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4th Grade United States Studies

Unit 3: Human Geography in the United States

SS040305
Lesson 5

Lesson 5: Adapting to Different Environments in the United States


Big Ideas of the Lesson

The geography of a place influences the culture (how people live) there.
People have adapted to different environments of the United States. As a result, cultural
characteristics such as housing styles, recreational activities, and land use varies in different
regions.
History is often the story of how people have adapted to their environment.

Lesson Abstract:
In this lesson students explore how the culture of a place is influenced by geography. They
examine how people have adapted to different environments in the United States by looking at
housing styles, recreational activities, and land use in different regions. Next, in a brief case study
of adaptation on the Great Plains, they connect back to previous lessons in the unit by exploring
how migration often results in people having to adapt to a new environment. Finally, in a researchbased activity, they investigate how people have adapted to a specific geographic challenge such
as earthquakes in California, hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, or dry conditions in the Southwest.
Content Expectations
4 - G1.0.4: Use geographic tools and technologies, stories, songs, and pictures to answer
geographic questions about the United States.
4 - G5.0.1: Assess the positive and negative effects of human activities on the physical
environment of the United States.
Key Concepts
adaptation to the environment
culture
human/environment interaction
Instructional Resources
Equipment/Manipulative
Desktop U.S. Maps
Overhead projector or Document Camera/Projector
Student journal or notebook
Student Resource
Bunting, Eve. Dandelions. San Diego: Voyager Books, 1995.
Prairie Settlement. Library of Congress. American Memory Project. 16 November 2008
<http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/ps:@field(DOCID+l104)>.

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November 24, 2008

4th Grade United States Studies


Unit 3: Human Geography in the United States

SS040305
Lesson 5

Sod House Photos. 10 November 2008 <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?


ammem/ngp:@FILREQ(@field(SUBJ+@BAND(sod+buildings))
+@FIELD(COLLID+ndfa)>. (search sod buildings)
Teacher Resource
American West 1840-95. Learn History. 16 November 2008
http://www.learnhistory.org.uk/west/homesteaders.htm>.
Arizona Mine. 16 November 2008
<http://wwwdelivery.superstock.com/WI/223/2062/PreviewComp/SuperStock_2062523154.jpg>.
Cattle Ranch. 16 November 2008 <http://www.nebraskahorseback.com/images/Move_cows_w.Nancy.JPG>.
Desert House. ABC News. 16 November 2008
<http://a.abcnews.com/images/Business/ht_desert_house_051221_ssh.jpg>.
Egbo, Carol. Supplemental Materials (Unit 3, Lesson 5).Teacher-made material. Michigan
Citizenship Collaborative, 2008.
House in Hawaii. 16 November 2008 <http://www.aloha.net/~hobbit/houdar.jpg>.
Kansas Farm. 16 November 2008 <http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/00/93900-0045EA76A32.jpg>.
Log House. 16 November 2008 <http://www.astroshow.com/Alaska07/141aLogHouse.jpg>.
Louisiana House. 17 November 2008
<http://www.shallowwaterangler.com/destination/lafitte_louisiana-redfish_trout/>.
Lumber Mill. 17 November 2008 <http://www.vfmdesign.com/perthmrc/images/bc9-4.jpg>.
Ocean Front House. 17 November 2008
<http://www.1500pebblebeachdrive.com/images/OceanFrontHouseCoverA.jpg>.
Row House. 17 November 2008
<http://skyways.lib.ks.us/orgs/schs/preservation/bradley/RossRowHouse3.jpg>.
Ski Resort. 17 November 2008 <http://www.bestskiproperty.com/images/SilverLakeLodge-J.JPG>.
Wind Farm. 17 November 2008 <http://uchooze.net/wind-farms/images/wind-farm.jpg>.

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4th Grade United States Studies


