Connecticut Geographic Alliance

Suggestions for Increasing Geography Awareness

It’s Easy as 1.2.3.... Let’s start with the basics: “What is Geography?” Download this four page graphic novella, in cartoon format, to start a dialogue with students about the importance and magnitude of this subject.

Ideas to make your classroom more geography rich

Enable students to understand the local and global importance of geography by sharing the 3:57 minute video “What is Geo-literacy?”

Elementary Teachers in K-5 will find activities and lessons that connect to their social studies curriculum such as: Using the Language of Location (Grades K-2); Mapping Your State (Grades 3-5); Major Languages of the Americas (Grades 3-5) and Geography of a Pencil (Grades 4-8). Use the “Filter By” bar to help you hone in on what will help you best with your students.

Middle School Explorers: Learn about explorers who have made an impact in our World, from anthropologist to urban planners to geo-archaeologists!

GeoStories! (Grades 6-12): Meet the rigor of the common core literacy requirements by reading adventurous GeoStories that build vocabulary and knowledge, using interactive maps and multimedia. Students can learn about emerging explorers, citizen scientists, jobs that use geography skills, the history of jazz, and so much more.

Create a Mission: Explore Center: Print the Mission: Explore tools (Teacher Guide, Explore booklets, stickers, and certificates to enable students to do independent explorations into topics that interest them. Let them share their research for credit.

Geography A-Z Scavenger Hunt: Challenge your students to hunt for answers to solve the A-Z’s of Geography

Defining Regions of the United States
National Geographic Xpeditions Activity

Overview -- In this lesson, students will think about how the regions of the United States are defined and characterized.  They will map the regions from memory and will compare maps to see that regions are human constructions that do not generally have clearly defined boundaries.  They will consider how their own region is defined and will conclude by writing essays explaining how the creation of regions can help us to organize and understand the country's geography and can also contribute to stereotypes.

Connections to the Curriculum -- Geography, language arts

Connections to the National Geography Standards

  • Standard 4: "The physical and human characteristics of places"

Time -- Two hours

Materials Required

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Blank Xpeditions outline maps of the United States, one for each student (http://www.nationalgeographic.


  • Markers or colored pencils
  • Writing materials

Objectives -- Students will:

  • list and map regions of the United States;
  • compare maps to see if they have defined regions in the same way;
  • list words that describe the regions on their lists;
  • discuss and debate the characteristics of their own region; and
  • write essays explaining how regional definitions help us to organize and understand the country and world and how these definitions can contribute to stereotypes.

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

Opening -- Have students name some regions of the United States and list those regions on the board.


  • Give students blank outline maps of the United States, and ask them to label the regions they have listed, using their best judgment as to the regional boundaries.
  • Have students compare maps.  Do all the regions look the same, or have they been drawn differently?  Why are there differences?
  • Read to the class the geographic definition of a region: places that have "one or more common characteristics that give them a measure of unity and make them distinct from surrounding areas."
  • Point out that regions are created by people to more easily define places that share similar characteristics. As students have discovered, the actual geographic boundaries of a region can be difficult to describe and are frequently open to debate.
  • Ask students to list words that they think define each of the regions on the list.  Their lists might include types of food, music, or accents.  Discuss their lists as a class, and ask students whether they think these regional definitions are accurate or if they represent stereotypes that are not necessarily correct.

Closing -- Have students discuss and debate the region that they live in. How do they define their own region? What stereotypes do they think people from other regions have about their region?

Suggested Student Assessment -- Ask students to write essays answering the following questions: How do regional definitions help us organize and understand the country and the world? How do they contribute to stereotypes?

Extending the Lesson -- Have students collect and look through travel brochures for destinations in their own region.  Ask them to report on the ways the brochures portray the region.  Do students think this is a fair portrayal or do the brochures present any inaccurate stereotypes?  Why do students think the creators of the brochures have portrayed the region in this way?

Related Links
National Geographic: MapMachine (
National Geographic:  Xpeditions Activity – Geographic Groceries (
National Geographic: Xpeditions Atlas (

Mission Geography: USA
National Geographic Xpeditions Lesson Plan
Grades 3 through 5

In this lesson, students will research and learn about the culture, physical geography, and history of states in each region of the United States.  Student will develop a “family travel plan” and create an itinerary to highlight interesting destinations and characteristics of selected states, while working within limitation such as time and available resources.

Connections to the Curriculum:
Geography, American history, social studies

Connections to the National Geography Standards:

  • Standard #5 – “That people create regions to interpret Earth’s complexity”

Time:  Three to five hours

Materials required:

Students will:

  • Research cultural, geographic, and historical information about selected states in the United States;
  • Create a plan for travel through one region of the United States with their families; and
  • Identify each of the states in the United States.

