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Home > History, Geography, and Time > Teaching Unit 0.2

Introduction to Big Geography

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Why This Unit?

Before launching into any course on world history, students need to explore the terrain on which human history took place. Students are exposed to exciting concepts about the earth’s formation and dynamic processes in science classes, but they seldom have the opportunity to link this information to history. Geography studies, on the other hand, often focus on the state of the contemporary world. This teaching unit introduces the concept of Big Geography, an innovative way of looking at the divisions and connections of the world as a dynamic stage for human activity over thousands of years. This unit challenges many conventional or traditional notions about geography in order to prepare students and teachers to look at larger scales of time and place. In the three lessons in this unit students will review much of what they know, fulfilling numerous objectives from the National Geography Standards in the process of developing historical thinking skills as they relate to geography. A prominent learning objective in this unit addresses the concept of “region” in geography. Students will consider how people have conceived of and created regional divisions and how the definitions of region have changed over time in response to new evidence and new ways of viewing human and biological space.


Unit Objectives

Upon completing this unit, students will be able to:

1.) Differentiate among various flat world map projections in terms of their relative distortion of land shape and area.

2.) Identify the earth’s continents and describe alternative ways of naming them.

3.) Evaluate geographers’ opinions concerning the boundaries of continents and their relationships to each other and to bodies of water.

4.) Compare views of earth from different vantage points and identify several large regions as stages of world history

5.) Define continental drift and explain in general terms how global land masses came to be distributed as they are today.

6.) Analyze the relationship between vegetation zones, population distribution, and paths of interaction in historical time.

7.) Evaluate topographical features of earth in terms of their impact on the mobility of flora, fauna, and human beings.


Time and Materials

These lessons take 3-5 class periods to complete.


  • Student handouts
  • Globes and atlases
  • Thin tracing paper or markable transparency film
  • .05 cm graph paper
  • Calculators


Table of Contents

Why this unit?


Unit objectives


Time and materials




The historical context


Lesson 1: Seeing the world


Lesson 2: How many continents are there?


Lesson 3: The personality of Earth’s surface


This unit and the Three Essential Questions


This unit and the Standards in Historical Thinking


Correlations to National and State Standards




Conceptual links to other teaching units


Complete Teaching Unit in PDF format  

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