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Grades 6-8
In this lesson, students will learn to describe the social, political, and economic impact of various transnational organizations, such as the United Nations and the European Union . Students will consider the potential impacts of this type of transnational organization for existing nations and for a fictitious nation that is trying to decide whether to join an alliance of countries on its continent.
Connections to the Curriculum:
Geography, social studies, current events
Connections to the National Geography Standards:
Standard 10: "The characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics"
Standard 12: "The processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement"
Standard 13: "How the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth's surface"
Two to three hours

Materials Required:
  • Computer with Internet access
Students will
  • discuss transnational alliances and the reasons why countries might want to join them;
  • research several alliances of countries, and discuss the reasons why the countries have joined these alliances and the potential impacts of membership;
  • discuss the potential cultural impacts of a country joining together with other countries; and
  • prepare a report recommending whether a fictitious country should join an alliance of countries on its continent.
Geographic Skills:
Asking Geographic Questions
Acquiring Geographic Information
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
Ask students to define the words "union" and "alliance." Then have them state some of the unions or alliances that they are part of (e.g., teams at school, extended families, clubs, or religions groups). What are the benefits of being part of these groups? What are the drawbacks?

Ask students to explain why they think countries might want to form unions or alliances. What benefits might nations gain from maintaining agreements, alignments, or coalitions with each other? What might be the drawbacks? Let them know that it's okay if they don't know much about this subject yet—they will learn more about it in a moment.

Have students explore the Raise the Flag for the European Union activity and visit the following Web resources to learn about why nations might want to join together in unions such as the European Union or the United Arab Emirates:

European Union
CIA World Factbook: United Arab Emirates

You might also want to have more advanced students research the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Be sure to inform them that this agreement is very controversial and that they will get different viewpoints on its success depending on the sources they read.

Discuss the following questions as a class, asking students to provide answers based on the information they have gathered and their own reasoning:

  • Why do countries join together into alliances?
  • What consequences might there be for the joining countries?

Ask students whether they think joining together with other countries might have an effect on a country's culture. You will probably want to define the word "culture" or have students discuss their ideas about this term, including language, religion, food, currency, recreational activities, and customs. Ask them to think about and discuss as a class the ways in which a country's culture might be impacted by being a member of the European Union or another similar alliance of nations.
Suggested Student Assessment:
Divide the class into small groups. Ask the groups to imagine that they live in a fictitious country, and ask them to give their country a name. Inform them that their country is located on a continent with several other countries, each of which has its own national music, food, language, and other cultural traditions. The other countries have just voted to join together as a union that will permit tariff-free trade, have the same currency throughout the continent, and allow citizens to live and work in any of the countries.

Tell students that their country is the smallest on the continent and that many citizens are concerned that their cultural traditions will be lost, overwhelmed by the other countries' cultures, not to mention their large businesses. Ask groups to discuss this scenario and to determine what they think would be the pros and cons of their country joining the new union. Have each group write a report that explains these pros and cons and whether they think their country should join.

Extending the Lesson:
Make a class chart of the potential pros and cons of nations becoming part of a union such as the European Union. Have students find out which non-EU countries are trying to become members of the EU. Ask them to research and explain the reasons why these countries want to be part of the EU. Then have them find out whether there are any European countries that have decided not to join the EU (such as Switzerland) and explain why these countries have made this decision.
Related Links: