Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Geography: Workshop 3

North America

Before You Watch

Before viewing the video programs for Workshop 3: North America, please read the National Geography Standards featured in this workshop. You may read the standards here on the Web, in your print guide, or in Geography for Life. We encourage you to read Geography for Life in its entirety as you move through the workshops. It contains further background on the National Standards, numerous examples and rich illustrations aiding interpretation, valuable tools for strengthening and developing lessons, and additional insight on geography's significance to our daily lives.

The National Geography Standards highlighted in this workshop include Standards 1, 4, 10, 12, and 16. As you read the standards, be thinking about how they might apply in lessons you have taught.

Also, prior to attending the workshop, you should explore the associated key maps and interactive activities and read the video program overviews below, paying close attention to the Questions to Consider.

Go to this workshop's readings.

Video Program Overviews: North America

Part 1. Boston and Denver: Mapping Urban Economic Development

In this program, we examine ethnic diversity in Boston, a city like many others where a post-industrial transformation has changed the landscape and moved jobs from the urban center to suburbs and "edge cities," leaving a mosaic of poorer ethnic groups in the inner city. Exhibiting pride in their diverse cultural heritages, these groups do not always live in harmony; tensions often flare between the newcomer immigrants and the established ethnic groups. One way to combat the poverty of the inner city is through government grants to economic "empowerment zones." We follow geographer Linda Haar as she works to map which areas should be included in the zone, keeping in mind an equitable distribution of government assistance to each of the diverse ethnic groups living there. Eventually we see the effects of financial assistance in several Boston neighborhoods.

Following commentary on regional and human geography by Gil Latz and Susan Hardwick is a classroom segment featuring AP human geography teacher Rick Gindele. His students use maps of census data generated through Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in order to analyze and understand which areas in Denver are most impoverished. Their task mirrors the real-world application of such geographical information illustrated in the case study: to determine how to allocate federal empowerment-zone funds.


Participants will be able to:

  • explain how maps and other graphic representations are used to understand patterns of human activity in urban regions;
  • identify the ways in which communities reflect the cultural background of their inhabitants; and
  • identify how students can use geographic skills to interpret patterns of distribution in urban regions.

Questions to Consider

    1. How are maps used by policy makers to analyze past, present, and future demographic patterns in urban regions?
    2. How do geographers use GIS (Geographical Information Systems) to analyze economic and demographic data?
    3. What advantages has GIS brought to the planning process in the case study?
    4. What factors account for economic disparities in the urban region prescribed in the case study?
    5. How does the teacher in the video apply the geographic perspective in helping his students understand the characteristics of an urban region?

Featured Educator

Mr. Rick Gindele, twelfth-grade AP human geography teacher, Smoky Hill High School, Aurora, Colorado
Rick Gindele has been a geography educator since 1993, and has taught world regional geography, IB human geography, AP human geography, and IB physical geography. His accomplishments include experience as a high school staff member for the Colorado Alliance Summer Geography Institute, co-director of the Colorado Geographic Alliance AP Human Geography Institute in 2000 and 2001, and a Distinguished Teaching Achievement Award from the National Council for Geographic Education in 2000. Drawing on his background as a cartographer and urban planner, Gindele helps his students personalize their understanding of geography by using GIS technology to investigate the Denver metro area.

Part 2. Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Antonio: U.S. City Development

In this program, we travel to the rural fringe of Chicago, where farms are giving way to housing developments at an alarming rate, illustrating one of North America's most rampant regional problems: suburban sprawl. Millions of people try to escape more crowded inner cities and suburbs, only to find that everyone else has the same idea. Congestion and sameness shall follow them all the days of their lives: Are we running out of room for the American Dream?

After commentary by Gil Latz and Susan Hardwick, we visit two classes, looking at urban expansion in the past and imagining its future. First there is a short visit with Marlene Brubaker's ninth-grade environmental science students on a field trip where they analyze historical maps of Philadelphia, gaining insight into how their city has changed in the past 300 years. Next Phil Rodriguez works with his ninth graders as they use census data to understand how transportation links will affect San Antonio's future expansion.


Participants will be able to:

  • explain the impact of transportation systems on the growth of American urban centers;
  • identify issues associated with resources needed by urban regions, suburban centers, and rural farming; and
  • explain how teachers can use familiar urban landmarks to teach students complex geographic concepts and principles.

Questions to Consider

    1. To what extent have transportation systems contributed to the type of growth of the urban region described in the case study?
    2. Since there is so much available farmland, why do some people worry about the expansion of urban centers and suburbs into these regions?
    3. To what extent has the concept of a city as a "place" changed over time, and what are the causes?
    4. Given the choice of teaching about "human settlement" or "shopping malls," which would make a better introduction for high school students to the concept of human and physical characteristics of an urban region?
    5. What are some ways GIS might be used in the secondary classroom to enrich learning by integrating geography with other disciplines?
    6. Identify how changes in human and physical characteristics over time change the idea of "place" in urban centers.

Featured Educators

Ms. Marlene Brubaker, tenth-grade environmental science and biology teacher, Philadelphia Mennonite High School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Marlene Brubaker has been teaching at Philadelphia Mennonite High School for the past four years. As part of her efforts to work for the betterment of her students and provide opportunities for their success, Marlene's environmental science course provides a number of field trips in partnership with the Peopling Philadelphia Cooperative throughout students' freshman year. These trips provide them with a wealth of common experiences that they can draw on throughout their high school career.

Mr. Phil Rodriguez, tenth- to twelfth-grade geography teacher, Holmes High School, San Antonio, Texas
A native Texan, Phil Rodriguez has been teaching for the past 20 years. He is active in the Texas Alliance for Geographic Education, a teacher consultant for the National Geographic Society, and a participant in the Educational Technology Leadership Institute. In the 1997-98 school year, he was selected Campus Teacher of the Year at Holmes High School. He employs the Internet and maps to help students better understand the geography of their own metropolitan area. Phil believes in the value of primary source materials and uses his own background in population geography to collect the data his students analyze in his classes.


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