Five Themes of GeographyThis is a featured page

  • How do geographers use the five themes to make sense of particular places?
  • How would the people’s lives be different if their city were located farther north, south, east, or west?
  • How do people use the land? (farming, herding, mining, industry)
  • How have people changed the land?
  • Where do most people live and why? (near a river, in mountains, etc.)
  • Which activities are more harmful or more helpful to the environment?
  • What are the differences in kinds of transportation?
  • How could people change their behavior and improve their environment.
  • What happens when people are not able to communicate?
  • How do ideas move?
  • What would happen if goods, ideas, or people stopped moving?
  • What are the unifying characteristics that make up the region(s) we visited? (Examples might include climate, clothing, architecture, traditions, food, language, accent, music, art, etc.)
Where is it?
  • Absolute: A location can be absolute (specific) as in coordinates of a map using longitude and latitude
  • Relative: A location can be relative - examples: next door, nearby, a short drive, down the road a ways. Or, it can be in the same general location as another location - example: next to the post office or in Europe.
A place is an area that is defined by everything in it. All places have features that give them personality and distinguish them from other places. If you refer to your school as a place, then that place would include walls, windows, gym, cafeteria, classrooms, people, clothing, books, maps, mops, brooms, hallways, mice (if you have them) and everything else in the school, including the languages spoken.

A region is an area that is defined by certain similar characteristics. Those unifying or similar characteristics can be physical, natural, human, or cultural. The three main types of regions are functional, perceptual and formal.

Movement refers to the way people, products, information and ideas move from one place to another. This can be local such as how did you get to school today, or it can be global such as how did humans get to North America?

Human-Environment Interaction
Human-environment interaction looks at the relationships between people and their environment; how people adapt to the environment and how they change it.
  • How do people depend on the environment? (Example: In ancient times, the annual flooding of the Nile River produced good soil for growing crops.)
  • How to people adapt to the environment? (Example: The ancient Egyptians rebuilt their homes each year, after the annual flooding. As time went on, they built their homes above the flood plain.)
  • How do people modify the environment? (Example: The ancient Egyptians built irrigation ditches to help water the crops. In modern times, Egypt built a dam to control the flood waters of the Nile River.)
View the following PPT for more information and examples on the Five Themes of Geography.

Lesson 1: LOCATION
Every point on Earth has a specific location that is determined by an imaginary grid of lines denoting latitude and longitude. Parallels of latitude measure distances north and south of the line called the Equator. Meridians of longitude measure distances east and west of the line called the Prime Meridian. Geographers use latitude and longitude to pinpoint a place’s absolute, or exact, location.

To know the absolute location of a place is only part of the story. It is also important to know how that place is related to other places—in other words, to know that place’s relative location. Relative location deals with the interaction that occurs between and among places. It refers to the many ways—by land, by water, even by technology—that places are connected.

Latitude and longitude lines are like an imaginary grid across the globe and that the coordinates on that grid tell us exactly where something is located.

Using latitude and longitude lines on a world map, we will locate the following:

* the highest mountain on our continent
* the capital cities of three foreign countries
* the national park nearest your town
* the mouths of three major rivers
* three major cities in the United States

Include examples in the Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western Hemispheres.

List four ways your hometown is connected to a nearby town or city that you have located on a map.

Imagine you can pick up their school building, just as if it were a toy block, and relocate it anywhere you choose. Discuss how your school lives would be different if CAC were located farther north, south, east, or west. List the advantages and disadvantages of each site.

Select two cities currently in the news to locate on a map. Research and present your findings on ways in which the two cities are connected. They might be linked, for example, by human-migration routes, weather patterns, economic concerns, communication systems, or transportation networks.

Lesson 2: PLACE
All places have characteristics that give them meaning and character and distinguish them from other places on earth. Geographers describe places by their physical and human characteristics. Physical characteristics include such elements as animal life. Human characteristics of the landscape can be noted in architecture, patterns of livelihood, land use and ownership, town planning, and communication and transportation networks. Languages, as well as religious and political ideologies, help shape the character of a place. Studied together, the physical and human characteristics of places provide clues to help students understand the nature of places on the earth.