Geographic Skills:

  • Acquiring Geographic Information
  • Organizing Geographic Information
  • Analyzing Geographic Questions

Suggested Procedure

Explain to students that they will be planning a family trip through one region of the United States for the next several classes.  Explain that they will be divided into groups and will have to develop a three-week trip through one region of the United States.  They will have to make sure that during their trip they focus on the geography, culture, and history of at least three states in their assigned region.

Divide students into groups of three.  Assign each group one of the following regions to explore:

  • Northeastern United States
  • Southern United States
  • Western United States
  • Midwest United States

Explain that as “travel planners,” they will need to develop a three-week tour itinerary (or plan) for their families.  Explain that their ultimate product will be an itinerary that describes the planned trip in detail, and that they will share it with the class.

Have students explore the following websites to learn basic information about destinations in the states of their assign region.  As they work, have them take notes about each destination they would like to visit on their family trip.
National Geographic: Destinations Travel Guide – U.S. and Canada Regional List of Community Websites

Roadside America Offbeat Tourist Attractions Map

State Travel Board Links

As students are researching their regions, have them record information on detailed versioned maps of the United States and their selected states printed from the Xpeditions Atlas.

Ask students to compare and contrast several of the states.  Ask them to consider:

  • What do these states have in common?
  • How are they different?
  • What impact does the geography of the land have on regional differences?  (For example, does a range of mountains separate two states that are very different? Does a water body separate two states that are very different?  Do states only separated by a political border differ less than those that are also separated by a geographic feature?)

Have students plan their tour by filling out the details on their Family Trip Planning Sheet (PDF, Adobe Acrobat Reader required -  Remind them that there are rules for their trip:

  • You must visit at least three states in your region;
  • You must use a variety of transportation methods (plane, bus, car, train, etc.);
  • You must visit cultural landmarks, geographic landmarks, and historical landmarks during the trip;
  • Your three states must have unique characteristics and represent the diversity of that region; and
  • You must visit at least one “unusual roadside attraction” in each state (such as the largest ball of twine, the smallest suspension bridge, the oldest school, etc.).

Have students publish their three-week trip plan using the Print Press (  Tell students to choose either “Brochure” or “Booklet” and to use the Family Trip Planning Sheet as a guide.  Have them print put their final plans when they are finished.

Suggested Student Assessment:
Have the students present their itineraries in small groups.  They should explain how they have given a good representation of the diversity of their assigned region.  Understanding will be demonstrated in the following:

  • Diversity ion state selections;
  • Accurate selection of historical, cultural, and geographic landmarks; and
  • Ability to convey how each of the states is different from the other states in their trip plan.

Extending the Lesson:

Have students complete the GeoSpy state identification game (  If time allows, have students play until they have a perfect score.


Daily Life in the Middle East
National Geographic Xpeditions Lesson 

Overview:   This lesson will ask students to focus on the people of Iraq.  They will think critically about what the media delivers, why it focuses so heavily on war coverage, and how this may contribute to skewed views of Iraq and its people.  Students will explore Iraq’s rich cultural history and read online articles or print publications about daily life in Iraq.  Finally, in small groups, they will study further one aspect of daily life in Iraq (or another country in the Middle East) and create presentations for the rest of the class. 

Connections to the Curriculum:  Geography, English, Journalism 

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 from a spatial perspective”

Standard 3 – “How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth’s surface”

Standard 4 – “The physical and human characteristics of places”

Standard 10 – “The characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth’s cultural mosaics” 

Time:  Two to three hours 

Materials Required:

Objectives:  Students will:

  • explore maps of the Middle East region;
  • think about their perceptions of the Middle East and investigate whether their perceptions are accurate;
  • read a series of articles and websites about daily life in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East;
  • investigate the differences between the way the Middle East is covered in its native press and Western press;
  • fill in blank outline maps of the Middle East region to show their knowledge of the area; and
  • research in detail one aspect of daily life in Iraq (or another country in the Middle East region) and present information to the class. 

Geographic Skills:

Asking Geographic Questions
Acquiring Geographic Information
Organizing Geographic Information
Answering Geographic Questions
Analyzing Geographic Information

Suggested Procedure 

Opening:  Ask students what first comes to mind when they think of the Middle East region.  Are there specific countries that they know more about than others?  Write their responses on the board or on a large sheet of paper.  Where do they think these ideas came from?  Have they traveled to the Middle East?  Do they know anyone from there? 

