A year or so ago I wrote about photos that changed the world. Truly important images that impacted how we live, how we think, and what we believe. And a week ago, I posted a quick little blurb about my mancrush on maps.

During a conversation this morning, one thing led to another and I started thinking about places that changed the world.

Do geographic locations exist now or in the past that had a truly powerful impact on who we are, how we live, and what we believe?

I’m not really thinking about places like the Great Pyramids or Machu Picchu. Though these places are remarkable, my life is not that different now because several thousand years ago, a bunch of sweaty guys stacked a couple of big rocks on top of each other. Or is it?

Are there places that because of events – or ideas, or religion, or art – which happened there have had an impact on all of us?

My first thoughts are very Euro-centric but I’m thinking:

  • The Globe Theater
  • Philadelphia 1787
  • Normandy 1944
  • Marathon 490 BCE
  • Great Wall of China
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Mecca
  • The Vatican

What could you do with a list like this?

  • You could start the conversation by asking kids to create a personal list – what places in your life are important?
  • Provide them with your list. The UNESCO list is a great place to start. Be prepared to stay a while – their list includes 963 sites. Look online for shorter lists here and here.
  • Ask kids why these places made the cut and others didn’t. What makes them special? What impact did they have, short and long term? Was the impact positive or negative?
  • Put kids in smaller groups, provide access to multiple lists and force each group to create a shorter list of just five or 10. Compare lists and have each group justify their decisions.
  • Have kids list and share human geographical characteristics of a specific place.
  • Cut up your list into single pieces and ask students to sort them by categories. Don’t define the categories. Do the same thing with small groups. Ask them why they used the categories they did.
  • Have kids discuss what the lists would look like if a person from India selected the list? How about someone from eastern Europe or China or Nigeria? Are the lists too “western?”

What does your list look like?