In this activity, middle schools students will think about how the regions in an area (in this case, the U.S.) are defined. They will map the regions from memory and will compare maps to see that regions rarely have clearly defined borders. The activity can be adapted for different grade levels or content.

Suggested Procedure:

Opening:

  • Show 6-10 pictures of various regions and have students predict where the pictures were taken. (You can find great pictures at the Creative Commons section of Flickr.) This could be with a LCD projector, overhead projector or simply passing around copies of the images.p1010468.jpg
  • How do they know? What details and clues help them decide? (I shared a “quartering” technique several weeks ago that helps kids spot details in images.)
  • After this, have students name some possible regions of the United States and create a class list of their answers.

Development:

  • Provide students with blank US maps and ask them to label and outline the class list of regions.
  • Have kids compare their work and ask them why the maps look different. Why would the same list of regions look different to different people?
  • Introduce a common definition of a region. The Kansas state standards describe a region as “an area with one or more common characteristics or features which make it different from surrounding areas.”
  • Work with kids as they list words that may define the regions on their list. The list should include items such as landforms, food, music, vegetation, language, etc. Share all of the lists as a class and begin a discussion about whether or not the lists are accurate. Do the lists represent stereotypes?

Closing:

  • Lead a conversation about your region. How would they define it? What characteristics combine to create the region? What stereotypes have developed about their region?

Possible assessment:

Optional activity:

  • Have your kids write essays that address the following questions: How can definitions of different regions help us understand the United States and its relationship with other countries? How do these definitions contribute to stereotypes?

Have fun!
(Tips can also be found at the Social Studies Central site)