Title: Location of Cities 201

Key Words: cities, urban, physical map

National Standard 12 (human settlements)

State Standard 14 (connections between Earth's physical and human systems)

Teaching Level: Middle School

Introduction: The centers of population change over time, but there are reasons why urban areas have remained the same. Physical geography and human influences are the two main reasons accounting for the location of cities. In this lesson, students will refer to several maps to discover reasons for the location of selected ancient and modern cities.

Objective: Students will explain the reasons for the location and growth of three of the world's earliest cities and five of the American modern cities.

Materials: Atlases that include climate zone maps, natural resources maps, economic activities maps, and vegetation zone maps of the world.
Large physical map of the U.S.A.
State map of Nevada and city map of Las Vegas from any USA Atlas
National Geographic Magazine, December 1996
Optional materials: Historical Atlas of the World and posters or travel brochures of Las Vegas

Procedure: Ask students to pair up. Give each pair of students a world atlas and the following list of ancient cities. Their task is to locate the cities and study the physical and human features that explain their locations

Early Cities Latitude/Longitude
Thebes, Egypt 25.4N/ 32.3E
Babylon, Iraq 32.4N/ 44.3E
Chengchow (Zhengzhou), China 34.4N/ 113.3E

Share findings and observations as a class. Students should have discovered that climate, vegetation, water, fertile soil, and other natural resources, population, trade and transportation connections, presence of cultural features like religious centers account for the presence of a city.

Apply this concept, [Favorable physical and human features account for the development of a city.], to the present. Have students pair up again and explain why the five largest cities in the USA are located where they are.
The Five Largest Cities in the USA as of 1990:
New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia.
Share ideas as a class. Students should have discovered that the reasons found for the locations of the early cities are the same reasons for the modern cities.

Introduce the fact that some of our modern cities have developed in unlikely places due to technological advances. Display a physical map of the USA. Point to the spot where Las Vegas, NV is located. Discuss the reasons why this is not a likely location for a city to grow and prosper. Reasons include: desert vegetation zone, arid climate, not located near any major river, and mountain ranges are located on either side of the city. Now show a poster, photographs, travel brochures, or maps of Las Vegas. Lead students to question why Las Vegas is located there. Answers might include: modern technology such as irrigation systems, modern transportation links, and satellite communication. Give students a few other examples of modern cities in areas where they would not expect them to be because of the physical geography of the place: Tucson, Arizona and Austin, Texas.

Draw Conclusions: Some examples are: Cities have developed in certain locations because of favorable physical and human conditions. Modern technology has expanded the possibilities for the locations of cities.

Evaluation/Assessment: Pair students up again. Tell them to select a location anywhere in the world for a new city to develop and prosper. Explain the reasons for the location of that city. refer to the atlases, a variety of maps, and your knowledge of modern technology for your reasons.

Extension/Enrichment: Historical and cultural events also play a role in the location of cities. Find out what events led to the location of these two cities: Mecca, Saudi Arabia and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Study the history of Timbuktu in the present day country of Mali in Africa. Find out why it grew to be a prosperous center of trade, education, culture, and religion then declined to the state of a dusty desert town.

Research the development of cities in the Negev Desert in Israel.

Reflection: How successful was this lesson? Did all students benefit? Were there any surprises? What might you do differently next time? Please note any changes that will make this lesson more effective and useful in the future and pass them along to the NHGA. We appreciate your comments.

Thank you,
The authors


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