Image by National Geographic Society

  • The overall theme of this teacher-tested unit is using maps to understand borders and their impacts in Europe. The materials will help your middle school students to use maps to think about how borders intersect physical and human geographical features, and how those intersections can lead to cooperation and/or conflict. The educator resources provided in the unit include maps, multimedia, and case studies that will enable students to develop skills in map analysis and apply that analysis to specific situations. Other parts of the unit will invite you and your students to explore similar cases in Europe and your own community.

     

    This unit was originally developed for the National Teacher Leadership Academy (NTLA) 2008 Summer Geography Institute.

    Photo: Checkpoint Charlie, in the American sector at the Berlin Wall

    Students think about regions and borders by determining where they would place borders in an artificial continent, based on a set of physical and cultural features of the area.

    1 hr 40 mins View this Lesson

    Photo: Italian Coastline

    Students gather their ideas about the land and peoples of Europe. They map and create lists of things they know about Europe and generate questions they have about the land and peoples of Europe.

     

    2 hrs 30 mins View this Lesson

    Photo: Tarnica's Bieszczady Mountains in southeast Poland

    Students are introduced to the physical geography of Europe and delineate major drainage basins in Europe.

     

    1 hr 40 mins View this Lesson

    Photo: Danube River

    Students examine a case study of how physical features can interact with country borders to cause conflict. In this case, two countries agreed to work together to build a series of dams on the Danube River, but problems kept the project from being completed, and the conflict continues over 40 years later.

     

    2 hrs 50 mins View this Lesson

    Photo: A sea cliff and lighthouse on the coast of Spain

    Students research four additional examples of physical geography and borders. They explore how mountains, oceans, and islands create physical barriers that affect the country borders in Europe.

     

    2 hrs 40 mins View this Lesson

    Photo: St. Peter's Basilica

    Students are introduced to the major language and religious groups of Europe. They explore how those groups align with and/or cross country borders.

     

    2 hrs 30 mins View this Lesson

    Photo: The smallest of the three Irish Aran Islands

    Students explore how language and religion have affected the borders in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

     

    2 hrs View this Lesson

    Photo: Aqueduct in Larnaca, Cyprus

    Students research four additional examples of human geography and borders. They explore how language, culture, and religious differences affect country borders in Europe.

     

    2 hrs View this Lesson

    Photo: Soviet Class Er locomotive, Moscow

    Students compare maps of European borders at three points in history: after World War I, after World War II, and the 2011 European Union (EU) countries. Students look for political borders that have changed and others that have remained the same, and compare those to what they know about cultural and physical geography in Europe and in their own state or local area.

     

    1 hr 50 mins View this Lesson

    Photo: Old Town Square of Wroclaw, Poland

    Students reflect on changes in their own understanding of Europe by repeating some activities from the beginning of the unit, reviewing their previous questions and answers, and reflecting on what they have learned over the course of the unit.

     

    1 hr 20 mins View this Lesson

  • Vocabulary

    Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    agriculture Noun

    the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

    Encyclopedic Entry: agriculture
    autonomy Noun

    independence.

    biome Noun

    area of the planet which can be classified according to the plant and animal life in it.

    Encyclopedic Entry: biome
    birthrate Noun

    the ratio of the total number of live births to the total population in a given time and area.

    border Noun

    natural or artificial line separating two pieces of land.

    Encyclopedic Entry: border
    boreal forest Noun

    land covered by evergreen trees in cool, northern latitudes. Also called taiga.

    canal Noun

    artificial waterway.

    capital Noun

    city where a region's government is located.

    Encyclopedic Entry: capital
    city Noun

    large settlement with a high population density.

    climate Noun

    all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate
    climate change Noun

    gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate change
    coast Noun

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

    Encyclopedic Entry: coast
    colonization Noun

    spreading of a species into a new habitat or ecosystem, and establishing a healthy population there.

    compass rose Noun

    symbol indicating the cardinal directions (N, S, E, W).

    conflict Noun

    a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

    continent Noun

    one of the seven main land masses on Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: continent
    Council of Europe Noun

    international organization based in Strasbourg, Germany, established "to promote democracy and protect human rights and the rule of law in Europe."

    country Noun

    geographic territory with a distinct name, flag, population, boundaries, and government.

    crop Noun

    agricultural produce.

    Encyclopedic Entry: crop
    cultural landscape Noun

    human imprint on the physical environment.

    culture Noun

    learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

    dam Noun

    structure built across a river or other waterway to control the flow of water.

    desert Noun

    area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

    Encyclopedic Entry: desert
    dialect Noun

    distinct variation of a language, usually marked by accents and grammar.

    diversity Noun

    difference.

    downstream Noun

    in the direction of a flow, toward its end.

    drainage basin Noun

    an entire river system or an area drained by a river and its tributaries. Also called a watershed.

    economy Noun

    system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

    ecosystem Noun

    community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem
    environment Noun

    conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

    ethnic Adjective

    having to do with characteristics of a group of people linked by shared culture, language, national origin, or other marker.

    ethnic group Adjective

    people sharing genetic characteristics, culture, language, religion or history.

    ethnicity Noun

    identity in a group sharing genetic characteristics, culture, language, religion, or history.

    Europe Noun

    sixth-largest continent and the western part of the Eurasian landmass, usually defined as stretching westward from the Ural mountains.

