Title: The Heartland 228

Key Words: Heartland, region

National Standard: 6 (Culture and experience influence people's perception of places and regions)

State Standard: 11 (Physical and human geographic features that define places and regions)

Teaching Level: Middle School

Introduction: Regions are often defined by personal perceptions. The Heartland of America is one of these regions. This lesson asks students to compare information from a picture book, a song, and some statistics in order to understand the essence of a perception.

Objective: Students will recognize the importance and the limitations of personal perceptions of a region.

Materials: Atlases with agricultural map of the U.S., enough for each pair of students.
Political wall map of the U.S.
Heartland cards made by the teacher from the Handout "Heartland Information."
Handout for each student of the song "America's Heartland" by George Strait.
Optional: Recording of "America's Heartland" by George Strait.
Optional: The picture book Heartland by Diane Siebert

Procedure: Pair up students and have them use an Atlas with agricultural map of the U.S. to help identify the boundaries of this region. Suggested states include Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma.
Tell students the boundaries are not actually political but based on geography, soil, climate, and perception. The exact location of the boundaries may differ from class to class. The important concept is that the "heart" of America is a perception.

Distribute handout of the song "America's Heartland" by George Strait. Give students time to reflect and take notes on the singer's perception of the heartland.
Use notes as a basis for discussion of the Heartland as presented by the song.

Optional: Play the song "America's Heartland," and have students listen to the words as they follow along with the handout. Tell them to visualize the images presented by the singer.
Optional: Examine the Heartland of America by sharing the picture book, Heartland by Diane Siebert. Both the author and illustrator of this picture book convey strong perceptions. Give students time to reflect and make notes on the author's and illustrator's perceptions of the Heartland.

Distribute the Heartland cards to each pair of students. Tell them they will use this information along with their discussion notes to create a double entry journal: "The Heartland of the U.S.," and label one side "Positive Perceptions" and the other side "Negative Perceptions."

Evaluation/Assessment: Use notes from the double entry journal to write a song or an illustrated poem that reflects a personal perception of the Heartland.

Extension/Enrichment: Find magazine ads that depict a certain geographic setting in order to create a perception. Some examples are travel posters, brochures, car ads, etc.

Reflection: How successful was this lesson? Did all students benefit? Were there any surprises? What might you do differently another 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

Handout: "America's Heartland" by George Strait

When you hear twin fiddles and steel guitar,
Listen to the sound of the American heart.
And opry music on Saturday night
Brings a smile to your face and a tear to your eye,
Sing a song about the Heartland.
The only place I feel at home.
Sing about the way a good man
Works until the daylight's gone.
Sing the rain o the roof on a summer night
Where they still know wrong from right.
Sing a song about the Heartland.
Sing a song about my life.

Handout: Heartland Information
Use this information to make enough Heartland Cards for each pair of students.

1. One of the world's worst heatwaves caused the deaths of 465 people inn Chicago in 1927.

2. The worst terrorist attack in American history on American soil took place in Oklahoma
City in 1995.

3. Almost 20% of the people living in Oklahoma have no health insurance coverage.

4. There were over 2,200 AIDS cases reported in Illinois in 1995.

5. In 1954, the governor of Arkansas sent the National Guard to central High School in Little Rock to stop black students from attending an all-white school. President Eisenhower had to send US Army troops to protect the black students when they entered the high school.

6. In 1993, the Mississippi River overflowed its banks causing 48 deaths and irreparable damage to the land in the Midwest.

7. There were 22 hazardous waste dump sites in Missouri in 1969.

8. Iowa's population has dropped by almost 50,000 in the last 20 years because many young people are leaving Iowa to seek greater employment opportunities elsewhere.

9. There are 13 nuclear power plant in Illinois.

10. In 1985, a fireworks factory exploded in Hallett, OK killing 21 people.

11. Between 1985 and 1995, 3,000 farms in Nebraska were forced out of business because the price of agricultural products fell and the cost of operating a farm rose.

12. The FBI's publication Crime in the United states reported that Kansas City, MO, KS, had a murder rate for the last five years that almost doubled that of the average American city.

13. In 1925, the worst tornado in US history struck Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana killing 689 people.

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