Hooking Middle Schoolers with World Geography

As I work with teachers this week to develop curriculum using the C3 and the new CT state frameworks, it is clear that we have a plethora and experienced and dedicated middle school teachers in our state. As our conference speaker Heidi Hayes Jacobs said that issues-based curriculum is a great way to structure units because, “Middle school kids LOVE issues because they “are” issues!” It is clear teachers are passionate about making sure students see the relevance of what they are teaching. I have compiled some of the resources I have learned about and gather this week as we work to create lessons and units on the new CT Social Studies frameworks, specifically in 6th and 7th grade regional studies.  Hard working teachers in one district asked me to compile a list of resources for regional studies to continue this work. I have included under each region some background knowledge for teachers, possible articles and texts, primary source documents and suggestions for material culture, and fictional titles where applicable. I would love to add to this list as we develop more with this exciting approach! Special thanks to Ms. Cerniglia and the Facebook group Scholarships, Grants and Summer Institutes for Teachers where I activated the “brain trust” and got tons of additional resources from hardworking folks.

General Resources

PIER- Programs in International Education Resources From YALE, much of the archive is loanable.

EdSitement from the National Endowment for Humanities

Beyond The Bubble from SHEG

Reading Like A Historian from SHEG

Inquiry Handbook


*One interesting way for teachers to gather some background about countries they may not be familiar with might be through enjoying some of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations or Parts Unknown series. Many episodes are available on Netflix to stream. Not necessarily for students, but you could find excerpts that might serve a purpose if you wanted to.

Latin America/ Central/ South America and the Caribbean

LASER- Latin American School and Educational Resources This is a comprehensive list organized by country

Amazon Interactive A game-based geography website where students can explore and problem solve while learning about the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Additional Resource Links via Library of Congress This is a comprehensive list with lots to get you started.

Film: The Perfect Game

Middle East

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

Library of Congress Resources for Middle East and North Africa

Teaching the Middle East from University of Chicago

Edsitement Teaching Middle East Resources


PBS: Africa This is a series of online tools, lesson plans and

Exploring Africa from Michigan State University

Transatlantic Slave Map Animation This would be a powerful hook to connect students to the impact enslaved persons had on the culture and traditions of various regions throughout the world, showing both where people were taken from and where they were sold into slavery.

Transatlantic Slave Trade Database

Subsaharan African Resource list from Library of Congress

East Asia

EAGLE East Asia Gateway from University of Pittsburgh

Film: The Way Home

Book: A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

East Asia Resource List from Library of Congress


Taking Action Ideas

  • Deforestation of Rainforest: Students source sustainable products and communicate to parents and peers how to boycott goods that further destruction
  • Clean Water: Participate in fundraising or raising awareness for individuals in areas without potable water
  • Oil: Students examine the relationship of oil and other resources to conflicts in the Middle East. How can US consumers play a role? How do other policies impact the need for overseas oil?
  • Immigration: Have students take a stand on US immigration policy and research policies related to various regions.
  • Maternal Health considerations: Students learn about how mothers in Africa can improve medical care to avoid stigma and improve infant mortality rate. www.halfthesky.org
  • What other ideas do you or your students have? What issues come up as you work with students?

Students in Pittsburgh packed medical supplies for doctors traveling to medical clinics in Honduras



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