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4th Grade United States Studies

Unit 3: Human Geography in the United States

SS040308
Lesson 8

Lesson 8: Public Issues Related to Geography


Big Ideas of the Lesson

Human activities such as mining, drilling for oil, constructing dams, diverting water, and
expanding cities result in changes to the environment.
Since environmental changes can have negative consequences, people often disagree about
how to control these activities.
Disagreements about how to solve problems caused by environmental changes may become
public issues.

Lesson Abstract:
This lesson expands on the last lesson by having students identify current geographic issues
affecting the United States. After students review the concept of public issues, they briefly explore
water diversion and related public policy issues. Using websites, newspapers, and news telecasts,
students then identify additional geographic issues.
.
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.
4 P3.1.1: Identify public issues in the United States that influence the daily lives of its citizens.
.
Key Concepts
human/environment interaction
public issue
Instructional Resources
Equipment/Manipulative
Overhead projector or Document Camera/Projector
Student journal or notebook
Student Resource
Current Environmental Issues. Global Stewards. 23 November 2008
<http://www.globalstewards.org/issues.htm>.
Current Environmental Issues Website Resources. Simon Fraser University. 23 November 2008
<http://www.sfu.ca/~sfpirg/hot_topics/current_environmental_issues.htm>.

Michigan Citizenship Collaborative Curriculum


www.micitizenshipcurriculum.org

Page 1 of 3
November 24, 2008

4th Grade United States Studies


Unit 3: Human Geography in the United States

SS040308
Lesson 8

Teacher Resource
Egbo, Carol. Supplemental Materials (Unit 3, Lesson87). Teacher-made material. Michigan
Citizenship Collaborative, 2008.
Pact puts plug on Great Lakes water diversion. MPNnow.com. 23 November 2008
<http://www.mpnnow.com/news/x502300365/Pact-puts-plug-on-Great-Lakes-waterdiversion>.
White Pine County Fights Water Pipeline. Las Vegas Now. 23 November 2008
<http://www.lasvegasnow.com/global/story.asp?s=5412769>.
Lesson Sequence
1. Begin the lesson by reviewing the idea that human activities such as farming, mining, drilling for
oil, lumbering, and damming rives modify, or change, the environment. Explain that because
there are often negative consequences when people change the environment, people often
disagree about how to control these activities.
2. Write the term issue on a board or overhead transparency. Explain to students that the word
"issue" has several different meanings. One common usage is to describe an "issue" of a
printed product, such as a stamp or a newspaper. When "issue" is used within a governmental
context, it refers to an idea, problem, or proposal about which different people or groups of
citizens have differing points of view. Add the word public before the word issue and explain
that this term refers to issues that effects large groups of people including communities,
counties, states, and the country.
3. Share the following criteria for defining a public issue on the board or overhead transparency
and discuss each one with students
The issue is of public concern to the citizens in a whole community or a large part of
it.
People disagree on how to settle or resolve the public issue.
Disagreements about the public issue are based on different points of view.
4. Divide students in pairs and give each pair a copy of Newspaper Article #1 located in the
Supplemental Materials and make an overhead transparency of the article. Explain that this
article describes a public issue relating to an environmental problem. Explain that students
should read the article together and identify the public issue. Give pairs time to work and then
have them share their ideas about the issue. Note that the actual issue is whether or not to
build a pipeline to carry water from rural areas in Nevada to Las Vegas.
5. Make and display an overhead transparency of the Looking at Both Sides of an Issue chart
located in the Supplemental Materials and write the issue as described in Step 4 in the
appropriate place on the transparency. Using the transparency of Newspaper Article #1, guide
students in identifying the two sides of the issue. Note that it may be helpful to highlight one
side in one color and the other side in a different color. Possible answers include the following:

Michigan Citizenship Collaborative Curriculum


www.micitizenshipcurriculum.org

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November 24, 2008

4th Grade United States Studies


Unit 3: Human Geography in the United States

SS040308
Lesson 8

Yes: The need for water in Las Vegas is growing. Las Vegas needs a new source of
water. Water is available in White Pine County. The Water Authority believes the
pipeline will not affect the water of people living in the rural areas.
No: People living in White Pine County may find their livestock and crops in danger.
The pipeline may even endanger the survival of the people there. The pipeline is not
the solution to the problem of water in Las Vegas. The pipeline might lead to other
water problems in other places.

6. Pose the following question to students: What might be another alternative to the pipeline that
would help solve the water problems of Las Vegas. Discuss student responses. Then, make an
display an overhead transparency of the Analyzing Quotations sheet located in the
Supplemental Materials. Read over the two quotations and guide students in identifying the
possible solution to water problems of the dry southwest described in the quotations. Note that
this solution involves diverting water from the Great Lakes to the Southwest.
7. Divide students into groups of four and give each group a copy of the Looking at Both Sides of
an Issue chart located in the Supplemental Materials. Have one member of each group write
the following issue in the appropriate place on the sheet: Should water be diverted from the
Great Lakes to dry places in the Southwest? Explain that groups should work together to list
reasons for each side of this issue on the chart under the columns Yes and No.
8. Give groups time to work and then have them share what they have written on their charts.
Make a master list of their ideas on a transparency of the Looking at Both Sides of an Issue
chart. Note that a chart showing sample answers has also been included in the Supplemental
Materials.
9. Take a quick vote regarding students positions on this issue. Note that if time permits you may
want them to write their position and give a reason.
10. Ask students if anything could be done to prevent water diversion from the Great Lakes.
Discuss their responses. Then, make and display a transparency of Newspaper Article #2.
Read the article out loud with students and discuss how federal laws now prevent water from
being diverted from the Great Lakes to other parts of the country. As an alternative, have
students read the article independently. Explain that in a later civics unit students will have the
opportunity to learn more about public issues and the role of the federal government in
resolving public issues.
11. As a culminating activity have students use newspapers, websites, and news telecasts to
identify other current environmental public issues. As a way to get them started have them look
for information regarding the lifting of the ban on offshore drilling.
Assessment
The group activity from Step 7 can be used as an assessment. Students could also be given a
short newspaper article relating to a current geographic issue in the United States and asked to
identify the issue.
Michigan Citizenship Collaborative Curriculum
www.micitizenshipcurriculum.org

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November 24, 2008