Geography Standard Three: Students will develop an understanding of the diversity of human culture and the unique nature of places [PLACES]

Cultural differences produce patterns of diversity in language, religion, economic activity, social custom, and political organization across the Earth's surface. Places reflect the culture of the inhabitants as well as the ways that culture has changed over time. Places also reflect the connections and flow of information, goods, and ideas with other places. Students who will live in an increasingly interconnected world need an understanding of the processes which produce distinctive places and how those places change over time.

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

K-3a: Students will identify types of human settlement, connections between settlements, and the types of activities found in each. Essential for Grade 3

4-5a: Students will understand the reasons for the locations of human activities and settlements and the routes connecting them in Delaware and in the United States. Essential for Grade 5

6-8a: Students will identify and explain the major cultural patterns of human activity in the world's sub-regions. Essential for Grades 6 and 7

9-12a: Students will understand the processes which result in distinctive cultures, economic activity, and settlement form in particular locations across the world. Essential for Grades 9 and 11

Enduring Understandings
Students will understand that:

  • Places are unique associations of natural environments and human cultural modifications.
  • Concepts of site and situation can explain the uniqueness of places. As site or situation change, so also does the character of a place.
The enduring goals of geography—to apply analysis of the importance of "where" events occur and the way in which human-environmental relations shape the nature of the earth's surface—are embodied in the first two geography standards. In Standard Three, they are both brought to bear on one of geography's central, enduring subjects, the nature of places. Places may be defined as locations with character. A place occupies a given location on the earth's surface—what may be called its site. That site contains a unique combination of physical environmental conditions: climate, landforms, soils and vegetation. It also contains people with distinct cultural attributes who modify the environment to create a distinctive place. Places, however, reflect one additional attribute, their location relative to all other places, or their situation. Places close together can expect to have more interaction—trade, information flow, human migration —than places farther apart and thus be more subject to change over time. Isolated places change little. Evaluating a location's site and situation allows identification of those distinctive characteristics that make it a unique place. New York City, originally located on Manhattan Island, has a poor site, bounded by the Hudson and East Rivers that require numerous tunnels and bridges for connection. But its situation is superior, located at the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Hudson River and (later) Erie Canal that gave the city an ability to reach growing 19th century settlements west of the Appalachians in the Ohio river valley. Far surpassing the situation of its rival urban centers, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore, it acquired status as the country's largest city which it has never relinquished.

Geography Standard Three K-3a: Students will be able to identify types of human settlement, connections between settlements, and the types of activities found in each.

Essential Questions:
  • To what extent are places different in culture and activity?
  • How might connections between places affect their size and complexity?
At this level, students should be aware that places differ by size and the functions that occur within them: cities are larger and more complex, with greater levels of specialized services than towns. Towns, in turn exceed the size and complexity of villages, which are often agricultural in character. Some places are distinguished by specialized functions: religious centers like the Vatican, resorts like Vail, Colorado, political capitals like Washington, D.C. Places also vary by culture: house design, dress, food, or language may also distinguish one place from another.

There is also a need to understand that places do not exist in isolation but are influenced by connections with other places. Migration can change a place, such as the growth of the Guatemalan community in Georgetown. Improved roads can alter a town's character, such as upgrading Delaware State Highway One, which helped the growth of Lewes and Rehoboth as tourist destinations. The type of transportation connection between places can affect the amount of interaction. Places with rail connections will most likely exchange freight; airline connections and port connections allow contacts with foreign places; one-lane highways are much less likely to support place-to-place communication than interstates.

Geography Standard Three 4-5a: Students will understand the reasons for the locations of human activities and settlements and the routes connecting them in Delaware and the United States.

Essential Questions:
  • Why is a place founded where it is? Why might those reasons change?
In both Delaware and the United States, places are of different size and contain different levels of economic activity, based on how well they are connected to other places. Students need to apply this observation by examining sample places of different size to become comfortable with the idea. For instance, Christiana Mall in New Castle County, located at the junction of Route One and I-95, is closer and can more easily reach the large population living in the suburbs of the county than can Wilmington, which accounts for the Mall containing four major department stores while the city of Wilmington has none. Similarly, the New York metropolitan area is the largest in the country because, although it is located in the north-east corner of the country, it has better road, rail, and air connections to the rest of the U.S. population than any other place.

