Lisa Farrow teaches seventh-grade social studies at the new Shiloh Middle School in Hampstead, Maryland. A rural, bedroom community on the outskirts of Baltimore, Hampstead is home to a socio-economically and ethnically diverse population that supports a wide range of businesses in and around Baltimore. One of the largest local employers is the Social Security headquarters. Hampstead also has the highest percentage of two-parent families in Maryland, and Shiloh Middle School relies on strong parent involvement.
Throughout the year, Ms. Farrow's class studied Eastern cultures, including those of Oceania, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Ms. Farrow began with a unit on Oceania -- the Eastern region closest to the United States. (Oceania is the collective name given to the islands of the western, central, and southern Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand.) The unit focused on the relationship between the region's geography and its social, political, and economic history. This relationship between geography and culture was an ongoing theme throughout the year as students explored other regions and cultures.
Next, the class studied the Middle East -- its geography, cultural traditions, and the role of religion in the region. By the time the class began the unit on Africa, Ms. Farrow expected students to be able to recognize the importance of geography to a region's history. And she expected them to be familiar with the multi-text approach, which involves using a variety of reference resources with in-depth group work and group presentations. Ms. Farrow also used hands-on activities, simulations, and readings to facilitate discussions about stereotyping and ethnocentrism.
Throughout the unit on Africa -- and throughout the year -- Ms. Farrow integrated map skills, the five themes of geography (location, place, movement, human-environment interaction, and region), and examined the differences between natural and human-made features in each region. Students also learned about the economic and historical factors affecting migration.
Following the unit on Africa, the class went on to study Asia. By the end of the year, students had covered all four Eastern regions, with each unit's research culminating in a final class presentation on the geography and culture of that region.
Lesson Background >>