If You Were Ambassador
Divide students into small groups and have each group choose a country. Tell each group to imagine they are the United States ambassador to that country. What kind of place is the country? What unique qualities must an ambassador possess in order to adequately represent the U.S. in that place? What should the ambassador learn about the country before moving there?
Take students for a walk around the neighborhood or school grounds and have them observe the physical and human characteristics of the place. What makes it different from other schools or places in the area? When you return to the classroom, make a list of all the physical and human characteristics that students observed. Did all students observe the same characteristics? Did some students observe different characteristics? Had they ever made these observations before?
Helping the Environment
Have students list ways that people affect their environment every day, for example, driving cars, using water, disposing of garbage, or smoking cigarettes. Have students make a second list of ways that people affect their environment through seasonal activities, for example, watering lawns, burning leaves, fishing, or hunting. Use a graphic organizer to compare and contrast the two lists. Have students discuss which activities are more harmful or helpful to their environment. Ask students to suggest ways that people can change their behavior and improve their environment.
Compare Historical Photographs
Take a field trip to the local library or historical society. Collect representative photographs, both old and new, of your community, and photocopy them. Back in the classroom, have students compare all of the photographs and articulate their observations of how places and people have changed over the years. Are there more buildings or different types of buildings? What are the differences in types of transportation? Are there just as many trees in the older photographs as there are in the newer ones? Have students list ways in which the people of your town or city have changed the environment over the years.
Plant a School Garden
Have students design a garden for your school grounds or local community and explore the following questions: What kind of vegetation—flowers, trees, vegetables, or fruits—would grow in your area? How might the school grounds need to be changed before planting the garden? Is it possible that flowers or vegetables grew on this same land before the school was built? What is the native vegetation in your area? How could you make sure the garden gets enough water and sunlight? What effects—positive or negative—would your garden have on the school environment?
Adapting to Environments
Read aloud or have students read paragraphs from stories about people who struggle to survive in an unexplored environment, for example, The Swiss Family Robinson or The Mosquito Coast. Discuss ways in which the characters learn to adapt to their environment. How and where do they find food, clothing, and shelter? How does their environment change as they begin to create a home for themselves? As a class, compare the ways in which they adapt successfully or unsuccessfully. Then have students identify areas in the world where people must adapt to a harsh environment if they are to survive.
Learn From a Meteorologist
Invite a local weather forecaster to join your class and discuss climate conditions in your area over the last century. Is data available to indicate climatic changes? If so, what are the possible causes—such as urbanization, volcanic activity, or transportation systems? Is it warmer in the city or in the country during the summer months? Why?
Have students look for local churches online and make a list of the different religious groups represented in their community. Have students research the origins of selected groups. Then ask students to plot the origins of each group on a map of the world. What are some of the reasons that these religious groups moved to the United States? What are the historical, political, and cultural factors involved?