Development:  As an introduction to the region, ask students to form small groups and look at the maps on National Geographic’s Hot Spot: Iraq website ( .  Ask them to read the text accompanying the maps and take notes about whether the information in the text supports their original thoughts (or those of the class) about the Middle East region in general and about specific countries.  Ask them to write down anything they learned from the maps that surprised them. 

Ask students to read the following series of articles by BBC journalist Kim Ghattas, documenting daily life in Iraq:

            Business as Usual in Iraq (
            Iraq’s Middle Class Wiped Out (
            Iraqis Seek Refuge in Religion (
            Baghdad’s “Flourishing” Art Scene (
            Surfing the Net in Iraq (
            Iraqi Refugees Hope for US Strike (

Ask students to use what they have learned from these articles to consider what they would like to know more about.  The following sites provide a starting point for more information about daily life in Iraq and the Middle East:

            Washington Post: The Faces of Iraq
            Arab Media on the Internet (look for publications that say “written in English”)
            BBC: Iraq in Pictures
            Frontline: Iraq – Truth and Lies in Baghdad
            Washington Post: Iraq Eyewitness (photo galleries)

You may also wish to bring in newspapers and/or news magazines (or ask students to bring them in) and ask students to look for further coverage of Iraq and the Middle East on television and on the Internet.  If possible, bring in press from around the world.  What is most of the coverage about?  Can students find information about daily life in Iraq?  Are there any human interest stories that are not about war or conflict?  Compare American and European press coverage with coverage from the Arab world. 

How do students think Western coverage influences the way Iraq and the Middle East are viewed by the world? 

Closing:  Discuss as a class what students felt were the most surprising things they learned about the Middle East region, and about Iraq in particular.  What would they like to know more about?

Suggested Student Assessment:  Give each student a blank outline map of the Middle East and ask them to fill in the names of countries, capital (and other large) cities, bodies of water, and other important geographic features. 

Ask students to form small groups and have each group choose one aspect about daily life in Iraq or the Middle East (for example, religion, education, sports, or the arts).  Ask the groups to find out more about their subject using online sources (starting with the ones previously mentioned) or books and magazines. 

Have each group put together a brief presentation for the rest of the class about their topic.  Tell them to be creative; their presentation could be a simple talk but it could also include something creative such as a photo essay or other multimedia element. 

Extending the Lesson:  Ask students to compare two countries in the Middle East based on one aspect of daily life.  What are the similarities and differences?  Why do students think the differences exist? 

Related Links:

            Arab Media on the Internet (
            BBC: Iraq in Pictures (
            Frontline: Iraq – Truth and Lies in Baghdad (
            National Geographic: Hot Spot Iraq (

What is Asia?
National Geographic Xpeditions Lesson Plan  

This lesson will introduce students to diversity in Asia.  After considering what is meant by the term “Asia,” students will identify the various regions in Asia and consider factors for determining what is considered a “region.”  At the conclusion, students will answer the question: What is Asia?  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, world history, social studies, economics, politics 

Connections to the National Geography Standards:

  • Standard #2 – “How we use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context”
  • Standard #5 – “That people create regions to interpret Earth’s complexity” 

Time:  Two hours 

Materials required:

Students will:

  • Analyze the importance of terms used to identify various regions of the world;
  • Determine the role of geography in designating regions; and
  • Assess the possible role of factors such as ethnicity, language, foods, and religion in designating regions. 

Geographic Skills:

  • Asking Geographic Questions
  • Acquiring Geographic Information
  • Answering Geographic Questions 

Suggested Procedure 

Open the lesson by asking the students, “What is Asia?”  Have students write their responses on a piece of paper.  Collect the responses for use later in the lesson.  Explain that this lesson will help students to more fully understand the answer to that question.  Write the following terms on the board: hemisphere, continent, subcontinent, and region.  Ask the students to define and give an example of each of the terms.  Then ask students to describe their understanding of Asia using those terms. 

Give students a physical map of Eurasia (  Ask them to draw a circle around Asia and one around Europe.  Ask the students:

  • What are the boundaries of these continents?
  • What do the textbooks and geography books include in Asia and in Europe?
  • Do they fit the “proper” definition of a continent?
  • If you lived in Istanbul, would you know when you went from Europe to Asia?  How?
  • Why do you think that Europe and Asia are defined as continents? 

Looking at the map of Eurasia, ask students why India is considered a subcontinent while Europe is defined as a continent.  Ask the students:

  • What is the size of India compared with Europe?
  • Is there significant ethnic diversity in India?  In Europe? 