Students need to learn to apply the ideas of site and situation to explain the nature of particular places. Site choices at different time periods help explain the distribution of places in Delaware. The earliest European settlements such as Lewes, New Castle, Dover, Odessa and Seaford were at the head of navigable rivers and streams that flowed into the Delaware River or Chesapeake Bay. Soils were fertile (site) and locations gave easy transport access to markets (situation). Inland locations were not populated. In the 19th century, the railroad offered better access to markets from the center of the Delmarva Peninsula, and a new string of towns such as Middletown, Harrington and Camden- Wyoming developed (situation).

Geography Standard Three 6-8a: Students will identify and explain the major cultural patterns of human activity in the world's sub-regions.

Essential Question:
  • What makes a place culturally unique?
  • Under what conditions do cultures spread?
Places across the world differ in large part because of their exposure to different cultures. The major ancient world's cultures occupied distinct locations called cultural hearths: North China Plain (Chinese); Indus and Ganges (Indian/Hindu); Mesopotamia (Egyptian, Indo-European); Greece, Rome, Saudi Arabia (Islam), Inland West Africa; Highland/Lowland Guatemala (Mayan); Valley of Mexico (Aztec); and Peru (Inca). From these cultural hearths, distinctive languages and religions spread out at different times to encompass communities at various distances away from the center. Students need to understand the geographic origins of the major cultures and the places that came under their influence. They should recognize the patterns of diffusion that were influenced by the presence of trading routes, such as those that spread Islam across the Sahara from North Africa, or barriers to movement such as the Amazon rainforest that kept the Inca culture restricted to the Andes highlands and Pacific lowlands. The concept of core (the cultural hearth where the culture has its strongest influence) and periphery (the places only lightly touched by the culture) can aid student comprehension in understanding the causes behind the cultural diversity of places.

Geography Standard Three 9-12a: Students should understand the processes which result in distinctive cultures, economic activity and settlement form in particular locations across the world.

Essential Questions:
  • Why are some places more culturally diverse or similar than others?
  • To what extent does the culture of a place change over time?
At this level, students should understand that over time, as successive waves of diffusion wash over particular places, the nature of culture in those places changes. Moreover, after 1492, with the worldwide spread of European colonialism, some have argued that growing cultural diversity among places is being replaced with a slow movement towards cultural similarity. The loss of distinct languages and the spread of English is associated with a growth in global communication and human migration, all of which may be responsible for the spread of western culture, especially among major world cities. Students should understand the potential for such trends to reduce cultural diversity among places and recognize evidence such as the growth of common building styles, western clothes and Hollywood movies.

In addition to culture, places are distinctive because of the economic activities found there. At the 9-12 level, students need to understand the processes that account for differences in agriculture and industry in different parts of the world. While environmental limits place constraints on the agricultural economy and the location of raw materials influence the location of industrial enterprises, students should understand that there are other influential factors. Distance to market and transport costs and services are a major factor. For instance, when trans-Atlantic transport improved, wheat could be grown more profitably in North America rather than Europe. When refrigerated ships were introduced, Argentina shifted from an economy based on hides to one based on chilled beef shipped to North America and Europe. In general, agriculture is more intensive (yields per acre are higher) closer to the market and extensive (yields per acre are lower) farther away.

Distance also affects the location of industry. Originally, water power sites attracted industry because power could not be moved. When coal became common, power could be moved but coal was so heavy it was cheaper to use it on its site of production so industry gravitated to coal fields. When the amount of coal needed in manufacturing and the diversity of raw materials in a finished product expanded, industry shifted to major metropolitan centers where the market for products was greatest. Other factors such as available labor, cost of electricity, type of living conditions and tax incentives all play their part in the location of industry. Students need to understand how these factors affect the character of a given place.

Finally, places display particular arrangements of form or built environment (the organization of buildings, streets and open spaces). American cities adopted the grid-iron street plan; European medieval cities reflect no prior planning; Islamic cities display a focus on points (the bazaar, the mosque), buildings are surrounded by high walls that extend to the edge of property lines, and streets are leftover spaces without order or organization. Each of these settlement forms contributes to place distinctiveness.

Geography Standards in Delaware

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