Geography is so linked with every other subject that school projects are rich, multidisciplinary opportunities to advance writing, research, math and history skills, as well as locate students firmly in their world and encourage exploration. Use classroom or individual projects to teach about different cultures, how to read maps, threats to species, coastlines or indigenous tribes -- there are no limits when the world is your subject matter. A mix of tactile, three-dimensional displays and research presentations will make lessons unforgettable.
Homes and Habitats
Habitat loss threatens vulnerable species, alters the landscape, and creates dramatic changes that favor more robust species, including humans. As a class, explore the reasons for and the effects of habitat loss for the Giant Panda in China’s bamboo forests, using photographs and videos about conservation zoo efforts in various countries to breed the pandas and examine the effect of the 2008 earthquake on the Wolong Center in Sichuan, China and factors behind the choice of the new location in Gengda. Divide the class in half and ask one group to research the habitat of the polar bear and how Arctic glacier melt is affecting food supplies, reproduction, and the numbers of polar bears in the wild. Assign the other group to study the extreme droughts and catastrophic wildfires in the American West and explain the causes of both, who and what are threatened, and how drought and wildfires affect human cities, housing and farming. Each group makes a Powerpoint class presentation and leads a discussion.
Climb Every Mountain
Studying mountains introduces students to geological events, political borders, elevation and weather, different cultures and the story of the shifting land masses, plate tectonics and volcanic islands. Project teams focus on a mountain range or seamount and tell its "story," from birth to present formation. A raised topological model could illustrate the geographic location of the range and its surrounding land forms or ocean. A vertical view will reveal the flora and fauna changes at different altitudes or the underwater life forms at different depths. Researched papers may explain the history and lifestyles of the people living on or near mountains, including the resources, industries, sacred mythologies, cataclysmic volcanic eruptions and other highlights about those particular heights. Suggest or assign the Himalayas, the Rockies, the Alps, the Andes, the Appalachians, and island arcs formed from volcanoes, such as Hawaii.
Learn regions of the world and lifestyles along major rivers with a class project that is basic for lower grades, and multi-layered for high school students. Each group of students chooses a significant river and tells its story through screen or paper presentations. They must locate its headwaters and delta; the topography and politics of the land it flows through; its annual flooding and drought patterns; the benefits and dangers to the people living along the river; the unique lifeforms associated with the river, their vitality and threatened status; the industries dependent on the river; the myths, religious practices and history of the river and the civilizations that lived and currently live along it. Suggest or assign such river systems as the Amazon, the Mississippi, the Nile, the Ganges, the Yangtze or the Volga.
Mapping out a road trip is a project that easily adapts to a classroom exercise, a group study or an individual homework assignment. A map project can range from very simple and local -- home, block, neighborhood -- for K through 2 students to an extended and complex semester-long exploration for high school students. Elements of the project to tailor to age level are rich and varied: a discussion of maps, determining direction, measuring latitude and longitude, familiarity with a terrestrial globe, hands-on practice finding points on a paper road map and understanding scale. For a group project, students may choose a region and agree on a start and stop point for their trip. Using a paper map, they plot an itinerary, determine daily travel through math and map skills, brainstorm overcoming physical obstacles, highlight sights to see along the way, and propose the best means of transportation. Individual students may present historical, ecological, culinary and other specialized research to bring the trip to vivid life in a class presentation.
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