Arrange students into groups of three to five.  Ask each group to list all of the countries found in Asia without looking at a map.  Then have the students cross-reference their list with an actual map of Asia.  Ask them:

  • Were there any countries that were part of Asia that surprised you?
  • Why didn’t you consider these countries part of Asia?
  • What does the National Geographic MapMachine Student Edition consider part of Asia? 

Reconvene as a class and have students study or create a physical map of Asia that shows major mountains, rivers, and different landforms.  Ask them to divide Asia into various regions, using geographical features as their guide.  Have them consider the importance of physical boundaries such as mountains, rivers, or discrete climate areas in determining the regions.  Have students compare their maps of Asian regions with different professional maps that indicate East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, West Asia, and Central Asia.  Then have them compare the physical map of Asia with maps showing the regions in Asia.  To what extent do the regional boundaries coincide with the physical boundaries?  How important is geography in determining boundaries?  What other factors influence the designation of regions? 

Ask the students why these are the recognized regions.  Then ask if they can think of any other ways that someone would recognize regions in Asia.  For example, some people may believe that regions exist according to languages spoken or shared physical traits. 

Arrange students back into their groups.  Then assign each group a criterion by which to separate Asia into regions.  Give each group a blank map and have them draw lines for their regions according to their criterion.

Language            Religion            Climate
Political system Natural Resources Industry
Physical traits of the population

Hang up the region maps created by each group.  Collectively compare and contrast the regions defined by the criteria and have students determine if the ultimate regions are largely the same or mostly different.  Ask the students why.  Then ask students to describe the implications of having different regions defined by different criteria. 

Suggested Student Assessment:
Have the students write a one-page response to the question “What is Asia?” 

Extending the Lesson:

  • Students might research the history of the term “Asia.”  When was it first used and why?  When were terms such as “Orient,” “Far East,” or “Southeast Asia” used and why?
  • Using the National Geographic lesson “Investigating Central Asia,” have students critique the term “Central Asia.”  Where do they think areas such as Mongolia should go?  Should islands or archipelagoes be classified differently?  Who should decide?  What difference does it make?
Given the diversity in many areas of Asia, have students suggest strategies that various nations could use to create a sense of national loyalty that transcends ethnic and other types of diversity.  Given its great diversity, what does the United States do to create a sense of national unity?

Oil and Water in the Middle East Region
National Geographic Xpeditions Lesson

Overview:  In this lesson, students will explore the roles of oil and water in the Middle East, especially in Iraq. Students will use maps to look at the distribution of oil in the Middle East and discuss what it means for the different countries in the region. They will also examine how water has influenced the region historically (in the "fertile crescent" region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers) and politically (for example, how Iraq's access to water is limited to one small part of its border). Finally, they will study specific aspects of Iraq's struggles with water, using satellite imagery to understand and illustrate the problem.

Connections to the Curriculum:  Geography, geology

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 from a spatial perspective.”
  • Standard 11:  “The patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth’s surface.”

Time:  Two to three hours

Materials Required:


Students will:

  • Study maps of Iraq and the Middle East to learn basic geography of the region;
  • Analyze the role played by the distribution of oil and water in the Middle East, and how this sometimes contributes to conflicts in the region;
  • Create maps showing all the major sources of water in the Middle East and including other geographic names and features;
  • Read about conflicts in the Middle East region caused by water and answer questions; and
  • Study satellite imagery of Iraq and study specific aspects of the conflicts it faces relating to water.

Geographic Skills:

    Asking Geographic Questions  
    Acquiring Geographic Information  
    Organizing Geographic Information  
    Answering Geographic Questions  
    Analyzing Geographic Information  

Opening:  Most people think of oil as the central resource that shapes the Middle East. Why is this so? Ask students to look at National Geographic's Middle East: Natural Resources map ( and consider the variable crude oil reserves of the different countries. Which countries appear to have the most oil? The least? Might this explain why we hear more in the media about some countries in this region than others?


Now ask students to look at the same map and to think about water while they consider the following quotes, taken from National Geographic News articles they will be reading later in the lesson:

    "Many of the wars of this [20th] century were about oil, but the wars of the next century will be about water." –Former World Bank Vice President Ismail Serageldin

    "The next war in the Near East will not be about politics, but over water." -Former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali

Using the Iraq map ( and the Middle East: Natural Resources map ( 2000/12/ 1201_turkey.html), point out to students that two of the most important ancient civilizations, Egypt and Mesopotamia, developed in areas where water was plentiful. Why do students think this is the case?

Why do students think water is so important? Have them form small groups and brainstorm about this question, writing down their ideas.

