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Grades K-2
Overview:
We may take for granted that an object has always been in one location, but when it is moved, we are affected by the change. This lesson challenges students to think about why objects, in the classroom, and in their community, are placed where they are, and how this affects our daily lives.
Connections to the Curriculum:
Geography, earth science
Connections to the National Geography Standards:
Standard 3: "How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface"
Time:
Two to three hours

Materials Required:
  • Computer with Internet access
Objectives:
Students will
  • explain why things are located in particular places;
  • learn how to evaluate the importance of the location of landmarks and other facilities; and
  • understand the benefits one geographic location might have over another.
Geographic Skills:
Asking Geographic Questions
Answering Geographic Questions
Analyzing Geographic Information

S u g g e s t e d   P r o c e d u r e
Opening:
Have students look at a physical map of the United States, available at the MapMachine . Ask them to describe the terrain in different parts of the country and to explain which parts of the country they think are the easiest and the hardest to live in.

Have them look at this biome map and the climate map at the Riddle of the Russian Lights activity , and help them figure out what the vegetation and climate are like in different parts of the U.S.

Ideally, students will still have the physical map available in their browser or atlas so they can compare the maps. Have them narrow down their decision as to what would be the easiest and most difficult places to live. Write their responses on the board.

Now have students look at a population map of the U.S. to see if their assessment of the previous two maps was accurate. Where do most people live in the U.S.? Which places are the least densely populated? Why do students think this is the case, based on the things they saw on the physical and biome maps?

Development:
Location Matters!

Before students come into class, move something prominent to a new location in the classroom. When students arrive, take note of their reactions.

Ask students if they notice anything different about the room. When they tell you what it is, ask them if they like the new location or if it bothers them. Then tell them that you moved it as an experiment, to see if they would like it or not.

Have students think about times when their family or friends moved their belongings to a new place. How did they feel? Did it bother them that their belongings were out of order?

Ask students to think about the reasons why the classroom is set up the way it is. Why are the teacher's desk and their desks where they are? Why are the computer or clock located where they are? Would it make a difference if these things were moved to different locations in the room?

Tell the class that, just as items have their places in the classroom, so too do items in their hometown. For example, the grocery store, movie theater, and City Hall are all in their locations for a reason. Ask students to think about a prominent business, building, park, or other city landmark that everyone in the class knows about.

Closing:
Have students discuss the reasons why that structure is located in its particular place. For example, why would a grocery store be located at a busy intersection near a major residential area? Why would City Hall be located downtown?
Suggested Student Assessment:
Ask students to draw pictures of this city landmark in its present location. Then have them draw pictures of the landmark in another location that's very different from its real location. Ask them to write sentences explaining why the landmark is located in its present place and how things would be different if it were moved to the place depicted in their second pictures. For example, would the grocery store be busy if it were moved to the outskirts of town? How would people in the city feel if City Hall were relocated to a less central location?
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