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People and Place: Curriculum Resources on Human-Environmental Interactions

CoverInspired by Hemispheres' 2004 Teachers' Summer Institute, People and Place: Human-Geographic Relations, this curriculum unit was designed to address human adaptation to and modification of the environment. How have humans adjusted to life in extreme climates? To limited water resources? How have people affected their surroundings? How have solutions to geographical challenges damaged the natural environment? How has the use of fossil fuels increased the need to find renewable sources of energy? How has urbanization modified both land and air? Regional case studies were chosen to address these, and other, essential questions.

Each case study is complete unto itself, including activities that build social studies skills by incorporating primary and secondary sources, presenting information in a variety of formats (including graphs, charts, and maps), including varying points of view, and using mathematical skills to interpret social studies information. If time and interest allows, case studies can also be grouped to present global trends: energy use, water management, and waste disposal are among the cross-regional topics that appear in this unit.

Each case study should be completed in its entirety, and activities are presented in sequence. Learning activities build on one another, and the final assessment tasks require students to use information from each of the previous activities. While activities were designed to be used at the 6th grade level, they can be modified for use at other grade levels.

The introduction and individual case studies are available for download in Adobe PDF format, which requires Abode Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher (available for free download from Adobe's Web site) or the Macintosh Preview application (part of OS X). If you need a high-resolution version of any of these case studies, please contact us at hemispheres@austin.utexas.edu.

Download the introduction and standards alignment page. (380 kb - rev. 4/2007)

Case Studies:

Air Pollution in Mexico City
This case study was prepared to foster understanding of urban air pollution problems in the world. Students will understand that: (1) the factors involved in creating pollution are varied; (2) pollution has serious effects on health and well-being; and (3) solutions to environmental damage are complex and have their own repercussions. Students will work with readings, maps, charts, and graphs in order to develop geographic skills.
Download this unit (1016 kb - rev. 4/2007)

The Aral Sea (Central Asia)
This case study will help your students understand the inter-relationships between lakes and rivers. By studying the changes in the Aral Sea they will understand that: (1) lakes are affected by both the quantity and the quality of water that flows into them from rivers; (2) damming or diversion of rivers, for irrigation and other purposes, can have a significant impact on the size and water-quality of lakes; (3) the negative effects (including environmental, social, economic, and health) of disappearing natural resources are varied and complex; and (4) water is not an infinite resource and must be managed carefully.
Download this unit (1000 kb - rev. 4/2007)

The Aswan High Dam (Egypt)
Students will understand that: (1) the construction of the Aswan High Dam has had both positive and negative effects on the physical environment in Egypt; (2) the construction of the Aswan High Dam has both been an example of humans changing the environment in order to meet their needs and an example of the geography adapting itself in return; and (3) the issues involved in sharing and allocating water resources between nations and the variety of strains put on available water resources are complex.
Download this unit (704 kb - rev. 4/2007)
Download the PowerPoint used in our training sessions. (8.1 MB - PowerPoint Show 2003/4)

Big Dam Construction in India
This case study was constructed to help students analyze and interpret graphic information on an issue--water conservation and use--to which they, as Texans, can relate but to look at it in an "outside" context by examining big dam construction in India. Students should come away from this unit with three understandings: (1) that dam construction has positive and negative effects on citizens and the environment: (2) that population growth and food production are interrelated; and (3) that study results can be interpreted and skewed to present a point of view.
Download this unit (1.1 MB kb - rev. 4/2007)

Conservation in Ecuador and the Galapagos
This case study was designed to introduce students to the complex issues and decision-making processes that surround our environmental conservation choices. Conservation is clearly related to the impact that humans have on the environment and often addresses ways to minimize that impact. By focusing on conservation challenges and choices in Ecuador, one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, students will understand that: (1) biodiversity is crucial to our planet's environmental well-being and is central to conservation planning; (2) many natural and social factors affect environmental damage and conservation needs; and (3) conservation is a multifaceted process with many factors that affect priorities.
Download this unit (2.9 Mb - rev. 4/2007)
Download the PowerPoint used in our training sessions. (85.8 MB - PowerPoint Show 2003/4)

Geothermal Energy in Latin America
This case study on geothermal power in Latin America was designed to introduce students to the variety of renewable, clean energy sources used by people in different regions of the world. By focusing on one such source--geothermal power--students will understand that: (1) our natural environments provide us with a variety of resources that can be used to fulfill our energy needs; (2) some sources of power are particularly important in developing countries; and (3) the benefits of using clean, renewable energy are numerous and significant to people all over the world (not only in developing regions).
Download this unit (1.6 Mb - rev. 4/2007)