Give each student a copy of the basic Xpeditions outline map of the Middle East (, with the borders on. In their small groups, ask them to use maps on the Iraq web site ( to fill in the names of countries and major cities on their individual maps, and to do the same for the following bodies of water in the region:

      Persian Gulf    Red Sea    Gulf of Aden

      Mediterranean Sea   Dead Sea    Caspian Sea

      Gulf of Aqaba    Tigris (Dijlah) River   Jordan River

      Euphrates (Al Furat) River  Nile River    Sea of Galilee

      Gulf of Suez 

Ask students to read the following articles about water in the Middle East, and answer the questions that follow (they can work alone, in pairs, or in small groups):

  • Briefly describe why water is a source of conflict, according to these articles.
  • Which countries are making plans to somehow change the natural flow or distribution of water? Which countries object to these plans, and why?
  • How does one country's control of a water source impact another country?
  • Why is the Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) particularly controversial? Why is Turkey so determined to continue despite so much opposition?
  • How have these issues developed since these articles were written in 2000? (Further research required.)

Closing:  Bring the class back together and ask students if what they learned about the importance of water bore out the ideas they brainstormed earlier in the lesson. Were there any surprises? What else would students like to explore based on what they have learned in this lesson?

Suggested Student Assessment:

Ask students to form four groups and explore the USGS: Earthshots page about Iraq (  Then, ask each group to take one of the following sections from the page and study it in detail, creating their own maps based on USGS satellite imagery:

    • Irrigating in Mesopotamia
    • Draining marshes in Iraq
    • Trenching along the border; the use of water for military purposes [Note: There is less information about this particular topic, so it will require more research; you may want to assign it to more ambitious students or eliminate it altogether if time is limited.]
    • [Oil] spilling and burning in Kuwait

Have students explore other resources to learn more about their topic, such as:

Students should, at minimum, consider geography, politics, and the consequences (real or potential) to the people living in the region. 

Have each group present what they have learned to the class.

Extending the Lesson:

  • Have students explore the Web or the library to find out what has happened to Turkey's plans to build dams. Which other countries have become involved in the controversy?
  • Have students use the USGS: Earthshots site to find other parts of the world that are dealing with issues of drought and flooding. Try to find regions where water has also become a political issue.

Related Links:

UN Food and Agriculture Office: AQUASTAT --


This lesson plan was developed from CGA 2002 Summer Institute:

Social Studies/Language Arts Connection

 Developed by Harvey Center, 

Shelter Rock School, Danbury, CT


Overview:  Paul Revere and Sybil Ludington:  Two Remarkable Riders from the American Revolution

Grade Level:  5

Time needed to teach lesson:  2-3 days


Connections to the curriculum:  American Revolution/Grade 5/Social Studies

Connections to the Connecticut Social Studies Standards:

  • Standard 1:  Historical Thinking
  • Standard 2:  Local, U.S. and World History
  • Standard 3:  Historical Themes
  • Standard 9:  Places and Regions
  • Standard 11:  Human Systems

Connections to Connecticut Language Arts Standards:

  • Standard 1:  Reading and Responding
  • Standard 2:  Producing Texts
  • Standard 3:  Applying English Language Connections
  • Standard 4:  Exploring and Responding to Texts



  1. Pupils will compare and contrast the similar exploits of Paul Revere and Sybil Ludington.
  2. Pupils will read and interpret maps which portray the rides.
  3. Pupils will read and respond to poems about Paul Revere and Sybil Ludington.
  4. Pupils will speculate on why one poem was more famous than the other.
  5. Pupils will create a Hyperstudio or Powerpoint presentation which demonstrates an understanding of one or both events.



  1. Copies of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Paul Revere's Ride."
  2. Copies of Berton Bayley's "Sybil Ludington's Ride."
  3. Map of Paul Revere's ride.
  4. Map of Sybil Ludington's ride.
  5. Background reading material for Paul Revere and Sybil Ludington.
  6. Sample Hyperstudio presentation:  "Sybil Ludington's Ride."



  1. As part of the Social Studies curriculum for Grade 5, teach the students about the ride of Paul Revere.  Use textbook or handout.  Note the reasons why he rode and how he was one of the several messengers that evening.  Remind students that his ride was interrupted by British soldiers and Paul was captured (later released), while William Dawes and Samuel Prescott escaped.
  2. Mention that another ride occurred much closer to home, one which also warned that the British Regulars were attacking. This happened near Danbury, Connecticut.
  3. Pass out the printed information about Sybil Ludington.  Read and discuss the events that occurred during her ride to warn the local New York militia that Danbury was being attacked.
  4. Pass out the pair of maps that portray the rides of Paul Revere and Sybil Ludington.  Compare the length and duration of each ride. Discuss the results.
  5. Pass out both poems and have the children read aloud or in small groups.
  6. Discuss the meanings of both poems.  Speculate why Longfellow's poem became more famous.
  7. Culminating activities:
    • Hyperstudio presentation of Paul Revere or Sybil Ludington (show sample             presentation).
    • Expository essay comparing the exploits of Paul Revere and Sybil Ludington.
    • Persuasive essay evaluating who was the braver person...Paul Revere or Sybil Ludington.

