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Geography and the Human Experience

Geography and the Human Experience

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Comprehensive Unit
185 pages
Grade Level: Middle School – High School
Includes curriculum unit

For many students, geography means studying maps and memorizing the location of countries and states. However, geography is a much more complex and intriguing subject matter than what many students realize. Geography is interwoven with other subjects such as history, science, economics, politics, and sociology. Understanding geography can help deepen students' understanding of these subjects and many other aspects of their lives.

This unit introduces students to a broad range of topics and activities that are essential to the study of geography.

Lesson One, Using Maps, sets the context for the unit by introducing students to different types of maps, their uses, and their inherent biases. Students then assess their own knowledge of their surroundings and recognize what biases they might also have through a mental mapping activity. They also draw maps of the world and the United States from memory and compare them with reference maps. They locate areas in the United States with large populations and discuss why people tend to settle near bodies of water. This lesson prepares students for the subsequent lessons in this unit.

Lesson Two, Regions and Migration, introduces students to concepts of regions and migration and the influence each has on the other. Students also are encouraged to use the National Atlas Web site as well as other resources to research characteristics of their own region as well as other regions of their choice. In addition, students consider how migration has affected their lives and learn about basic concepts to migration. They also consider various perceptions and how those perceptions are formed. Finally, they choose a region to which they would like to migrate.

Lesson Three, Physical Systems and the Environment, introduces students to elements that make up an ecosystem. After considering the ecosystem in which they live, they research a North American ecosystem and present their findings to the class. They then explore different types of landcover in North America using the National Atlas mapmaking tool on the Internet. They study invasive species and how they can damage their ecosystems. In the final part of this lesson, students divide into groups and explore case studies of how the environment is affected by humans and how these changes can affect other places as well. After each group presents its case study, the lesson is debriefed through a class discussion.

Lesson Four, Humans and the Physical Environment, prompts students to consider ways in which the physical environment impacts people. Students learn about the relationship between humans and the physical environment, particularly natural hazards. They become familiar with a number of natural disasters that have occurred around the world and how humans contribute to natural hazards. Small groups research a particular natural disaster and learn about the many factors that contribute to natural disasters in the region, such as environmental quality, population, risk of hazards, economy, and level of preparedness.

Lesson Five, Urbanization and Energy Use, familiarizes students with the concept of urbanization, current trends in urban areas, and the necessity of energy for modern living. Case studies of Karachi, Pakistan, and Mumbai, India help students understand the impact of urban growth and energy use.

Lesson Six, Boundaries: Division and Control of the Earth, introduces students to ways in which earth is divided and conflicts that can arise from these divisions. Students explore reasons behind these conflicts and also engage in an activity that simulates the experiences of people affected by struggles to divide and control the earth.

Lesson Seven, The Patterns and Networks of Economic Interdependence on Earth's Surface, asks students to examine how economic activity affects them by exploring the origin of items that they use in their everyday lives. Students then learn to classify economic activities. Students also discover how international trade affects them by exploring items that have been imported into the United States. Students map the countries from where they find imported items, and then explore six different countries import and export partners. In the final part of this lesson, students discuss the terms interdependence, absolute advantage, and comparative advantage and engage in a simulation of international trade. The lesson concludes with a class discussion.

Unit Goals

The lessons in this curriculum unit have specific learning objectives listed. The following are larger goals for the curriculum unit as a whole. Students will

  • learn about domestic and international issues concerning geography
  • recognize the importance of studying these topics and
  • be able to apply acquired skills to other studies