Becky Forristal teaches seventh-grade geography at Rockwood Valley Middle School in Glencoe, Missouri. Situated in the suburbs just outside of St. Louis, Glencoe is a predominantly Caucasian, professional community. It is home to large corporations like Ralston Purina, Lucent Technologies, and Chrysler. Rockwood Valley Middle School reflects this corporate and often transient population. Because of their parents' job changes or transfers, many of the students at the school have come from or will move to another school at some point. Some students are residents from other countries.
Ms. Forristal began the year with a unit on the five themes of geography, looking at characteristics of each region of the world and why people move from one region to another. She also used a thematic approach in subsequent units. For example, students learned about Asia in the context of studying world religions. Then students explored Latin America through the lens of economics. By the time they started this lesson, Ms. Forristal's class had already studied developing countries' employment, unemployment, and productivity. Students were familiar with concepts like Gross Domestic Product (GDP), supply and demand, exchange rates, and how governments influence economic systems. They had also studied the interdependency of countries in Latin America.
Throughout the year, Ms. Forristal began each class with a question to stimulate discussion and launch the lesson. Just prior to the videotaped lesson "Population and Resource Distribution," Ms. Forristal asked students: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? To prepare for the simulation, she made arm bands, mapped out the regions in tape on the floor, and gathered materials to represent different resources. Then students analyzed the statistics on their arm bands and predicted the quality of life for people in the different regions of the world. As the simulation progressed, Ms. Forristal asked questions to stimulate thinking, gave additional information as needed, and summarized often to help students maintain their focus. After the simulation, Ms. Forristal's students answered questions that helped them see the distribution of resources from different perspectives, including how the simulation related to their own lives.
Lesson Background >>