Camouflage is Cool
Submitted by Joyce Crebase
Teacher at Swift Middle School

Question: How can prey stay hidden from their predators?

Levels: Grades 1-8

Objective: Students will understand how camouflage helps an animal stay hidden from its predators.

Materials: Outline drawing of a butterfly (a two inch wingspan is a good size, but any will do); coloring materials; scotch tape


  1. Give each student two butterflies. They should color them exactly the same so they will be a matching pair. You can tell them they can make them match something in the room since they will be “hiding” them in plain sight later.
  2. Send half of the class into the hall. The half remaining in the room should each receive two pieces of clear scotch tape, one to hang each butterfly. They should then “hide” their butterflies, one against a background where it won’t show up (camouflaged) and the other on a contrasting background. Most of the butterfly must be in plain sight. When finished hiding their two butterflies, they should sit.
  3. Call the rest of the students back into the classroom. Tell them they will have three minutes to find the butterflies. Ask them to try to remember where they find each butterfly. After you call time, students should line up in front of the room to match up the pair of butterflies. NOTE: You may need to shorten the time for older students.


Discuss whether both members of each pair were found. The student who created a pair in which only one was found can reveal the location of the missing butterfly. Discuss why that one was not found. Compare it to its background. Was it well camouflaged? Invite comments and conclusions from the students. Encourage discussion with questions such as:

· Were the butterflies on contrasting backgrounds found first or more easily?

· Were all the butterflies found? Why or why not?

If any butterflies are still missing, have the students who designed and hid them reveal them.

Repeat steps 2, 3, and conclusion with the remaining half of the students.

Wrap up:

Allow students to explain how they found the butterflies and why they were able to do so. Choose a few students to put the best camouflaged butterflies back in place so everyone can see them. It is fun to leave them throughout the year as “hidden” decorations for the classroom.

“Rain Forest Activities”
Submitted by Kay Sandmeier, program liaison in the
National Geographic Society’s Geographic Education Program


The following activities are intended to be used as introductory games in units of study on tropical rain forests. They can be used with K-12 students and require a limited amount of class time. Both ideas were substantially changed and adapted from material published by the Marine World Foundation.

Activity One: A Recipe for a Rain Forest

This is a fun visual imagery activity, and the home gives students a sense of scale for understanding the great diversity of species in a small area of rain forest. Read the following instructions to your students: To create a rain forest in your own home, close your eyes and pretend that you are in your bathroom. Imagine that the shower has been on full blast and the bathroom is hot and steamy.

Place in the bathtub:

  • Four red-eyed frogs
  • An anaconda snake (6’ long) coiled across the shower curtain rod
  • Two lizards near the soap dish


  • 80 different kinds of plants in various shades of green
  • one large tree and three small ones
  • a troupe of 10 playful spider monkeys swinging from the tops of the trees
  • 8 brightly colored toucan and macaw birds all squawking at once
  • a three-toed sloth hanging motionless from a towel rack
  • a few piranhas in the toilet


  • 150 different species of beetles
  • 16 bright blue morpho butterflies
  • 42 spiders and 4 furry black tarantulas
  • 12 wasps, 7 flies, and a swarm of mosquitoes
  • 3 centipedes (at least 8” long)
  • a nest of leaf-cutter ants and one anteater

Stir in:

  • 22 different kinds of worms
  • 3 brown bats hanging upside down from the towel rack
  • 25 flowering plants
  • 1 tree iguana
  • and finally, 4 pounds of bacteria and fungi

Now, that’s what a rain forest is like!

Activity Two: Putting a Squeeze on the Rain Forest

This activity is designed to help students identify factors that influence the depletion of rain forests and issues that create environmental problems. The game requires active participation and can be an introductory mini-lesson for units on tropical rain forests.

Materials necessary: a long length of clothesline rope

Make a large circle on the floor with the rope. Have the students stand inside the circle. Discuss the locations of rain forests around the world. Tell students that the activity they will participate in demonstrates the “squeeze” that is occurring as human interactions deplete the rain forest. As each of the following statements are read, squeeze the group together by reducing the rope circle by one foot.