Each student will be given a folded piece of paper on which I have written the name of a place that is known and easily described. Write a description of the place without naming it, then exchange descriptions with another student. How many students can identify the place from its description alone? What makes one description easier or harder to guess than another?

Sing or listen to “Home on the Range.” Discuss how the song describes a particular place. What kind of place is it? What are its physical and human characteristics? What other songs do you know that describe particular places?

Make a list of common phrases that include the word “place” (for example, “to put someone in her place,” “a place for everything and everything in its place,” “if I were in your place,” “caught between a rock and a hard place”). Analyze how these phrases help define the word “place.” Do the phrases imply physical and human characteristics? If so, how? Why are we comfortable in some places but not in others? Ask the students to describe literal and figurative places in which they have found themselves and to describe whether they have been comfortable or uncomfortable in such places.

Take a walk around the school grounds to observe the physical and human characteristics of the place. What makes it different from other schools in the area? Make a list of all the physical and human characteristics observed. Did all of you observe the same characteristics? Did some observe different characteristics? Had they ever made these observations before?

Can you say "hello" in any other language?

The environment means different things to different people, depending on their cultural backgrounds and technological resources. In studying human/environment interaction, geographers look at all the effects—positive and negative—that occur when people interact with their surroundings. Sometimes a human act, such as damming a river to prevent flooding or to provide irrigation, requires consideration of the potential consequences. The construction of Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, for example, changed the natural landscape, but it also created a reservoir that helps provide water and electric power for the arid Southwest. Studying the consequences of human/environment interaction helps people plan and manage the environment responsibly.

We will read aloud the book The Lorax (by Dr. Seuss), a wonderful example of human-environment interaction for all ages. Talk about the different characters in the book. How do you feel about each of them? Who does each character symbolize? How is each character affected by the Once-ler? Who is the Somebody?

List ways that people affect their environment every day (for example, driving cars, using water, disposing of garbage, smoking cigarettes).

Discuss the findings and have students suggest ways that people can change their behavior and improve their environment.

What if the yard outside your house were never touched? What would it look like if you decided to let it "go natural" (if you didn't mow it, water it, plant shrubs, rake leaves)? Discuss how your yards would be different if you let them go natural.

Lesson 4: MOVEMENT
People interact with other people, places, and things almost every day of their lives. They travel from one place to another; they communicate with each other; and they rely upon products, information, and ideas that come from beyond their immediate environment.

Students should be able to recognize where resources are located, who needs them, and how they are transported over the earth’s surface. The theme of movement helps students understand how they themselves are connected with, and dependent upon, other regions, cultures, and people in the world.

Make a list of 12 items in the classroom that have been manufactured outside of Egypt, including items of clothing, pencils, books, etc. Choose several items (desks, light fixtures, articles of clothing) and discuss the raw materials needed to make them, the most likely place of production or manufacture, and the most likely form of transportation from the place of manufacture to the classroom.

Discuss different ways that ideas travel from one place to another. (Examples might include music, literature, folk tales.) How do people react–personally, professionally, politically, technologically–when they are able to freely communicate with one another? In what ways are people prevented from experiencing the movement of ideas? (Examples might include censorship, geographic barriers, language barriers.) What happens when people are not able to communicate?

Explore and compare different types of movement. For example, compare the movement of blood and nutrients through the body with the movement of people and resources across bodies of land and water. What happens to the movement of blood when we stand on our heads? How does a person feel when food isn’t moving properly through the digestive system? What happens to the movement of traffic in a city when traffic lights are broken? (Examples might include traffic jams, short tempers, etc.) Note that we use the word “congested” to refer to people with colds as well as locations with heavy traffic. How do ideas move? What would happen if goods, ideas, or people stopped moving?

Lesson 5: REGIONS
A basic unit of geographic study is the region, an area on the earth’s surface that is defined by certain unifying characteristics. The unifying characteristics may be physical, human, or cultural. In addition to studying the unifying characteristics of a region, geographers study how a region changes over times. Using the theme of regions, geographers divide the world into manageable units for study.

Discuss the physical regions on earth (grasslands, deserts, rain forests, mountains, polar regions). List items that they would need to adapt to the environment in the various regions. (Items might include food, clothing, insect repellent, ice ax, etc.)

How many residential regions are there in Cairo?

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