Itaipu Dam and Power Plant (Brazil and Paraguay)
The following readings and activities on the Itaipu Dam and Power Plant were designed to strengthen students' ability to draw from historical, geographic, and statistical information to answer geographic questions. Students will understand that hydroelectric power is a major source of electrical power with an ability to supply much of the world's electricity, but that the construction of dams and power plants has environmental repercussions that must be taken into account. At the end of the unit, students will know factual information about Itaipu and general information about hydroelectric power around the world.
Download this unit (852 kb - rev. 4/2007)

Johad (Small Dam) Construction in India
This case study was created to help students think about environmental policy making. By reading about water conservation in rural India and how local people adapted the environment in a manner suitable to the local situation, in juxtaposition to how the federal government handled the same natural resources, students begin to formulate opinions on policy making. The issue of environmental interrelatedness is also examined: how clear cutting led to erosion and water table loss and, subsequently, to economic hardship. Students will begin to understand how an environmental policy decision can lead to unforeseen consequences and, conversely, that a policy that takes local factors into consideration can bring about great change in local society.
Download this unit (732 kb - rev. 4/2007)

Lake Baikal (Siberia)
This case study will help your students learn about the causes and effects of water pollution in the world by looking at Lake Baikal, located in Siberia. As a major source of the world's fresh lake water, Lake Baikal is exceptional in its size and ability to withstand pollutants. However, because of residents' assumptions that the lake will endure anything, it is also highly threatened (see The Aral Sea case study for an example of what can happen when water is not managed well). By studying Lake Baikal, students will learn that: (1) the causes of pollution are complex; (2) the remedies for pollution are multifaceted; and (3) pollution has a serious impact on the environment.
Download this unit (812 kb - rev. 4/2007)

Life in the Himalayas
This case study will help students understand the challenges of life in the Himalayas, the Earth's highest mountain system. People living in the Himalayas must think carefully about how to use the limited natural resources around them. This case study will examine the finite nature of the water supply, and sunlight as an energy source. Your students will understand that: (1) geographic location, natural resource availability, and lifestyle are interwoven; (2) making use of natural resources does not need to be technologically complicated, but can rely instead on local knowledge and ingenuity; and (3) our lifestyle choices affect the environment both locally and globally. Students will work with readings, maps, charts, and graphs in order to develop geographic skills.
Download this unit (1.3 MB - rev. 4./2007)

The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia - Siberia)
This case study will help your students learn about climate and temperature variations, and explore ways that people who live in cold climates have adapted to extreme temperatures.
Download this unit(1.2 MB - rev. 4/2007)

Sailing the Great Sand Sea
In this unit, students will understand the ways in which North African traders were able to adapt to the harsh environment of the Sahara desert in order to extract natural resources and engage in trans-desert trade for economic gain. They will understand: (1) the factors that define a desert and the different types of deserts; (2) that the introduction of the camel to North Africa provided a solution that made trans-Saharan trade possible; and (3) the natural resources available in the desert and the advantages to be had from harnessing them.
Download this unit (1.4 MB - rev. 4/2007)

The Southeastern Anatolia Project (Turkey)
This case study was created to help students understand the complexities of large-scale construction and development projects. Such projects often inspire an optimistic outlook; students will get a better sense of the many different benefits that such projects can have and the ways in which the quality of living can be dramatically improved. At the same time, students will gain an understanding that such projects have side effects, both positive and negative, that can extend across geo-political boundaries.
Download this unit (1.2 MB - rev. 4/2007)

The Zabbaleen, Cairo's Garbage Workers
This case study focuses on the zabbaleen, a sub-class of people who have found work as garbage collectors and recyclers in Cairo. Students will understand that: (1) the growth of Cairo has had a cyclical effect on the zabbaleen in that the city growth has caused more people to seek work as zabbaleen, many of whom must come from outside the city, thus contributing to the urban growth issue; (2) the rise and success of the zabbaleen is a key example of ways in which humans have adapted to the environment (in this case, the urban environment), and in which the environment has been modified by human activity; (3) new technology and international support for the zabbaleen's activity has allowed for efficiency and lowering of pollution levels in Cairo, one of the world's most polluted cities; (4) planning and maintaining urban infrastructure varies from city to city, but that the basic needs and pressures created by urbanization are similar in all cases.
Download this unit (576 kb - rev. 4/2007)

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