  • A construction company builds a dam to create inexpensive hydroelectric power for the region. It floods 600 square miles of rain forest.
  • A lumber company clearcuts 1,000 acres of forest.
  • Several cattle ranchers put 4,000 head of cattle on cleared land – 6,000 acres are lost.
  • A road built for access to a mining operation takes away 500 acres.
  • Children in a foreign country buy 5 acres of land in a “save the rain forest” club. (Don’t reduce the circle size.)
  • A coffee plantation expands and takes 1,500 acres.
  • Housing for workers takes 50 acres.
  • Wood cut for fuel takes 75 acres.
  • Land cleared for farming operations takes 5,000 acres.
  • Slash and burn activities take 10,000 acres in the interior of the country.

As the activity progresses, students have to crowd together and compete for space. By the sixth or seventh statement, several students will have been forced out. The teacher explains that these people have been forced to migrate to the cities. Play the game again with each student representing a species of wildlife that would disappear as the habitat is destroyed. Compare human/plant/animal relocation or depletion problems.

Resource articles (both in National Geographic, Volume 163, January 1983):
• P.T. White, “Tropical Rain Forests: Nature’s Dwindling Treasures,” p. 2-47
• C. Hughes and D. Hughes, “Teeming Life of a Rain Forest,” p. 48-65

National Geographic Lesson Plans:  Hot Spot - Iraq

Grades K through 2:  The Middle East Region - Flags and Facts
Grades 3 through 5:  Alike and Different - The Middle East and the U.S.
Grades 6 through 8:  Why People Move
Grades 9 through 12:  Daily Life in the Middle East
See for additional information and lesson plans.

"Water, Water, Everywhere
Reprinted with permission from Population Connection’s Education Program

  • 6 clear containers (2 large, 4 small)
  • An old towel or paper towels
  • Marking pen
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Sand (approximately   1⁄4 cup)
  • Blue food coloring

    • 1000 ml graduated cylinder & eye dropper
    • Measuring cups and spoons

      1. Gather all materials using English or Metric system data. 

      2. Fill one small container with sand and label “Deep Groundwater.” 

      3. Fill one large container with the total amount of water, add a few drops of blue food coloring, and stir. 

      4. Label the other four containers as follows
        - A large container "Oceans"
        - A small container "Polar Ice"
        - A small container "Other"
        - A small container "Fresh Water"

      5. Measure and set aside the appropriate amount of salt.
      Percentage English Metric
      Total 100% 5 cups
      3 tbsp
      1 tsp
      1 liter
      Oceans 97.1% 5 cups
      2 tsp
      97 mil
      Polar Ice 2.2% 1 tbsp
      2 tsp
      22 mil
      Deep Groundwater 0.3% tsp 3 mil
      Other 0.1% tsp 1 mil
      Fresh Water 0.3% tsp 3 mil
      Salt 3.5% 3 tbsp 35 grams

      Facilitating the Activity 

      1.     Display the six containers prepared for this activity. 

      2.     Prompt students with the following questions: 

      “What are some ways in which water is used?”  Write the student responses down in front of the room.

      “Where can we find water on this planet?”  Also write these at the front of the room.  Group their answers into the following five categories:

      a)     Oceans
      b)     Polar ice
      c)     Groundwater
      d)     Other
      e)     Fresh water

      “Look at the list of ways we use fresh water.  Where do we get the water for all these uses?”  (By far, most of the water we use comes from the fresh water of lakes, streams, rivers, reservoirs.  A smaller fraction comes from Deep Groundwater.  A smaller fraction still comes from the other categories.)

      3.     Hold up the large container of blue water and ask the class to imagine that it represents all the water in the world.  Tell the class that you’ll be dividing this water up, so that they can see how the world’s water is distributed.

      4.     Distribute the water into the five labeled containers using either the English or Metric measurements as follows:
           a)Oceans: 97% of the total.  Explain that ocean water is 3.5% saline, and add the salt to this container.
           b)Polar Ice: 2.2% of the total.  Add this to the appropriate container and place in freezer, if convenient.
           c)Deep Groundwater: 0.3% of the total.  Place this in the container with the sand, to show water deep within the Earth.
           d)Other: 0.1% of the total.  This includes clouds, glaciers, living tissue, saltwater lakes, etc.
           e)Fresh water: 0.3% of the total is accessible, fresh water

      5.     Hold up the fresh water container for the class to see, reminding them that most of the water we use comes from this tiny fraction.


      1.     What happens to our supply of fresh water as our population continues to grow?  There are more and more people who depend on it.  It may become increasingly polluted.

       2.     How can we ensure that our supply of water will be sufficient to meet the needs of our growing population?  Answers will vary.  Students may suggest conservation, desalinization, stabilizing population growth, etc.  

