When I started teaching ancient history I had no idea what to teach my middle schoolers about geography. My one college geography course was just page after page of country facts. A boring list of WHATS. I remembered nothing and didn’t really care.
How could I possibly make geography relevant for a group of middle schoolers who cared even less than me?
Well, the 5 Themes of Geography conveniently address all of the essential questions. They’ve been updated to the National Geography Standards, a long list of nonspecific phrases. Just stick with the 5 Themes.
Geography Starts with MAPS!
Map work is pretty straight forward. Labeling and memorizing the regional map of the area under study is perfect for Bell Work. Perfect for Early Finishers. A Perfect Break from Notes.
Practicing Absolute and Relative Location is a terrific application of the coordinate plane 6th graders learn in math. And map scale problems are a wonderful way to apply 6th grade math skills with proportions.
Many textbooks have good atlases. The Nystrom World Atlas is a terrific print atlas.
Here are some of my favorite online map sites:
Geography is Really about Climate!
So here’s where it gets good. Geography is more than political maps. Geography determines climate. And climate drives culture.
We know it gets colder as you travel away from the Equator toward lower latitudes.
But Climate = Temperature + Precipitation. So how do we factor in rain and snow? And elevation changes?
This 5 Factors that Affect Climate got me started.
Isn’t is kind of cool that generally:
- higher elevation = colder temperatures = more precipitation (left Iraq maps)
- lower elevation = warmer temperatures = less precipitation (right Iraq maps)
So then I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to compare an elevation map with a temperature map with a precipitation map to “see” this pattern.
A wind cell. That we can’t see. Directly affecting the ancient cultures we study. BINGO!!
So now, I’m thinking geography is kinda’ fun! And my students fed on my excitement.
Finally, we could study maps to discover the WHY of a place instead of just memorizing a list of WHATs.
And that WHY drives the rest of Culture – Religion, Government, Achievements, Economy, Social Structure!
May the excitement be with you!!
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