• 1. Show students the NG Education interactive map.
    Display for students the United States on the NG Education interactive map, with the population density layer selected. Make sure students can identify major bodies of water—the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico on the map. Then explain to students how they can tell where many people live and where few people live.

    2. Have students locate where they live.
    Help students locate the place where they live on the map. Ask: Is it in an area that has many people? Or is it in an area that has few people?

    3. Ask students to describe the patterns they see.
    Point out the East Coast and West Coast. Ask: Do more people live near the coasts or away from the coasts? Students should recognize that many more people live near the coasts than inland, although the Great Lakes and a few places in the interior, such as Atlanta, Georgia, are densely populated.

    4. Have students brainstorm and draw why people might choose to live near the coasts.
    Ask: Why do most people live near the coasts? Encourage students to think about how people move (transportation routes), weather, and climate. As an example, point out the desert regions of the West and describe why few people live there. Have students draw pictures that illustrate why people live near coasts.

    Informal Assessment

    Check students’ drawings to make sure they understand why people live near coasts. If needed, have students explain what their drawings show.

  • Subjects & Disciplines

    Learning Objectives

    Students will:

    • identify patterns of human settlement on a United States population distribution map
    • brainstorm and draw possible reasons so many people live near the coast

    Teaching Approach

    • Learning-for-use

    Teaching Methods

    • Brainstorming
    • Discussions
    • Visual instruction

    Skills Summary

    This activity targets the following skills:

    National Standards, Principles, and Practices

    National Geography Standards

    • Standard 12:  The processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement
    • Standard 14:  How human actions modify the physical environment
  • What You’ll Need

    Materials You Provide

    • Crayons
    • Drawing paper

    Required Technology

    • Internet Access: Required
    • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector
    • Plug-Ins: Flash

    Physical Space

    • Classroom


    • Large-group instruction
  • Background Information

    Over half of the United States population lives within 50 miles of the coast. All of these people have an effect on the health of the ocean.

    Prior Knowledge

    • None


    Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    coast Noun

    edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: coast

    For Further Exploration



NOAA: National Marine Sanctuary Program