      Population Connection Education Program
      1400 16th Street NW, Suite 320
      Washington DC 20036
      Phone: 1-800-POP-1956 – Fax 202-332-2302

      Geographic Groceries

      National Geographic Xpeditions Activity 

      Explore the regions of your grocery store to see which foods hang out together – and why. 

      Geography is everywhere – even in the grocery store.  Not only does food come from all over the globe, it’s also arranged in patterns like those that geographers study. 

      You’ve probably noticed, for example, that all the fruit is in one place.  Or is it?
      Besides fresh produce, your supermarket probably sells canned fruit, fruit juice, and fruit snacks,
      each in a different aisle.  There may also be pieces of fruit at the salad bar. 

      Think of each of those fruit-full parts of the store as a region, which geographers define as an area “having one or more common factors that are found throughout.”  A region might be identified by a physical feature (the Bay Area in northern California) or a cultural trait (the Bible Belt in the southern United States). 

      So what are the regions in your grocery store?  You can start finding them by printing the sample shopping list ( and floor plan ( or you can use your family’s list and sketch the layout of your local store.  Locate each item in the store and mark its location on the map. 

      Can you find any patterns?  Why would refried beans be with tortillas?  Is the tomato sauce with the fresh tomatoes, the canned tomatoes, or somewhere else? 

      Other Activities 

      Younger Xpeditioners
      Draw a simple map of your grocery’s regions.
      Can you think of names a geographer might give each region?
      The frozen foods might be Antarctica and the bread aisle could be the Wheat Belt. 

      Older Xpeditioners
      As you unpack the groceries, write down where each item was produced.
      Mark these places on a world map from the Xpeditions atlas (
      When your map is done, see if you can discern any patterns.
      For another opportunity to map what you eat, check out Spice World -- ( 

      Identifying and understanding regions is a key part of geographic literacy.
      This seemingly simple activity gives you a great opportunity to spark discussion.
      Ask the kids to think about the regions they’ve identified.
      Are some regions harder to define than others (gourmet foods versus produce, for instance)?
      Is each region the same size?
      Are some more prominent than others?
      What items might belong in more than one region?
      Are the regions placed in some sort of order in the store?  Would you have organized the store differently? 


      Take Action!  Steward Our Land

      National Geographic Xpeditions Activity 

      Take Action!  Become a steward of the land by taking a journey through America’s Backyard.
      Explore the beauty and wonder of our public lands
      and take part in preserving this legacy for future generations. 

      What is a steward?
      Being a steward to land is like being its parent.
      It's about taking care of the land by protecting its resources,
      including wildlife, timber, soil, water, and natural beauty.
      Stewardship is about making a commitment to the land that helps preserve it for today and tomorrow. 

      Why should you become a steward of public lands?  Everyone—including you—owns our public lands!
      Public lands cover approximately one-third of the United States.
      Stewards take pride in this ownership and understand the cultural and natural resources that these lands offer.
      As a steward of the land, you can enhance the ecological well-being of all public lands
      and help provide society with a healthier environment.  Any land that is not privately owned
      is considered public land and belongs to all of us. Some of these properties are famous,
      such as Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Canyon. However, there are many more not-so-famous places that are just as important to preserve and protect. There are probably even some in your neighborhood.
      Don't wait until it's too late.
      Take action now to improve water quality, beautify natural landscapes,
      maintain wilderness, and protect endangered species.
      Check out the zip code finder in MapMachine (
      to find a park in your neighborhood, and consider ways to become a steward in your own community.
      There are lots of ways to take on the challenge of stewardship! 


      Other Activities 

      Young Xpeditioners
      Create a bumper sticker (use adhesive-backed paper) that highlights a local public property.
      Decorate your bumper sticker with a border, a catchy slogan, photographs, or drawings.
      Distribute the bumper stickers to your relatives and classmates. 

      Older Xpeditioners
      Interview older people in your community to hear their stories about how landscapes in your area have changed. Ask them about what the landscape was like when they were younger and how the building and razing of structures and roads has changed the lives of those in the community.
      Record your interview and share it with friends, classmates, or conservation groups. 

      Plan a vacation for your family to explore one or more public lands.
      Identify the states where your vacation will take you. Use a road map to highlight the best driving route.
      Determine the total miles of the trip and calculate how much time it will take.
      Research each of the places you plan to visit and decide what activities your family can do.
      Produce an itinerary, including popular or scenic hiking trails, special ranger programs,
      roadside exhibits, visitor centers, lectures, demonstrations, and museums.
      Keep track of locations, times, reservation numbers, fees, and safety tips.

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