Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Geography: Workshop 5

Sub-Saharan Africa

Before You Watch

Before viewing the video programs for Workshop 5: Sub-Saharan Africa, 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 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 9, 13, 15, and 16. 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: Sub-Saharan Africa

Part 1. South Africa: This Land Is My Land

In 1994, after the first democratic elections in South Africa, the government began to redress issues of land ownership under apartheid. Previously, South Africa's black population, ninety percent of the whole population, was relegated to what were known as "the homelands," a mere fifteen percent of the available land, often located in marginal, undesirable areas. Consequently, black farmers struggled to survive on their meager harvests while white farmers prospered. Today, black South Africans are very excited about the prospect of land reform, but ultimately, they will receive much less than what was lost at the time of their removal to the homelands.

Geographer Brent McCusker investigates the disparity in productivity between the land operated by black and white farmers. We follow him as he uses GIS-based field study and personal interviews to uncover the comparative lack of resources and government support for black farmers in South Africa. His research raises questions concerning the relationship between geography and politics.

Following commentary on regional and human geography, our classroom segment features teacher Maureen Spaight using a role-playing activity to help her students understand land-allocation decisions.


Participants will be able to:

  • analyze how cooperation and conflict influence the development and control of social, political, and economic entities;
  • evaluate the geographic impacts of policy decisions related to the use of resources; and
  • identify how role-playing activities help students analyze the relationship between the spatial distribution of settlements and resources.

Questions to Consider

  • What is the effect of colonization on present-day societies?
  • What can GIS mapping and ground-truthing tell us about land use?
  • What factors contribute to successful land redistribution policies?
  • What factors impede the land redistribution process?
  • How do role-playing activities increase student engagement?

Featured Educator

Ms. Maureen Spaight, ninth-grade civics teacher, East Providence High School, East Providence, Rhode Island
Maureen Spaight has taught a variety of social studies subjects but believes that geography is the integrating force behind all of them. In 1998, she was named Rhode Island Teacher of the Year. She traveled to Africa for research as a Fulbright scholar in 2001. For Teaching Geography, Maureen leads a role-playing lesson on South Africa.

Part 2. Kenya: Understanding Sickness

This program examines disease in Sub-Saharan Africa and how geography can play a role in developing strategies to reduce loss of life. Our case study takes us to Kenya, where malaria and river blindness have always been a threat. But today, the HIV-AIDS pandemic is taking a terrible toll on the Kenyan population with dire implications for the future of that country's development.

We see how geographer Veronica Ouma maps the patterns of disease diffusion in order to understand the spread of HIV-AIDS infection. What effect do access to resources, migration and settlement patterns, and cultural practices have on the rate of infection? And how do these factors affect attempts to reduce disease transmission?

Armed with geographic data, geographer Ouma can begin to assess the impact of location and other factors on the success or failure of strategies aimed at disease control. The case study also investigates how other countries in the region, such as Uganda, have responded to the HIV-AIDS crisis, as well as the emerging role of the international community.

Following commentary by Gil Latz and Susan Hardwick, Jim Binko introduces a teaching segment featuring Shirley Hutchins and her eighth-grade class. Using a case-study approach, Shirley's students demonstrate their understanding of HIV-AIDS in Kenya through multiple methods of analysis.


Participants will be able to:

  • identify how understanding population movement can contribute to disease control;
  • explain contemporary issues in the context of spatial and environmental perspectives;
  • identify strategies for helping students develop plans to solve local and regional problems that have spatial dimensions.

Questions to Consider

  • What role does the physical environment play in the spread of HIV-AIDS?
  • How do human settlement patterns and migration affect the spread of disease?
  • What effect does disease have on a country's development?
  • How does culture interact with disease control?
  • How can teachers introduce sensitive topics in their classrooms?

Featured Educator

Ms. Shirley Hutchins, eighth-grade geography teacher, West Point Junior High School, West Point, Mississippi
Shirley Hutchins has thirteen years of teaching experience and a B.S. in social science education from Jackson State University. She is a member of the Mississippi Geography Alliance, the Mississippi Association of Educators, and the Mississippi Social Studies Council and a teacher consultant for the National Geographic Society. In our program, she leads a lesson on HIV-AIDS diffusion in Sub-Saharan Africa.


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