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.
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.
1 hr 40 mins View this Lesson
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.
2 hrs 30 mins View this Lesson
Students are introduced to the physical geography of Europe and delineate major drainage basins in Europe.
1 hr 40 mins View this Lesson
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 50 mins View this Lesson
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 40 mins View this Lesson
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 30 mins View this Lesson
Students explore how language and religion have affected the borders in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
2 hrs View this Lesson
Students research four additional examples of human geography and borders. They explore how language, culture, and religious differences affect country borders in Europe.
2 hrs View this Lesson
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 50 mins View this Lesson
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.
1 hr 20 mins View this Lesson
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry agriculture Noun
the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).
Encyclopedic Entry: agriculture autonomy Noun
area of the planet which can be classified according to the plant and animal life in it.
Encyclopedic Entry: biome birthrate Noun
the ratio of the total number of live births to the total population in a given time and area.
natural or artificial line separating two pieces of land.
Encyclopedic Entry: border boreal forest Noun
land covered by evergreen trees in cool, northern latitudes. Also called taiga.
city where a region's government is located.
Encyclopedic Entry: capital city Noun
large settlement with a high population density.
all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.
Encyclopedic Entry: climate climate change Noun
gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.
Encyclopedic Entry: climate change coast Noun
edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.
Encyclopedic Entry: coast 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).
a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.
one of the seven main land masses on Earth.
Encyclopedic Entry: continent 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."
geographic territory with a distinct name, flag, population, boundaries, and government.
Encyclopedic Entry: crop cultural landscape Noun
human imprint on the physical environment.
learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.
structure built across a river or other waterway to control the flow of water.
area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.
Encyclopedic Entry: desert dialect Noun
distinct variation of a language, usually marked by accents and grammar.
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.
system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.
Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem environment Noun
conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.
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.
identity in a group sharing genetic characteristics, culture, language, religion, or history.
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.
to use or take advantage of for profit.
long, narrow ocean inlet between steep slopes.
Encyclopedic Entry: fjord flood Noun
overflow of a body of water onto land.
Encyclopedic Entry: flood flood plain Noun
flat area alongside a stream or river that is subject to flooding.
Encyclopedic Entry: flood plain fluent Adjective
able to speak, write, and understand a language.
ecosystem filled with trees and underbrush.
water that is not salty.
study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.
Encyclopedic Entry: geography glacier Noun
mass of ice that moves slowly over land.
Encyclopedic Entry: glacier government Noun
system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.
environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.
Encyclopedic Entry: habitat 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.
process of moving to a new country or region with the intention of staying and living there.
body of land surrounded by water.
Encyclopedic Entry: island landmass Noun
large area of land.
the geographic features of a region.
Encyclopedic Entry: landscape 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.
distance north or south of the Equator, measured in degrees.
Encyclopedic Entry: latitude legend Noun
explanation of symbols and abbreviations used on a map, also known as a key.
position of a particular point on the surface of the Earth.
Encyclopedic Entry: location longitude Noun
distance east or west of the prime meridian, measured in degrees.
Encyclopedic Entry: longitude lowland Noun
slow-flowing river ecosystem usually found in lower altitudes.
symbolic representation of selected characteristics of a place, usually drawn on a flat surface.
Encyclopedic Entry: map mountain Noun
landmass that forms as tectonic plates interact with each other.
mountain range Noun
series or chain of mountains that are close together.
political unit made of people who share a common territory.
Encyclopedic Entry: nation natural resource Noun
a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.
person who moves from place to place, without a fixed home.
something that is learned from watching and measuring an object or pattern.
large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.
Encyclopedic Entry: ocean peninsula Noun
piece of land jutting into a body of water.
Encyclopedic Entry: peninsula physical features Noun
naturally occurring geographic characteristics.
flat, smooth area at a low elevation.
Encyclopedic Entry: plain political boundary Noun
imaginary line separating one political unit, such as a country or state, from another.
introduction of harmful materials into the environment.
Encyclopedic Entry: pollution population Noun
total number of people or organisms in a particular area.
place on a body of water where ships can tie up or dock and load and unload cargo.
Encyclopedic Entry: port precipitation Noun
all forms in which water falls to Earth from the atmosphere.
Encyclopedic Entry: precipitation prime meridian Noun
imaginary line around the Earth running north-south, 0 degrees longitude.
Encyclopedic Entry: prime meridian region Noun
any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.
Encyclopedic Entry: region religion Noun
a system of spiritual or supernatural belief.
natural or man-made lake.
Encyclopedic Entry: reservoir resource Noun
available supply of materials, goods, or services. Resources can be natural or human.
large stream of flowing fresh water.
Encyclopedic Entry: river sea Noun
large part of the ocean enclosed or partly enclosed by land.
Encyclopedic Entry: sea sea level Noun
base level for measuring elevations. Sea level is determined by measurements taken over a 19-year cycle.
Encyclopedic Entry: sea level sea level rise Noun
increase in the average reach of the ocean. The current sea level rise is 1.8 millimeters (.07 inch) per year.
small sediment particles.
Encyclopedic Entry: silt state Noun
political unit in a nation, such as the United States, Mexico, or Australia.
nation or national government.
dry, flat grassland with no trees and a cool climate.
Encyclopedic Entry: steppe sustainability Noun
use of resources in such a manner that they will never be exhausted.
land an animal, human, or government protects from intruders.
buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.
movement of people or goods from one place to another.
stream that feeds, or flows, into a larger stream.
Encyclopedic Entry: tributary tundra Noun
cold, treeless region in Arctic and Antarctic climates.
United Nations Noun
international organization that works for peace, security and cooperation.
toward an elevated part of a flow of fluid, or place where the fluid passed earlier.
all the plant life of a specific place.
entire river system or an area drained by a river and its tributaries.
Encyclopedic Entry: watershed wetland Noun
area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.
Encyclopedic Entry: wetland 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.)