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Grades 3-5
Countries in East Asia have especially extreme population densities in their cities. Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, and Hong Kong reflect urban living conditions in Eastern Asia. Life in small villages in agricultural areas represents a dramatic contrast to city life in Eastern Asia. This lesson explores the advantages and challenges of life in urban and rural areas.

This lesson is one in a series developed in collaboration with The Asia Society , with support from the Freeman Foundation, highlighting the geography and culture of Asia and its people.

Connections to the Curriculum:
Geography, social studies
Connections to the National Geography Standards:
Standard 1: "How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process and report information"
Standard 4: "The physical and human characteristics of places"
Standard 12: "The process, patterns and functions of human settlement"
Standard 15: "How physical systems affect human systems"
Two hours

Materials Required:
Students will
  • identify differences between urban and rural life;
  • define "urban" and "rural";
  • list advantages and challenges of life in urban and rural communities; and
  • record research information on an organizer.
Geographic Skills:

Organizing Geographic Information
Answering Geographic Questions
Analyzing Geographic Information

S u g g e s t e d   P r o c e d u r e
Write the terms urban and rural on the board. Ask students if they are familiar with the terms and to give examples of each. After students provide examples of urban and rural, use those examples to generate a list of characteristics of each. Then, as a class, create a definition of each term.

Tell students to consider their town or community. Have students list characteristics of their community and decide if their community would be considered urban or rural according to their understanding of the terms. Tell students to select either urban, rural, or "somewhere in between."

Divide students into small groups and have them explore the following Webcams. Have each group determine if the location highlighted in the Webcam is urban, rural, or somewhere in between.

Price Edward Island
Times Square
Mt. Wilson
Eiffel Tower
Trafalgar Square

Explain to students that in Asia there are both urban and rural communities. East Asian cities have very high-density populations, and the culture there has changed over time to accommodate the large population. In contrast, rural areas are more sparsely populated, and the culture there reflects a more traditional way of living.

Have students explore photographs from some of the online galleries listed in the Related Links section of this lesson. Tell students to compare and contrast urban and rural photographs. As they explore, have students answer the following questions:

  • Where do people in urban and rural communities get their food?
  • Do you think urban or rural people have more choices in markets, entertainment, and housing? Why?
  • Do you think urban or rural people have to work harder to get their food? Why?
  • What types of housing are available for urban and rural people? How expensive do you think each type of housing is?
  • What are some advantages and disadvantages of having many or few neighbors?
  • What types of recreation or forms of entertainment are available to urban and rural people?
  • What types of jobs are available to urban and rural people? Where do you think they are likely to be paid more? Why?
  • What types of services are available to urban and rural people?
  • Do you think an urban or rural setting is more beautiful? Why?
  • Do you think an urban or rural setting is healthier? Why?
Ask students to work in small groups to complete the "Love It or Leave It" worksheet (PDF, Adobe Acrobat Reader required), which reflects on life in urban and rural areas. Tell students that they will list reasons why they would love living in both urban and rural areas (benefits), and reasons they would not want to live in either urban or rural areas. Students should include both facts gleaned from online resources (such as high-population density can lead to epidemics) and opinions (such as it would feel claustrophobic to live in a small one-room apartment). Remind students to include the reasons for their choices. Suggestions are offered in the teacher prompt sheet (PDF, Adobe Acrobat Reader required).

Reconvene the class and have each group share their responses to the "Love It or Leave It" organizer. Record their responses on the board or overhead so they can be viewed by the class when completing the assessment activity.
Suggested Student Assessment:
Have students write a short essay about the topic Urban or Rural Community: Where I Choose to Live. Students should support their choice with information in from the "Love It or Leave It" worksheet and the class discussion. Younger students who are not yet writing may choose to illustrate and label characteristics of their choice of urban or rural living.
Extending the Lesson:
Older students can investigate the national inequities that are found in urban and rural areas in Asian nations. The "floating" population of China and the drain of youth from the country to city in Japan and Korea are issues of particular national concern. Ask students to describe the problem, list consequences to individuals and the nation, and offer possible solutions in a short report.
Related Links:

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