GEOGRAPHY STANDARD FOUR

Geography Standard Four: Students will develop an understanding of the character and use of regions and the connections between and among them [REGIONS]

Regions are areas containing places with common characteristics. They are a major way we simplify a geographically-complex world. Regions can be used for analysis and synthesis. They have practical applications as in political administration or organizing economic behavior. Understanding regions and their use will allow students to better analyze and predict patterns and connections between and among people, places, and environments.

The complexity of the standard will increase at each succeeding grade cluster:

K-3a: Students will use the concepts of place and region to explain simple patterns of connections between and among places across the country and the world. Essential for Grade 3

4-5a: Students will apply geographic skills to develop a profile of the local community by placing it in the context of physical, cultural, and other types of regions. Essential for Grade 4

6-8a: Students will understand the processes affecting the location of economic activities in different world regions. Essential for Grade 6

6-8b: Students will explain how conflict and cooperation among people contributes to the division of the Earth's surface into distinctive cultural regions and political territories. Essential for Grade 7

9-12a: Students will apply knowledge of the types of regions and methods of drawing boundaries to interpret the Earth's changing complexity. Essential for Grade 9

Enduring Understandings
Students will understand that:

  • A region is a concept rather than a real object on the ground, used to simplify the diversity of places.
  • Regions must have boundaries to exist, yet there advantages and disadvantages associated with any real or abstract feature used to draw a boundary.
Just as all people are unique, so are places. And just as it is impossible to understand every person in the world, so it is with the world's places. With people we develop concepts such as communities, ethnicities, religious observance, speakers of particular languages, and social classes to help us make sense of humanity. Similarly, geography has developed the concept of regions to simplify an understanding of places. Regions, unlike places, do not exist; they are a construct or concept. Regions are defined as an area of the earth's surface enclosing places that have some common characteristic. A climatic region may include the area where we find places experiencing a similar climate, such as the tropics; an agricultural region may be an area within which places engage in a similar type of agriculture, such as the corn belt; a political region might be one in which all places are under the jurisdiction of a particular set of laws, such as the United States; an ethnic region might enclose places that house a common ethnic population, such as Kurdistan. If students examine their language, they will see that it is full of regional terms: the "city"; the "suburbs"; my "neighborhood"; "downtown".

An important feature of regions is that although they are a product of a person's mind, once identified they can take on real and universal meaning. We may not know exactly the location of "the South" in the United States, but being "southern" invokes strong feelings pro and con. In Delaware, being south or north of "the Canal" is an important distinction in the minds of Delawareans, although to an outsider, there is no discernable difference between a place either side of Chesapeake and Delaware Canal waterway.

Regions are only identifiable once they have discrete boundaries around an area of earth space that separates it from other spaces. Drawing boundaries is often difficult and frequently zones rather than discrete lines are used. Methods of drawing boundaries are an important part of the regional concept.

Geography Standard Four K-3a: Students will be able to use the concepts of place and region to explain simple patterns of connections between and among places across the country and the world.

Essential Questions:

  • Why might places differ from regions? How can regions be used to simplify an understanding of place diversity?
  • How might differences and similarities among regions result in connections between them?
At this level, students need to understand the difference between a place and a region. The best way to do this is to examine similarities among places over a given area. Once the concept is clear, students can examine their own speech to identify the use of the regional concept in the terms they use. They should then be led to understand that regions are defined by a theme — cultural, ethnic, linguistic, religious, wealthy or poor; any characteristic can serve as the criterion for developing a region. Students should examine the number of regions they live in: state, county, political, school district, parish, rural or urban.

Once the concept of region is firmly understood, students should see that each region is distinctive and as such likely to be connected to other regions. Fresh fruit and vegetable regions are close to urban market regions; business regions in the center city are connected to nearby residential regions that are the source of workers; regions in major metropolitan areas are connected to nearby resort and recreational regions.

Geography Standard Four 4-5a: Students will be able to apply geographic skills to develop a profile of the local community by placing it in the context of physical, cultural and other types of regions.

Essential Questions:
  • How might identifying the regional associations of a place create a community profile of the place's distinctiveness?
  • How might this place be like others in a larger region?
In this benchmark, students should understand how to develop a local community profile by examining a place's historical growth (through maps) and the factors that make it unique. Students should then take those factors and identify the particular regions in which the community is found at both the Delaware and U.S. scales. For instance, a location in central Delaware such as Dover would be considered part of the mid-latitude temperate climatic region, part of the Coastal Plain landform region, part of the urban region of the North-eastern seaboard; part of the Tidewater South traditional cultural region; and so on. By identifying the various regional identities of Dover, students can develop a profile of the distinctive features of the place. The key ability is knowing how to undertake such a study, what steps to take, what conclusions to draw.

