A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
Helping Your Child Learn Geography - October 1996
Relationships Within Places: Humans and Environments
How do people adjust to their environment? What are the relationships among people and places? How do they change the environment to better suit their needs? Geographers examine where people live, why they settled there, and how they use natural resources. For example, Hudson Bay, the site of the first European settlement in Canada, is an area rich in wildlife and has sustained a trading and fur trapping industry for hundreds of years. Yet the climate there was described by early settlers as "nine months of ice followed by three months of mosquitoes." The Hudson Bay settlement is one of many examples of how people can and do adapt to their natural surroundings.
Everyone controls his or her surroundings. Look at the way you arrange furniture in your home. You place tables and chairs in places that suit the shape of the room and the position of windows and doors. You also arrange the room according to how people use it.
- Make paper cutouts of furniture and arrange them on a map representing your home (graph paper works well for such a map). By cutting out paper to represent different pieces of furniture, children can begin to learn the mapmaker's skill in representing the three-dimensional real world.
- Ask your children to consider what the yard might look like if you did not try to change it by mowing grass, raking leaves, or planting shrubs or trees. You might add a window box if you don't have a yard. What would happen if you didn't water the plants?
- Walk with your children around your neighborhood or a park area and help them clean up litter. Talk about different kinds of waste disposal (e.g., landfills, dumps, recycling) and how they affect the environment.
- Take your children to see some examples of how people have shaped their environment: bonsai gardens, reservoirs, terracing, or houses built into hills. Be sure to talk with them about how and why people create such things.
- If you live in an urban area, try to visit a nearby farm. Some cities and states maintain farm parks for just this purpose. Call the department of parks or recreation in your area to find out where there is one near you. Talk with your children about how farmers use natural resources--soil, water, and sun--to grow crops and raise livestock. How do they keep livestock from wandering off? How do they prevent crops from being eaten by birds or destroyed by disease?
People don't always change their environment. Frequently, the environment changes the course of people's lives. For instance, a straight line may be the shortest distance between two points; but people don't build highways straight over mountains--they must go around them or build tunnels that go through them. People construct storm walls to keep the ocean from sweeping over beaches. In some coastal areas, residents build their houses on stilts to protect them from storm tides or periodic floods.
- Go camping with your children. It is easy to understand why we wear long pants and shoes when there are rocks and branches on the ground. And, when you no longer have the convenience of a faucet, it is clear why early settlers found it so important to be near water.
- If you go to a park, try to attend the nature shows that many parks provide. You and your children may learn about the local plants and wildlife and how the natural features have changed over time. You may also learn how people need to be careful around certain plants and animals in the wild.
[Place: Physical and Human Characteristics]
[Movement: People Interacting on the Earth]