Virginia Geography - Wrapup
In my class we would analyze one of the first European created maps of Virginia (like one from John Smith) and then look at a map from today. We will look at what is listed on each one to see the patterns of big cities and roads in relation to mountains and rivers.
A simple map activity can help the students to understand Virginian history.
Additionally, when teaching World History, I was try and explain how events did not just "happen" randomly, that often locations of things are for a reason, like the establishment of Constantinople (now Istanbul). I think history teachers are often so focused on delivering the content to the kids, that we often miss the opportunities (even if they are small) to explain how geography is integral to how things happened and historical significance.
As we look back at the lifestyles of the First Peoples, how did the natural surroundings and climate determine their ways of life? How did their lives function before and after the arrival of the Europeans? and how did the European affect on the geography (i.e., the use of fences, the use of more advanced tools, etc.) change the First People's way of life?
As time has marched on, how has the geography of Virginia morphed into what we see today? How have we, as humans, changed the natural geography to fit what we wanted and needed?
I think these questions can form the basis for any unit of learning of Virginia history. Students need to think about these questions as they learn the basic facts of our history and see how they can answer them.
I also think a good 3-D map of Virginia would be valuable. Many students have not traveled throughout the state and do not know that there are different landscapes, soils, and climates in different areas. They don't have an understanding of how different the Coastal Plain is from the Valley and Ridge Region. Between an 3-D map and photos/vidoes, they can gain a better understanding of the benefits and challenges of each region.
Students will be divided into groups and given raised relief maps of Virginia. Students can examine the physical features of Virginia and notice how certain regions are defined by them.
I also really think I underestimated the importance of the goegraphy when teaching about important battles of war that took place in Virginia. I think BEGINNING with this type of investigation is important. When students create their own hypothesis of WHY this area is an important battleground, they will take ownership over the possible answer. Instead of just teaching that certain areas are important because of railroad crossing, higher ground, or water transportation, students can come to that conclusion themselves. When history means something the kids buy in and remember.
I am amazed that something so simple did not occur to me. I think that I am always in such a hurry to cover the information, that I do not focus on the real understanding and meaning that comes from students make their own conclusions.
A teacher should emphasize that British General Cornwallis made a fatal error by not having a complete grasp of Virginia geography. By choosing to position his troops close to the tip of the peninsula surrounded by the York River, the James River, and the Chesapeake Bay, he inadvertently placed his army in trap. Washington and Rochambeau’s troops attacked his position from land while a possible escape via water would have met strong resistance from the French fleet. Cornwallis’s only plausible option was surrender.
When students are learning about Yorktown and the end of the Revolutionary War, they should definitely have access to maps of the Tidewater region so they can clearly see the locations of Yorktown on the peninsula, the York and James Rivers, and the Chesapeake. After doing a little bit of homework, the teacher could draw a map on class whiteboard, labeling the important the geographic sites and using blue and red markers to indicate positions of the American army, the British army, the French army, and the French navy. I’ve drawn many rough sketches of troop positions at Yorktown on my board over the years and it’s always rewarding to observe students copying my map without being instructed to do so.
There is also the legacy of slavery at these sites that is now, finally being brought to attention. For centuries the slave quarters were left to ruin or torn down while the main houses were preserved or restored. Through much of the 20th Century the main houses served as tourist attractions with the focus on those founding fathers and an asterisk on the tour about slavery. Starting in the late 1980's historians began opening up discussion and confronting the legacy of slavery on these sites by reconstructing the cabins and performing archaeological digs to find out where and how enslaved persons lived on these plantations.
What later generations choose to preserve of a landscape or historic site also tells you a lot about what they value or, in the case of slave quarters at the homes of the founding fathers, what they are not comfortable talking about.
I could use geography in my classroom to help students learn why specific events occured in certain locations. When teaching about Westward Migration, I could use the geography of Virginia to help students better understand why Virginia decided to leave their home state; overcrowding and over farming.
I might also use it to discuss the Industrialization in Virginia. Why did Richmond grow so large? What made other cities like Fredericksburg become so populated? How did the geography effect the settlement of each city? I would also discuss with my students the importance of the coal mines in Virginia and how the they impacted the Industrialization of Virginia.
Upon completion of their maps we will compare and contrast our maps with an actual accurate map of Virginia.
