The overall theme of this teacher-tested unit is using maps to understand borders and their impacts in Europe. The materials will help your middle school students to use maps to think about how borders intersect physical and human geographical features, and how those intersections can lead to cooperation and/or conflict. The educator resources provided in the unit include maps, multimedia, and case studies that will enable students to develop skills in map analysis and apply that analysis to specific situations. Other parts of the unit will invite you and your students to explore similar cases in Europe and your own community.

 

This unit was originally developed for the National Teacher Leadership Academy (NTLA) 2008 Summer Geography Institute.

1 hr 40 mins
Photo: Checkpoint Charlie, in the American sector at the Berlin Wall

Students think about regions and borders by determining where they would place borders in an artificial continent, based on a set of physical and cultural features of the area.

2 hrs 30 mins
Photo: Italian Coastline

Students gather their ideas about the land and peoples of Europe. They map and create lists of things they know about Europe and generate questions they have about the land and peoples of Europe.

 

1 hr 40 mins
Photo: Tarnica's Bieszczady Mountains in southeast Poland

Students are introduced to the physical geography of Europe and delineate major drainage basins in Europe.

 

2 hrs 50 mins
Photo: Danube River

Students examine a case study of how physical features can interact with country borders to cause conflict. In this case, two countries agreed to work together to build a series of dams on the Danube River, but problems kept the project from being completed, and the conflict continues over 40 years later.

 

2 hrs 40 mins
Photo: A sea cliff and lighthouse on the coast of Spain

Students research four additional examples of physical geography and borders. They explore how mountains, oceans, and islands create physical barriers that affect the country borders in Europe.

 

2 hrs 30 mins
Photo: St. Peter's Basilica

Students are introduced to the major language and religious groups of Europe. They explore how those groups align with and/or cross country borders.

 

2 hrs
Photo: The smallest of the three Irish Aran Islands

Students explore how language and religion have affected the borders in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

 

2 hrs
Photo: Aqueduct in Larnaca, Cyprus

Students research four additional examples of human geography and borders. They explore how language, culture, and religious differences affect country borders in Europe.

 

1 hr 50 mins
Photo: Soviet Class Er locomotive, Moscow

Students compare maps of European borders at three points in history: after World War I, after World War II, and the 2011 European Union (EU) countries. Students look for political borders that have changed and others that have remained the same, and compare those to what they know about cultural and physical geography in Europe and in their own state or local area.

 

1 hr 20 mins
Photo: Old Town Square of Wroclaw, Poland

Students reflect on changes in their own understanding of Europe by repeating some activities from the beginning of the unit, reviewing their previous questions and answers, and reflecting on what they have learned over the course of the unit.

 

Noun

the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

autonomy
Noun

independence.

Noun

area of the planet which can be classified according to the plant and animal life in it.

birthrate
Noun

the ratio of the total number of live births to the total population in a given time and area.

Noun

natural or artificial line separating two pieces of land.

boreal forest
Noun

land covered by evergreen trees in cool, northern latitudes. Also called taiga.

canal
Noun

artificial waterway.

Noun

city where a region's government is located.

city
Noun

large settlement with a high population density.

Noun

all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

Noun

gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.

Noun

edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

colonization
Noun

spreading of a species into a new habitat or ecosystem, and establishing a healthy population there.

compass rose
Noun

symbol indicating the cardinal directions (N, S, E, W).

conflict
Noun

a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

Noun

one of the seven main land masses on Earth.

Council of Europe
Noun

international organization based in Strasbourg, Germany, established "to promote democracy and protect human rights and the rule of law in Europe."

country
Noun

geographic territory with a distinct name, flag, population, boundaries, and government.

Noun

agricultural produce.

cultural landscape
Noun

human imprint on the physical environment.

culture
Noun

learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

dam
Noun

structure built across a river or other waterway to control the flow of water.

Noun

area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

dialect
Noun

distinct variation of a language, usually marked by accents and grammar.

Noun

difference.

downstream
Noun

in the direction of a flow, toward its end.

drainage basin
Noun

an entire river system or an area drained by a river and its tributaries. Also called a watershed.

economy
Noun

system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

Noun

community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

environment
Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

ethnic
Adjective

having to do with characteristics of a group of people linked by shared culture, language, national origin, or other marker.

ethnic group
Adjective

people sharing genetic characteristics, culture, language, religion or history.

ethnicity
Noun

identity in a group sharing genetic characteristics, culture, language, religion, or history.

