Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Geography: Workshop 4

North Africa / Southwest Asia

Before You Watch

Before viewing the video programs for Workshop 4: North Africa/Southwest Asia, please read the National Geography Standards featured in this workshop. You may read the standards here on the Web, in your print guide, or in Geography for Life. We encourage you to read Geography for Life in its entirety as you move through the workshops. It contains further background on the National Geography Standards, numerous examples and rich illustrations aiding interpretation, valuable tools for strengthening and developing lessons, and additional insight on geography's significance to our daily lives.

The National Geography Standards highlighted in this workshop include Standards 5, 6, 9, 13, and 14. As you read the Standards, be thinking about how they might apply in lessons you have taught.

Also, prior to attending the workshop, you should explore the associated key maps and interactive activities and read the video program overviews below, paying close attention to the Questions to Consider.

Video Program Overviews: North Africa/Southwest Asia

Part 1. Israel: Sacred Space Under Siege

North Africa/Southwest Asia is a region characterized largely by a hot, arid climate but also by the predominance of the Islamic religion. In the region's center lies the State of Israel, an enclave of Jewish culture amidst the Islamic State. Despite being a holy place, Jerusalem has been the site of almost constant conflict since Israel gained statehood in 1948. Our case study looks at the spatial distribution of religious culture on the landscape of Jerusalem. How will the organization of space help to determine the future of a city divided not just between Muslims and Jews, but Christians as well?

Following commentary on regional and human geography by Gil Latz and Susan Hardwick, we see Ungennette Brantley Harris lead her class in an investigation of what life is like for Palestinians living in Israel's occupied territories. Her students explore what it means to be a refugee and work to address the living conditions in refugee camps.


Participants will be able to:

  • identify the physical and human factors that serve to define a region;
  • explain why places and regions are important to individual human identity and as symbols for unifying or fragmenting society; and
  • evaluate the impact of multiple spatial divisions on people's daily lives.

Questions to Consider

  1. What sorts of regions—formal, functional, perceptual—do you see in the case study? How is each defined in the context of the case study?
  2. How can understanding multiple regional definitions assist in resolving the conflict in Jerusalem?
  3. How have historic and geographic factors resulted in conflict in Jerusalem and Israel as a whole?
  4. How does the classroom activity serve to increase understanding of how differing points of view and self-interests play a role in conflict over territory and resources?
  5. How does the classroom activity engender empathy for competing points of view in Ungennette Brantley Harris's students?

Featured Educator

Ms. Ungennette Brantley Harris, ninth-grade world geography teacher, West Point High School, West Point, Mississippi
Ungennette Brantley Harris has been teaching for the past 28 years in the West Point School District, having received her B.S. from Jackson State University and a Masters of Education from Mississippi State University. She was selected teacher of the year in 1989 and 1999 and received the Bronze Award from Junior Achievement for Outstanding Service in Enterprise Education. She is a member of the Mississippi Geographic Alliance, the Mississippi Council of Social Studies, and both the Mississippi and National Associations of Educators. A teacher consultant for the National Geographic Society Education Program, she is featured in our program leading a lesson on issues related to refugee camps.

Part 2. Egypt: Water In The Desert

In Egypt, the loss of farmland to urban development, combined with the need to feed a fast-growing population, places increasing pressure on the Nile's water. In this case study, we learn about the various efforts to sustain an increasingly urban population by irrigating previously infertile areas with Nile water and the complications in doing so. We explore the government's response in encouraging larger, more efficient commercial farms and the deliberations of countries in the Nile watershed regarding how to approach their limited water supply. Although Egypt strives to coordinate water-use projects, the future of its relations with upstream neighbors remains in question as demands on the Nile increase. Relating Egypt's geographical issues to those of other areas, we can begin to understand the implications of urbanization and population growth on a larger scale.

Following commentary on regional and human geography by Gil Latz and Susan Hardwick is a classroom segment featuring teacher Cynthia Ryan. She leads activities in mapmaking and role-playing to help her students understand the gravity of present-day competition for resources in the nation of Egypt.


Participants will be able to:

  • understand how changes in the spatial distribution of population may result in changes in social and economic conditions;
  • understand the role of technology in changing the physical environment and the environmental consequences of such actions; and
  • explain how hands-on and role-playing activities foster deeper student understanding of the physical environment and the consequences of human modification of the environment.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What is the connection between the Nile and the evolution of civilization in this region?
  2. In what ways has technology both reduced and heightened tensions over land and water use in Egypt?
  3. What are the human and physical consequences of efforts to overcome the scarcity of water?
  4. How does Cynthia Ryan engage her students in ways that make the topic more personal to them?
  5. What evidence do you see in Cynthia's lesson that her selection of geography content is guided by the National Geography Standards rather than a single text?

Featured Educator

Ms. Cynthia Ryan, seventh-grade world geography teacher, Barrington Middle School, Barrington, Rhode Island
For nearly a decade, Cynthia Ryan has been teaching seventh- and eighth-grade world geography at Barrington Middle School in Rhode Island. Prior to that she spent nine years with the public elementary schools in Yonkers, New York. In 2000, she completed a workshop with Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and is working to incorporate GIS into her classroom. She also attended a development workshop for the Mission Geography curriculum developed by GENIP and NASA at Texas A&M University. She is a member of the Rhode Island Geography Education Alliance and, in our program, is featured leading her class in mapmaking and investigating resource issues in the Nile River Valley.


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