Lesson Plans for Middle School on the Five Themes of Geography

Middle School

In 1984, the National Council for Geographic Education and the Association of American Geographers created five themes that will be used in the study of geography: location, location, region, movement and human interaction. By creating the five themes, these organizations hoped to make geographic content in schools more interesting and important to students. College is the only time students have a whole course devoted to geography. The five themes make planning lessons at this level much easier. Always begin by explaining each theme, then follow with a lesson that allows students to apply the skill.

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Place Middle School

“Place” is any place on earth that is unique and different from other areas. Consider Niagara Falls, with its body of water, and Paris, France, housing the Eiffel Tower. These places are recognizable because of their famous monuments, whether natural or artificial. Have students write a description of a famous place they visited. Include details that mention landmarks, such as buildings, statues or bodies of water. When all students have completed writing, have a volunteer read the description. Ask the other students to listen to the description and the name of the place. If the description is well written, offering many points of interest specific to that location, other students should be able to guess correctly.

Location Middle School

“Location” is the point of a specific place. It can be relative, offering a general idea of where the place is, such as “by the park,” or absolute, giving the specific point of longitude and latitude that can be found on a map. Have students write relative directions from the school to their homes and draw a map to match. Then students use an online mapping site to find the absolute directions and map the same route. Compare the two and discuss the differences between relative and absolute position.

Region Middle School

“Region” is a division in the world – an area grouped because of similar characteristics. Regions include places and places. Divide students into small groups and assign a different region to each. For example, one group may have Central America, one in the Middle East and another in South Asia. Using an atlas and online sources, have each group draw a map to scale their region, being sure to incorporate location and location by marking some of these features on the completed map. Group maps should be displayed and used to discuss these areas when they are being studied.

Movement Middle School

“Movement” is the link between places and locations. This is the way information, people and products move from one place to another. The movement is measured by the flow rate, the amount of movement, and by systems, the pattern or the taxiway. Use a mapping site to show students the different ways that products and ideas could take to reach them at their site. Have students check the labels in their shirts to see where the items were made. Mark the location of the school and the location of the clothing factory. Label and discuss possible routes and means of transport that could have been used to move these elements.

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Human Interaction Middle School

“Human interaction” refers to the fact that humans influence their environment because they do things that cause changes, such as housing developments and dams. Display an image of a big city like New York, San Francisco or Pittsburgh and ask students to list the things that are a man. Then display several photos of homes, such as igloos and tropical huts, and ask students to guess where each house could be located. Explain that the image of the city has shown a way in which humans change their environment to meet their needs while the second image shows how humans adapt to the environment. Ask students to enumerate other ways in which humans interact with the world, whether changing the environment or changing oneself.

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