Medieval History? Nah.
I’ve decided to teach the bulk of 7th grade medieval and early modern history as a geography class. You heard me: geography. As in maps. I won’t ignore the standards — I’ll throw in a Holy Roman Empire here, a Reformation there — and yet the first few months or so will be purely geography.
… and that will the beginning of my job interview. It might also be the end. I’m required, you see, to demonstrate a 10-minute lesson to an small classroom of administrators.
And before those powers that be throw me out for being one of those insufferable standards ignorers, I will point to the standards. For every culture in the standards for 7th grade history, there’s a geography-related standard. Case in point:
7.2.1: Identify the physical features and describe the climate of the Arabian peninsula, its relationship to surrounding bodies of land and water, and nomadic and sedentary ways of life.
This pattern continues on, and so I feel justified in my example activity. I love how this assignment fit together so perfectly.
I will provide them with borderless physical maps of various regions in the world. Their assignment will be to place a given number of settlements, noting which two would be the largest. After this, they will be asked to estimate where the borders of their country end.
They need to know how geographic features affect human life, and so I provide this on the assignment sheet.
- Rivers and lakes supply food, water, transportation and trade. They can be a natural border between friendly countries, but are ineffective protection between dire enemies. Most major rivers and lakes are marked on your map.
- Coastlines supply food, transportation and trade.
- Plains are ideal for farming food, but are less useful the farther away they are from rivers. While they do not protect you, they do make trade easier.
- Deserts are too dry to sustain settlements, though nomads can live there.
- Mountain ranges are often natural barriers, separating you from other countries.
- For our purposes, seas are natural barriers.
There are also rules.
- The bigger your country, the harder it is to control it.
- Deserts and mountain ranges will produce very little food.
- You need fresh water. You will need lots of fresh water. (Hint: Oceans and seas do not provide fresh water.)
- Natural barriers (oceans, seas, rivers, mountain ranges, deserts) generally separate languages and cultures.
- For the purposes of our activity, your land area must be contiguous.
For modern world history and U.S. history, I would do a similar thing with tactics for my unit on wars. Always have the high ground; try to outflank your opponent; you need air cover.
If any of my 7th graders don’t know, for example, what “contiguous” means, they’ll put it on the Word Wall.
That’s my lesson for the administrators. Wish me luck.