Unit 3: Human Geography in the United States

SS040305
Lesson 5

Lesson Sequence
1. Write the term culture on an overhead transparency or board. Review the meaning of the term
(the way of life of a group of people). Ask students to summarize what they learned in the
previous lesson by posing the following question and having them write a response in their
social studies journal: How did immigration influence the culture of various regions in the United
States? Discuss student responses.
2. Remind students that architecture, or the way buildings are designed, is a component of
culture. Then, display an overhead transparency of Houses in the United States located in the
Supplemental Materials. Lead a discussion of the transparency using the following questions:
How do the houses differ?
Why are there so many different housing styles in the United States?
Long ago when people moved to a new area, how do you think they decided what
kind of house to build?
How does geography influence housing styles?
3. Write the phrase adapting to the environment on an overhead transparency or board. Explain
that geographers often study how people have adapted, or changed, to fit the environment
where they live. Display the transparency from Step 2 again and explain that housing is an
example of how people adapt to their environment. Share the following ideas regarding the
specific houses and encourage students to share their own thoughts regarding how these
houses reflect adaptation to a particular environment:
Like log cabins of the past, houses in areas with lots of trees tend to be made of
wood and have a balcony or porch from which to enjoy scenic views.
Houses along rivers are often on stilts and have docks where boats can park in
front.
Houses in urban areas with little space are often set on top of each other in row
houses or apartments.
Houses along the coastline have lots of windows and decks.
Houses in dry areas often have flat roofs since they dont have to repel rain and
snow. Landscaping reflects rocks and cactus instead of grass.
4. Make and display an overhead transparency of Land Use in the United States located in the
Supplemental Materials. Using one photograph at a time, discuss how geography influences
the ways in which people use land. For example, in areas of the plains where it was hard to
grow many crops farmers adapted by using land as range for cattle.
5. Using the overhead transparency from Step 4 again, briefly discuss how people are likely to
change the land when they use it for certain activities. Explain that these changes may have
positive or negative effects on the environment. Ask students to choose one of the photographs
on the transparency and explain how the way people have used the land in the photograph
may have changed the land. Note that this concept will be dealt with in depth in Lesson 7.
6. Explain that people also adapt their recreational activities to their environment. For example,
people surf in California but not in Michigan even though both places have coastlines on large
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4th Grade United States Studies


Unit 3: Human Geography in the United States

SS040305
Lesson 5

bodies of water. Place students in pairs and ask pairs to come up with another regional
example of differences in recreational activities. Give pairs time to work and then have them
share their ideas with the large group as you record their examples on chart paper or an
overhead transparency.
7. Remind students that geography and history are often interrelated. Explain that history often is
based on stories of how people have adapted to new environments. Make and display an
overhead transparency of Adapting to a New Environment located in the Supplemental
Materials. Review the six examples relating to the migration of people which were covered in
the previous two lessons. Using the transparency, discuss how each group encountered a
different environment as a result of their migration. Then, ask students to think of a challenge
this new environment presented. Write their ideas in the appropriate place on the transparency.
Note that a chart showing sample answers has also been included in the Supplemental
Materials. Discuss how the various groups may have met the challenges by adapting to the
new climate. For example, escaped slaves living in Canada likely changed their clothing styles
to fit the new colder climate. The Potawatomi may have learned to grow different kinds of foods
in their new environment. Note that as an alternative, this activity could be done in small groups
instead of the large group.
8. Remind students they encountered another example of migration in a previous lesson that is
not reflected on the transparency from Step 7. Ask students what group is missing from the
chart. Discuss their responses and guide them in identifying pioneer settlers who moved west.
Remind them of the book Dandelions which describes a family moving west.
9. Explain that people encountered many challenges in their new environment when they moved
to the Great Plains. Display an overhead transparency of Photographs from the Great Plains.
Ask students what type of material they think was used to build the house and school shown in
the photographs. Discuss student responses and then explain that these buildings were made
of sod, or clumps of clay and grass. Use the following questions to discuss the photographs:
Pioneers in Michigan usually built log cabins. Why would settlers in the plains use
sod to build a house?
How would log houses and sod houses be similar? How might they be different?
What are some other ways a lack of trees would present a challenge to early settlers
on the Great Plains?
10. Place students in pairs or groups of three and give each student a copy of the Mystery Source
located in the Supplemental Materials. Explain that students should work together to do the
following:
Identify the type of primary source.
Identify two challenges of the plains environment which are described in this primary
source.
11. Give pairs time to work. Then, ask students to identify the type of primary source they are
analyzing. Ask students what clues led them to identify the source as a letter. Then, ask
students what challenges they were able to identify in the letter. Note that challenges include
the following:
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4th Grade United States Studies


Unit 3: Human Geography in the United States

SS040305
Lesson 5

Strong winds
Blowing dust
The sod was heavy
The sod was hard to plow

12. Make and display an overhead transparency of Adapting to Life on the Great Plains located
in the Supplemental Materials and give each student a copy of the sheet. Using the chart,
discuss the various challenges, or problems, settlers on the Great Plains encountered and the
ways they adapted to their environment by finding a solution to the problem. Note that as an
alternative, show only the Problem section of the overhead transparency and ask students to
predict how they may have solved the problem. Explain that in fifth grade students will study
many examples of adapting to the environment including how Native Americans adapted to
many different regions, how European settlers adapted to life in North America, and how
enslaved Africans adapted to environments often quite different from those in Africa.
13. As a culminating activity, have pairs of students investigate adaptation in a particular region of
the United States. Give each pair a copy of the Investigation sheet located in the
Supplemental Materials. Review the directions and have pairs choose one of the questions to
investigate. Make sure to encourage students to come up with their own idea in addition.
Provide time and resources such as suggestions for websites so students can complete their
investigation. Note that this is not an in-depth investigation they merely need to find one
example of adaptation. For example, people adapt to life in the earthquake regions of California
by building houses that can withstand an earthquake. When pairs have completed their
investigations, place them in groups of four or six to share what they have discovered.
Assessment
The Investigation from Step 13 can be used as an assessment.

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