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Mapping Latin America

Mapping Latin America

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Comprehensive Unit
57 pages
Grade Level: Middle School – High School
Includes curriculum unit + CD-ROM

Mapping Latin America has been designed to serve three purposes. First, the unit acts as an introduction to, or review of, fundamental geographical concepts and vocabulary. Second, it teaches students about the basic physical and political geography of Latin America. Third, students will learn to examine maps with a critical eye towards political and technical limitations. Students are future world citizens who need geography skills taught within the context of international education. These lessons are intended to introduce the basic geography competencies which can then be applied to any world region.

Mapping Latin America contains seven lessons. These could effectively be taught sequentially in two weeks (50-minute periods), or each self-contained lesson could be taught independently. Although some lessons depend on knowledge from prior lessons in order for students to be able to accomplish the tasks involved, many lessons could be interchanged. For example, if students have questions about latitude and longitude after Lesson One, then Lesson Four could be taught immediately after Lesson One. Teacher discretion is advised. This unit will not require you to spend extra time for research or for collecting additional materials. Everything you need is right here.

Mapping Latin America begins with a review of basic world geography (Lesson One). Two "Map Hunt" activities follow, that actively engage students in a search for the countries and main physiographic features of Latin America (Lessons Two and Three). Students label maps with this information. Next, students learn or review the use of latitude and longitude by searching for major Latin American cities (Lesson Four). The following lesson introduces students to the complex nature of Latin American climate (Lesson Five), and later students learn to examine the limitations of making flat representations of the world (Lesson Six). Finally, students engage in a geographic pursuit in which they also review previously taught material (Lesson Seven).

While Mapping Latin America teaches many important skills and ideas, the unit is not exhaustive. Not addressed in this unit are the simple but important devices of "scale" and "legend" paramount for a good understanding of geography. In addition, many instructive maps such as linguistic and historical representations, among others, are missing from this unit. For this reason, included at the end of this unit is an annotated bibliography of resources on Latin American geography. This list includes both reference and classroom materials as well as ideas for possible lessons.

Unit Goals

Knowledge

  • master 20 geographical terms
  • gain insight into the interaction of climate, landform, and natural vegetation
  • improve their understanding of location
  • identify major determinants of climate

Skills

  • locate and describe major geographical features of Latin America
  • work together in groups on a common activity
  • improve their map-reading skills

Attitudes

  • realize that map projections, language, and conventions can distort our perceptions of geography
  • compare their stereotypes and preconceptions of Latin America with information that may surprise them
  • appreciate the similarities and differences of the world region Latin America