Middle School Lesson - Where has development occured?


Basic Geographic Literacy, Physical Characteristics of Places and Regions, Human Characteristics of Places and Regions, Watersheds and Wetlands, Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources, Environmental Health, Humans and the Environment

Standard Statements:

7.1.9B, 7.2.9A, 7.3.9D, 4.1.7B, C; 4.2.7A,B,C; 4.3.7A,B; 4.8.7A,B,C,D

Content Objectives:

For this activity, students will:

  1. Identify physical features that have influenced development within Pennsylvania.
  2. Predict areas where development will occur in the future.
  3. Develop a map showing where they think future development will occur.

Assessment Strategies:

  • Students will generate lists of physical features and how they influence development.
  • Students will generate a visual display of one of the physical provinces of Pennsylvania.
  • Students will generate a map showing areas of potential growth.


Estimated time: varies, depending on availability of resources for research (e.g. computers with internet access) and desired extensions into social studies and geology

Suggested Level:

Grades 6-9

Standards Category:

  • Geography
  • Environment and Ecology


For the class:

  • Digital Shaded-Relief map of Pennsylvania
  • Land Cover Map
  • Base maps of Pennsylvania with major rivers and county boundaries.
  • Research resources, e.g. computers with Internet access, books, and periodicals on the history of Pennsylvania

For each team of students:

  • Access to research materials
  • Student worksheet
  • Blank sheets of paper
  • 3 or 4 colored pencils

Instructional Strategies:

  • Whole class
  • Cooperative groups

Where has Development Occurred?


Part 1

Physiographic Provinces of Pennsylvania (from the Pa. Geological Survey's website)

Map 13 Front

Map 13 Back

Pa. Counties (from the Pa. State Archives website)

The PaGS website provides information on the physiographic provinces of Pennsylvania.  Using this map, the lesson should start by assigning each student or pair of students (depending on class size) to a province.  Then, students should use the map, the Pennsylvania State Archives and other Internet or print resources to research each province and report back to the class.  Included is a form on which students can take notes during their research.  This form should help guide students to the information required for this project, but is not intended to be all-inclusive.  Encourage students to search beyond the information included on this form. 

Students should make a visual display of features such as mountains, valleys, major rivers, natural resources, large towns, approximate size, etc.  The report should also include information about the history of the development of the region:  settlement, development, industry, etc.

If access to the Internet for a class of students is not an option, the information from the web pages could be printed by the teacher and given to the students in printed form.  The same type of display and report could be produced.

Part 2

How has Pennsylvania developed?

The above activity will be a nice lead into a discussion of the types of factors that influence the development of human settlements. Below is a partial list of questions that should be discussed with the students.  Questions are in bold.  The possible answers are in normal type.  In parentheses you will find notes to the teacher.

Where did early settlements occur?  Near water resources.  Areas with fertile soil for farming.  Valleys (Identify areas on the land use and shaded relief maps that demonstrate these features).

Are there still settlements in those areas?  Yes

Some villages grew into large cities while others remained very small. (By growth, we mean both in area and population).

 What factors lead to the growth of these cities?   Accessibility. Proximity to ports, rivers, railroads, or highways depending on when the city was developed.  Proximity to natural resources.  Availability of jobs, goods and services.     (Identify areas on the land use and shaded relief maps that demonstrate these features).

What were the limiting factors for the villages that stayed small?   (Identify areas on the land use and shaded relief maps that demonstrate these features).

How has the development of these areas changed the areas? Natural resources are used up.  Landscapes change.  Roads are added.   Forests are cleared for farming.  (Accept all logical answers)

Are the original reasons for settling there still important to those who live there?  Justify your answer.   In some cases yes, in others no.  (Accept all logical answers.)

How has technology influenced growth of towns?  Made water more available.  Waste removal/sanitation improvements led to increased public health.   Goods and services were able to be transported further and faster, Ability to travel further and faster made it possible for people to live further from urban centers, i.e. development of suburbs and “bedroom towns”.  (Again, accept all logical answers)

How might technology influence future growth?  (Again, accept all logical answers)

Will the same limiting factors apply?  Probably not.

Part 3

Make a prediction.

Perhaps develop a fictitious area with very obvious factors to limit or enhance growth as a practice assignment.

Now, students will produce their own map using color to shade areas of future growth. Give each student a blank “base map”.  Have students analyze the factors that influence population growth learned in parts 1 and 2 and make predictions about where and how much growth will occur in the next 25 to 50 years.  The map should contain at least 3 shaded categories: little to no growth, moderate growth and rapid growth.  In addition to the map, the students should write a paper (the length of the paper is up to the individual teacher) to justify their predictions. 

Development of Pennsylvania

Student Name ___________________________

Class/Period _________

Date ___________

Province Name ____________________________________

Counties within the Province ___________________________________________

Largest Towns/Cities: (name and population) ________________________________________________

Major Industries: (type and location) _________________________________________________

Major Landforms and Rivers: __________________________________________________

Natural Resources: ____________________________________________________

Province Map:

Your map should include:

  • The above information
  • A key or legend for your map symbols
  • A north arrow

Province’s History Report:

Include information to answer the following questions:

  • When were the towns first founded?
  • Why are they located where they are?
  • What industries thrived there? Do they still thrive there or have other industries replaced them? If so, what are the new industries? Suggest why this happened.