Europe
Noun

sixth-largest continent and the western part of the Eurasian landmass, usually defined as stretching westward from the Ural mountains.

European Union
Noun

association of European nations promoting free trade, ease of transportation, and cultural and political links.

exclusive economic zone (EEZ)
Noun

zone extending 200 nautical miles off a country's coast. A country has the right to explore and exploit the living and nonliving things in its EEZ.

exploit
Verb

to use or take advantage of for profit.

Noun

long, narrow ocean inlet between steep slopes.

Noun

overflow of a body of water onto land.

Noun

flat area alongside a stream or river that is subject to flooding.

fluent
Adjective

able to speak, write, and understand a language.

forest
Noun

ecosystem filled with trees and underbrush.

freshwater
Noun

water that is not salty.

Noun

study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.

Noun

mass of ice that moves slowly over land.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

Noun

environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

highlands
Plural Noun

plateau or elevated region of land.

human migration
Noun

the movement of people from one place to another.

hydroelectric power
Noun

usable energy generated by moving water converted to electricity.

immigration
Noun

process of moving to a new country or region with the intention of staying and living there.

Noun

body of land surrounded by water.

landmass
Noun

large area of land.

Noun

the geographic features of a region.

language
Noun

set of sounds, gestures, or symbols that allows people to communicate.

language family
Noun

group of languages descended from a common ancestral language.

Noun

distance north or south of the Equator, measured in degrees.

legend
Noun

explanation of symbols and abbreviations used on a map, also known as a key.

Noun

position of a particular point on the surface of the Earth.

Noun

distance east or west of the prime meridian, measured in degrees.

lowland
Noun

slow-flowing river ecosystem usually found in lower altitudes.

Noun

symbolic representation of selected characteristics of a place, usually drawn on a flat surface.

mountain
Noun

landmass that forms as tectonic plates interact with each other.

mountain range
Noun

series or chain of mountains that are close together.

Noun

political unit made of people who share a common territory.

natural resource
Noun

a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.

nomad
Noun

person who moves from place to place, without a fixed home.

observation
Noun

something that is learned from watching and measuring an object or pattern.

Noun

large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.

Noun

piece of land jutting into a body of water.

physical features
Noun

naturally occurring geographic characteristics.

Noun

flat, smooth area at a low elevation.

political boundary
Noun

imaginary line separating one political unit, such as a country or state, from another.

Noun

introduction of harmful materials into the environment.

population
Noun

total number of people or organisms in a particular area.

Noun

place on a body of water where ships can tie up or dock and load and unload cargo.

Noun

all forms in which water falls to Earth from the atmosphere.

Noun

imaginary line around the Earth running north-south, 0 degrees longitude.

Noun

any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

religion
Noun

a system of spiritual or supernatural belief.

Noun

natural or man-made lake.

resource
Noun

available supply of materials, goods, or services. Resources can be natural or human.

Noun

large stream of flowing fresh water.

Noun

large part of the ocean enclosed or partly enclosed by land.

Noun

base level for measuring elevations. Sea level is determined by measurements taken over a 19-year cycle.

Noun

increase in the average reach of the ocean. The current sea level rise is 1.8 millimeters (.07 inch) per year.

Noun

small sediment particles.

state
Noun

political unit in a nation, such as the United States, Mexico, or Australia.

state
Noun

nation or national government.

Noun

dry, flat grassland with no trees and a cool climate.

Noun

use of resources in such a manner that they will never be exhausted.

territory
Noun

land an animal, human, or government protects from intruders.

trade
Noun

buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.

transportation
Noun

movement of people or goods from one place to another.

Noun

stream that feeds, or flows, into a larger stream.

tundra
Noun

cold, treeless region in Arctic and Antarctic climates.

United Nations
Noun

international organization that works for peace, security and cooperation.

upstream
Adjective

toward an elevated part of a flow of fluid, or place where the fluid passed earlier.

vegetation
Noun

all the plant life of a specific place.

Noun

entire river system or an area drained by a river and its tributaries.

Noun

area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.

World War I
Noun

(1914-1918) armed conflict between the Allies (led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France) and the Central Powers (led by Germany and Austria-Hungary). Also called the Great War.

World War II
Noun

(1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)