Geography Standard Four 6-8a: Students will understand the processes affecting the location of economic activities in different world regions.

Essential Questions:
  • To what degree are economic regions specialized?
  • What's "special" about the region and how could it change?
There are at least three different types of regions that students should understand: formal (where the defining features of the region extend uniformly from border to border, such as a legal/political region); functional (where the defining characteristic of the region is strongest in the center and becomes less evident towards the edges, such as the reception area for a TV station); and perceptual (a region that exists only in the mind, such as "the South" or "the Far West" with no agreed-upon boundaries).

Economic activities are usually defined in terms of functional regions where the edges are zones rather than single lines. Students should recognize that economic regions are increasingly based on specialization, such as the Ruhr River valley, defined by its coalfields; the Central Valley of California, known for its Mediterranean agricultural products; or Bangalore, India, recently famous for its concentration of high-technology firms and services.

Moreover, students should recognize that specialized regions can be altered by changes in transport technology or politics. For instance, Australia was once a producer of wool until refrigerated ships allowed meat to be supplied to United Kingdom markets. But when the U.K. joined the European Union, market preference was reduced and Australia has now become part of the Asian region, supplying countries such as Japan with needed minerals such as iron ore and coal.

Geography Standard Four 6-8b: Students will explain how conflict and cooperation among people contribute to the division of the Earth's surface into distinctive cultural and political territories.

Essential Questions:
  • To what extent is territory also an expression of political or cultural identity?
  • How might this view of territory explain conflicts between nations or ethnic groups over space?
  • How might territorial identity and claims on land change over time?
An area of the Earth's surface with which people identify culturally or politically is termed a territory. Invariably, a territory is a formal region, defined by specific borders (though not always recognized by neighbors). The space within a territory is often regarded as a part of one's political or cultural definition. As such, it is exclusive and not able to be shared with others because to do so would dilute the identity it represents. In a perfect world, the world's political territories would each reflect the sovereignty of the people who occupy them. Unfortunately, cooperation such as that which produces the stable Canadian-U.S. border is not always the norm. Many active and latent conflicts exist in which different people lay claim to the same territory: in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics; in northern Spain between Castilians and Basques, in Israel between Jews and Palestinians. Students should understand that the present-day division of the earth's surface into political and cultural regions is the result of the current consequences of conflict and cooperation between states and ethnic groups. Boundaries between groups have not always been stable, and claims over territory based on the discovery of new resources (e.g. oil) or the movement of people (e.g. illegal Salvadoran settlers in sparsely-populated Honduras) can destabilize regional boundaries.

Geography Standard Four 9-12a: Students will apply knowledge of the types of regions and methods of drawing boundaries to interpret the Earth's changing complexity.

Essential Questions:
  • How might regional analysis help to solve societal problems?
  • To what extent are regional boundaries permanent? What might cause them to change over time?
This benchmark calls for an understanding of how to use regional analysis. The key to such analysis requires identifying the boundaries of regions, for without boundaries a region cannot exist. Formal regions require precise boundaries and many political units are formal regions. Students should recognize the ways that formal regional boundaries have been drawn, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. For instance, the use of physical features such as rivers or the crests of mountains raises a number of issues. Where does the boundary go between the peaks of a mountain range? Should the boundary use the center of a river and, if so, what happens when the river changes its course? The use of human features can have similar consequences. Many boundaries have followed survey lines such as compass headings or lines of latitude or longitude. While they have the value of precision, they often ignore and cut across the much more complex boundaries of human culture, as in much of Africa.

Functional regions pose equal difficulties. Where a region's influence declines over a zone, placing the boundary is often arbitrary: at what point is the region's influence sufficiently diminished? Students need to recognize the value of simple statistical techniques to solve this problem, such as the use of Theissen polygons that place a boundary at the mid-point between two regional centers.

Students should understand how to use regions in solving societal problems. For instance, the location of hospitals relative to the population served often results in some people having better access to services than others. Determining the regional service boundaries of hospitals in the state demonstrates that fact and can point to areas where the population is poorly served.

Students should recognize that regions and their boundaries are not always permanent, since the conditions that created them may have changed over time. For instance, the regional boundaries of Native American tribes prior to European settlement were severely disrupted or obliterated after many Native American groups were forcibly moved from their original lands. On the other hand, in Northern Canada, assertion of Native American rights has produced a new set of regional self-governing territories, such as Nunavut. Similarly, the European Union is actively seeking to create a single region out of what were once 25 independent states.

Geography Standards in Delaware









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