Surveying Land


During the time of the American Revolution, much of the land in the colonies was not mapped. In his early years, George Washington was a surveyor and measured land to figure out the location of property.


  • Rope or string measuring 10- to 12-feet long               
  • Stakes—if working on grass
  • Tape—colored if possible            
  • Graph, centimeter, or one-inch grid paper
  • Chalk—if working in a playground           
  • Plastic cones if needed


  1. Before going outside, have students mark the rope or string with tape at one-foot intervals to make a tape measure.
  2. Outside, select a location to survey that has landmarks such as a building, trees, or playground equipment nearby. Plastic cones can be used if there are no landmarks. Students will measure a rectangle within this area.
  3. Have the students mark the starting point with chalk or a stake.
  4. Using the measuring rope, stretch it to the desired length, ten to twelve feet, and mark that place. Make sure that this line is parallel to one of the landmarks.
  5. Stretch the rope again at a ninety-degree angle to the desired length and mark it.
  6. Ninety-degree angles will ensure that the lines will be straight on the graph paper. Continue the marking and measuring until you have created a square or a rectangle.
  7. Measure the distance from each landmark to the inside rectangle.
  8. Have the students record these measurements on graph paper using one or more grids for each foot. The drawing should include the inside rectangle and the measurement to the landmarks. Students should include a key on their drawing.
  9. On a separate sheet have the students draw the landmarks within and surrounding the rectangle.
  10. Students can draw a fairly accurate elevation of a tree that is inside the rectangle or on the periphery. Walk away from the tree; bend down to look through your spread legs to the spot where you can see the top of the tree. Mark the place and take a measurement from that spot to the base of the tree. This measurement will correspond to the height of the tree.