I would take the students on a field trip to Jamestown. Before I do that, I would prepare them for what they will see. First, I would show a picture of a place in Jamestown, perhaps the first church. I would have the students work in small groups to design a landscape that would accompany the location. The students would label and explain their reasoning for the layout. Then I would show an actual landscape drawing and they could compare theirs to the real one and then make changes to theirs after learning more about it.
I would help the students with the understanding of the built environment and the cultural landscape.
I would share an aerial view of Jamestown from the colonial perspective; technology would help with skipping back through time. The students would write about what they notice. I would use a Think-Pair-Share activity for this.
I would allow the students to use their knowledge of what they have learned about the people and places of Jamestown to create a map of early Jamestown. We would discuss the map and why we think the early settlers did what they did and what they saw.
Finally, we would visit Jamestown. Armed with a lot of background knowledge of Jamestown, the students would walk around, look at, sketch landscapes, think how the early settlers thought, and discuss what they have learned and whether the land is still the same and how it has changed due to human interactions.
The students would journal their findings and they would be compiled into a classroom book for reference.
Va. Geography can be applied to the economy, coal in my region to ports in Hampton Roads that the coal from my area goes to.
The physical geography impacts the economy and population distribution greatly.
The human geography of Virginia is interesting in that it is often much different in Northern and on the East Coast areas than the Western regions. Even the accents vary.
Another idea is to compare and contrast the locations of major battles in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Students could see how these places may relate to each other and why.
Another interesting research assignment could be to compare the ways the Chesapeake Bay was economically important in the Colonial days and now in the present.
The goal of this exercise is to pre-assess students' mental maps where they label names of streets, buildings, and landmarks of the community in which they live. After exposure for a couple days and study of various maps of the community, you can again assess the students' mental maps and see the growth.
.The same type of fencing can be found in West Virginia which of course part of Virginia during this era. The uneven terrain there shows the ability of the people to adapt and problem solve. Adjustments could be done without need for extreme engineering.
The next week, I would take them through the town of Haymarket, Va and onward to Chapman's Mill so that they
can realize they live in the Piedmont region of Virginia with little hills and various types of vegetation. Next, I would offer a weekend trip for families to do a hike along the Blue Ridge (for extra credit, of course). Finally, I would offer another weekend trip for families to go to the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton. Knowing that many students would be unable to attend a distant area, I would go myself and make videos of my own in addition to the Virginia Trekkers' videos. Students will discuss what they would need in order to live in any particular area. They will answer the question: How can I work with the geography of this region in Virginia in order to live and help my family thrive.
I break the students into pairs and give them a picture of a scene with one of these tribes. I have them look at the pictures and draw conclusions about the tribes. Once they have discussed and observed these pictures we will display it on the board and they can present to the class what they observed.
Since I teach about two wars (the Revolutionary war and the Civil war), I will consider starting my unit with maps of Virginia, the colonies and the Unites States early in these units in order to show and remind students what the natural features of the land are (rivers, ocean, mountains, etc), where certain cities came to develop, how people traveled and why, and how products and trade worked between the states and colonies. An understanding of how people interacted with the land around them and how their physical environment impacted their daily lives is crucial for understanding the details of history and why specific events occurred where they did. I found Ed Ayers' discussion of geography and the Civil War to be fascinating, and I plan to begin that unit with maps of the south and Virginia, as well as some topography to show land elevation, as a way of "setting the stage" for them in advance of studying battles and military strategy.
Secondly, while I knew and already teach my students that we live in the Central Piedmont region of Virginia, I learned in this module that I live and work in the "Outer Piedmont Subprovince." It's just an interesting fact. I already teach, since our school's name is Dan River Middle School, how important the Dan River was and remains in the history of Danville and Pittsylvania County. We already and will continue to discuss the Dan River's importance to the native inhabitants of this area and to the European settlers when they came to the "New World" -- for food, water, transportation, etc. We already make connections to the fact that the now-defunct Dan River Textile Plant relied upon the river for the running of the mill, for transportation purposes, etc. We also make the economic connections to globalization and try to understand why the mill shut down and how those jobs went to China. I like that the module both affirms what I'm currently doing while giving me some other ideas about what I might be able to incorporate in my classroom.
Making Sense of Maps
This site from History Matters explores how to use maps as a historical source including what questions students should ask and how maps can clarify and distort the way we see the world.
Lewis and Clark: Same Place, Different Perspectives
History teacher Shanne Bowie reviews a history and geography lesson from National Geographic that investigates the relationship between history and geography.
In this video, teacher Simon Botten demonstrates how to use a whiteboard to engage elementary-age students in history and geography.