How to Build a 3D Model of Virginia

Make a map of Virginia.
••• Virginia state contour against blurred USA flag image by Stasys Eidiejus from

Mapping the state of Virginia can become a work of art. Instead of creating a flat map, use materials that can create a 3-D map that actually shows the highs and lows of Virginia. Tom Patterson of the U.S. National Park Service says, "Because 3D relief closely resembles how mountains appear to humans on the surface of earth, it is easier for people to understand at a glance." Help viewers understand the terrain of Virginia by creating a 3D map.

    Cover a piece of heavy cardboard with aluminum foil. Paint the right edge of the foil blue. Let it dry. Use a black marker and trace a large map of Virginia on the aluminum foil. Leave a space for a map key.

    Mix the flour, salt, oil and water together. Knead the mixture until it is smooth. Add more flour if it is still sticky.

    Divide the dough. Place two-thirds of the dough on the aluminum foil. Roll it out until it covers the outline of Virginia. Trim off any excess.

    Use the remaining third of the dough clay to get the topography of Virginia. Include the Atlantic Coastal Plain in the east. Add the Piedmont Plateau in the central region of the state. Build up the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains in the northwest and the west. Let the dough dry for 24 to 48 hours.

    Paint the map according to the elevation of the area. Use yellow for Virginia's coastal areas. Apply green for the plateau and brown for the mountain areas. Different shades of each color demonstrate higher elevations. Use darker shades for higher elevation and lighter shades for lower elevation.

    Make a map key using the colors for elevation. List the elevations with a marker. Attach the key to the map in the designated area.

    Things You'll Need

    • 1/8 cup of salt
    • 2 cups of flour
    • Cookie sheet
    • aluminum foil
    • 1/2 cup of water
    • 1/2 tbls. oil
    • Heavy 18-inch square of cardboard


    • Draw a sample map on a sheet of paper and use crayons to demonstrate where the different elevations are located.


    • Dough clay painted before it is thoroughly dry tends to mold.

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