Thursday, May 23, 2013

How does physical geography support understanding the geographic concept of region?

In your mind, using your mental map, how do you picture the United States?  Do you picture individual states or do you picture a set of states within a region?  Why do you think you have a mental picture of the United States by region? probably connect to characteristics connected to human geography (regions with political dispositions, regions with unique ethnic populations, regions with varying economic patterns, regions with different population density).  You might also view U.S. regions in a particular way because of how you associate physical features, climate, and weather patterns with different regions.

When teachers support students in developing the geography concept of region, we often begin with physical geography.  Physical geography allows students to consider facets such as landforms and climate.  In addition, we can begin to understand how weather patterns help students to develop an understanding of region

With recent news, people around the nation and the world are connected to the impact of tornados (physical geography, weather patterns) on people (human geography).  As someone from Denver, I watch the stories about this phenomena and have some connection knowing that a number of tornados occur in the plains region of Colorado.  Still, I often look at tornados as something that's connected to the midwest region and southeast region.  Imagine if you were watching these news stories from California, would you have a connection?  Probably not, and you would most likely associate this weather pattern with other regions in the United States.  In contrast, I associate forest fires with Colorado and the west region.  I associate hurricanes with the southeast region, portions of the southwest, and, increasingly, with the northeast. 

What regions do you think of when you hear about...drought? Blizzards?  Ice storms? El Nino? Hurricanes? Excessive heat?  Excessive humidity?

If we can support students in thinking through the conceptual lens of region, then we connect them to a deeper geographic understanding of the world.  Below, find some geographic tools to help support this learning with students who are beginning to explore regions of the United States.

(Note: I debated titling this posting Get Rid of Old Fashioned Fact-Based State Studies, Become a More Concept-Based Geography Teacher and Help Students Think About the United States Through the Concept of Region)


Find out about the deadliest and costliest hurricanes to strike the United States, in this LiveScience infographic.

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