration, and learning throughout the curriculum. (3,6)


22 Earth and Space Science (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental concepts and principles of Earth and space science. Apply Earth and space science knowledge to investigations and real-world contexts.

Through text, diagrams, and drawings provide explanations of Earth and space science concepts and principles.

Link and Feedback to Author(s):

Holly Bailey, Tupelo Middle School, Tupelo, MS

Misty Little, Tupelo Middle School, Tupelo, MS

Handout 1: Assessment Rubric Word Acrobat
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