    European Union Noun

    association of European nations promoting free trade, ease of transportation, and cultural and political links.

    exclusive economic zone (EEZ) Noun

    zone extending 200 nautical miles off a country's coast. A country has the right to explore and exploit the living and nonliving things in its EEZ.

    exploit Verb

    to use or take advantage of for profit.

    fjord Noun

    long, narrow ocean inlet between steep slopes.

    Encyclopedic Entry: fjord
    flood Noun

    overflow of a body of water onto land.

    Encyclopedic Entry: flood
    flood plain Noun

    flat area alongside a stream or river that is subject to flooding.

    Encyclopedic Entry: flood plain
    fluent Adjective

    able to speak, write, and understand a language.

    forest Noun

    ecosystem filled with trees and underbrush.

    freshwater Noun

    water that is not salty.

    geography Noun

    study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.

    Encyclopedic Entry: geography
    glacier Noun

    mass of ice that moves slowly over land.

    Encyclopedic Entry: glacier
    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    habitat Noun

    environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: habitat
    highlands Plural Noun

    plateau or elevated region of land.

    human migration Noun

    the movement of people from one place to another.

    hydroelectric power Noun

    usable energy generated by moving water converted to electricity.

    immigration Noun

    process of moving to a new country or region with the intention of staying and living there.

    island Noun

    body of land surrounded by water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: island
    landmass Noun

    large area of land.

    landscape Noun

    the geographic features of a region.

    Encyclopedic Entry: landscape
    language Noun

    set of sounds, gestures, or symbols that allows people to communicate.

    language family Noun

    group of languages descended from a common ancestral language.

    latitude Noun

    distance north or south of the Equator, measured in degrees.

    Encyclopedic Entry: latitude
    legend Noun

    explanation of symbols and abbreviations used on a map, also known as a key.

    location Noun

    position of a particular point on the surface of the Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: location
    longitude Noun

    distance east or west of the prime meridian, measured in degrees.

    Encyclopedic Entry: longitude
    lowland Noun

    slow-flowing river ecosystem usually found in lower altitudes.

    map Noun

    symbolic representation of selected characteristics of a place, usually drawn on a flat surface.

    Encyclopedic Entry: map
    mountain Noun

    landmass that forms as tectonic plates interact with each other.

    mountain range Noun

    series or chain of mountains that are close together.

    nation Noun

    political unit made of people who share a common territory.

    Encyclopedic Entry: nation
    natural resource Noun

    a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.

    nomad Noun

    person who moves from place to place, without a fixed home.

    observation Noun

    something that is learned from watching and measuring an object or pattern.

    ocean Noun

    large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ocean
    peninsula Noun

    piece of land jutting into a body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: peninsula
    physical features Noun

    naturally occurring geographic characteristics.

    plain Noun

    flat, smooth area at a low elevation.

    Encyclopedic Entry: plain
    political boundary Noun

    imaginary line separating one political unit, such as a country or state, from another.

    pollution Noun

    introduction of harmful materials into the environment.

    Encyclopedic Entry: pollution
    population Noun

    total number of people or organisms in a particular area.

    port Noun

    place on a body of water where ships can tie up or dock and load and unload cargo.

    Encyclopedic Entry: port
    precipitation Noun

    all forms in which water falls to Earth from the atmosphere.

    Encyclopedic Entry: precipitation
    prime meridian Noun

    imaginary line around the Earth running north-south, 0 degrees longitude.

    Encyclopedic Entry: prime meridian
    region Noun

    any area on the Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

    Encyclopedic Entry: region
    religion Noun

    a system of spiritual or supernatural belief.

    reservoir Noun

    natural or man-made lake.

    Encyclopedic Entry: reservoir
    resource Noun

    available supply of materials, goods, or services. Resources can be natural or human.

    river Noun

    large stream of flowing fresh water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: river
    sea Noun

    large part of the ocean enclosed or partly enclosed by land.

    Encyclopedic Entry: sea
    sea level Noun

    base level for measuring elevations. Sea level is determined by measurements taken over a 19-year cycle.

    Encyclopedic Entry: sea level
    sea level rise Noun

    increase in the average reach of the ocean. The current sea level rise is 1.8 millimeters (.07 inch) per year.

    silt Noun

    small sediment particles.

    Encyclopedic Entry: silt
    state Noun

    political unit in a nation, such as the United States, Mexico, or Australia.

    state Noun

    nation or national government.

    steppe Noun

    dry, flat grassland with no trees and a cool climate.

    Encyclopedic Entry: steppe
    sustainability Noun

    use of resources in such a manner that they will never be exhausted.

    territory Noun

    land an animal, human, or government protects from intruders.

    trade Noun

    buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.

    transportation Noun

    movement of people or goods from one place to another.

    tributary Noun

    stream that feeds, or flows, into a larger stream.

    Encyclopedic Entry: tributary
    tundra Noun

    cold, treeless region in Arctic and Antarctic climates.

    United Nations Noun

    international organization that works for peace, security and cooperation.

    upstream Adjective

    toward an elevated part of a flow of fluid, or place where the fluid passed earlier.

    vegetation Noun

    all the plant life of a specific place.

    watershed Noun

    entire river system or an area drained by a river and its tributaries.

    Encyclopedic Entry: watershed
    wetland Noun

    area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: wetland
    World War I Noun

    (1914-1918) armed conflict between the Allies (led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France) and the Central Powers (led by Germany and Austria-Hungary). Also called the Great War.

    World War II Noun

    (1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)