4th Grade Geography Inquiry



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Featured Sources


Featured Source A is an image bank of photographs representing a range of physical (as opposed to human-made) features—landforms, bodies of water, vegetation, and living things—as well as observable seasonal changes.

These images allow students to develop initial ideas about physical features and natural resources common to New York State, as well as other kinds of geography not found in New York State. Students might begin this task by answering the question “Is this (image) New York?” Students can think about and document what they observe, infer, and wonder about the photos using a graphic organizer.

Teachers might choose to use a few images and analyze them together as a class or give all the images to small groups of students to examine. Using the image numbers, teachers may choose to model this strategy orally with the whole class. In doing so, teachers can demonstrate and then encourage students to talk through the physical features they see in the images. Teachers may highlight a common landform (e.g., a lake) or a more unusual landform (e.g., a plateau) and ask students to offer hunches about whether the feature can be found in New York State. In doing so, students should be able to offer ideas about where this feature is likely to be located in New York State or elsewhere. Using real images allows students to make sense of this inquiry while developing a rich understanding of the diverse geography of New York State. (An answer key is provided with additional information about the images.)

Featured Source B is a collection of physical feature, climate, and natural resources maps that may be used to encourage students to use their geographic reasoning for an in-depth study of the diversity of New York State landscape. Teachers may supplement the featured maps by using existing classroom maps, maps from a classroom atlas, maps found through Internet searches, or maps provided by research groups (e.g., Cornell Cooperative Extension).

Using maps can be challenging for some students because of the vocabulary (e.g., elevation, precipitation) and because maps contain a lot of information that must be inferred. For example, the levels of elevation above 2,000 feet typically indicate mountainous areas. Students must then infer the opportunities and constraints such terrain may offer. Working through students’ initial hunches about what the various maps represent, then, will be helpful in later exercises where this kind of source is used.

The use of this array of maps, rather than political maps, combined with the earlier work using images of New York State’s diverse geography, allows students to make observations, develop questions, and make evidence-based claims, which will eventually lead them toward their arguments in response to the compelling question for this inquiry: How does where you live matter?

As students explore these resources, they should formulate general ideas about New York State’s geography and what makes it diverse. Teachers should encourage students to think about and discuss how the word “diverse” applies to geography in this inquiry of study. Students may also begin to make connections between the various sources of information. Doing so allows them to apply their knowledge as the work of this inquiry continues. Students will need to organize and maintain their graphic organizers, and any notes they have gathered, for use in the remaining formative and summative performance tasks.


Additional Resources


The sources described earlier are featured because they offer an opportunity to talk about the kinds of sources that teachers may use to teach the inquiry and how to use them. They are not meant to be a final or exhaustive list. Additional sources might include maps that show the following:

  • Additional resources for wildlife density, fisheries (lake, river, and ocean), climate, and soil regions are available at the Harvest of History website: http://www.harvestofhistory.org/mod1_primary.html.

  • Maps showing New York latitude and longitude are available at: http://www.mapsofworld.com/usa/states/new-york/new-york-maps/new-york-lat-long-map.jpg.

  • A wealth of archival images, audio, and video of New York are available through the New York State Archives: http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/digital/index.shtml.

Of course, there is often no substitute for physical sources, so something as simple as having boxes of soil and sand that students can feel may help them understand some of the differences between these physical features.

Supporting Question 1


Featured Source

Source A: Image bank: Photographs of physical features

Is This New York?

Image 1 Image 2



Image 3 Image 4



Image 5 Image 6



Teacher’s Key to Images

Image 1: Deer, lowlands, Bushnell’s Basin, New York; 43.04° N, 77.47° W.

© Hadimor.

Image 2: Adirondack Mountains, Tirrell Pond, New York; 43.85° N, 74.38 ° W.

Public domain. New York State Archives. http://iarchives.nysed.gov/PubImageWeb/viewImageData.jsp?id=80394.

Image 3: Kaaterskill Park, Greene County, New York; 42.10° N, 74.01° W.

Public domain. New York State Archives. http://iarchives.nysed.gov/dmsBlue/viewImageData.jsp?id=80821.

Image 4: Long Island Sound, Rocky Point, New York; 40.9536° N, 72.9272° W.

Public domain. New York State Archives. http://iarchives.nysed.gov/dmsBlue/viewImageData.jsp?id=185114.

Image 5: Sedona, Arizona; 34.86° N, 111.78° W.

© coleong.

Image 6: Christiansted, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands; 17.42° N, 64.46° W.



© IakovKalinin.


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