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People and Places Go Together Like PB&J

Posted on January 09 2022

People and Places Go Together Like PB&J

Dear Educator,

Places affect people, and people affect places. In Geography studies, this is one of the main themes, called Human-Environment interaction. But as educators, you know that people and place belong together in far more ways than those specifically related to geography. 

Characters and settings interact inextricably. What is Harry Potter without Hogwarts or Bilbo Baggins without Middle Earth? Historically, wars have been fought over proximity, resource needs, and other issues of place related to the people who live there. 

Even biologically, humans are able to adapt to a greater range of environments than most other species. We live in frigid tundra, deserts, rain forests, and a variety of temperate climates in between. We use our brain. which powers our ability to create tools, to adapt to a myriad of places. The human story is forever tied to place in our past history, and how we treat Earth will influence the story of humanity in the future. 

As you return from winter break, now is an excellent time to engage your students in thinking about this most important relationship and how it affects them. For example, with students having spent time studying at home instead of at school because of COVID, how does a specific environment for an activity, such as school, help support that activity? Help students recognize how place affects behavior.

Geography News Network

This GNN article focuses on the infamous Trail of Tears—the forced removal of southeastern Native Americans from their ancestral lands to areas much farther west. The native lands where indigenous people had been living in North America before the arrival of Europeans was rich with natural resources. There was plenty for everyone. The Europeans, in contrast, were stuck together on a relatively small continent, divided into numerous countries, competing for limited supplies. Thus, they were motivated to explore and exploit distant lands that could provide abundant resources. Eventually, Native Americans were forced to move from their more prosperous lands to distant lands to the west. Encourage students to think about how the story of the Trail of Tears relates to people and place. There are multiple levels here to investigate—from the exploration by Europeans who were looking for new places, to the literal march to a new place that today is still home to much of the reservation lands for Native Americans. Ask students what makes land valuable? Why was land to the west less desirable? Why did the Trail of Tears occur? Have them create their own questions on the theme of people and place or answer any of the prompts provided.

Field Trip Library

Texas is one of the wealthiest states of the U.S. One of the reasons is that it contains oil—a natural resource that is a fossil fuel used especially to power vehicles. Places rich in resources provide financial opportunities for the people who live there. Encourage students to think about other areas that have desirable natural resources. How are the economics of a place tied to what is found there, and how does this then affect the lives of the people who live there?

Lesson Map

Africa is another place—this time an entire continent, not just a state—which has resources that have affected not only the people who live there but also those from outside who wanted to exploit those resources. This Lesson Map and accompanying teacher edition fully explore this complicated topic. 

Geography News Network

It is nearly impossible to separate Mark Twain’s stories from the Mississippi River—which was both the setting for some of his most famous works and also where he grew up. Twain is not the only author deeply associated with a place. For example, Charles Dickens automatically conjures up thoughts of England. What other authors and places are intertwined? How does one’s childhood home affect their point of view, even if they move elsewhere? Where is home to people? Encourage students to write their own essay that describes the place in which they are most familiar and how this place has helped shape them.


Chris McCandless is the main character in Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild. Chris must journey into the wilds of Alaska—however, he was from the suburbs of Virginia. After going through this activity with students, encourage them to consider what they would do if they were in an environment that was completely unfamiliar to them. What would they have to learn how to do, based on where they imagine being? Help students see how adaptable humans are to different environments, but also consider the challenges faced by the unfamiliar.


It’s hard to not focus on this fantastic map, no matter the topic! Here, you and your students can see many of the peoples that lived in North America before the arrival of Europeans. They are also grouped by culture areas, illustrating their relative location. Have students pick a culture area to explore to better understand how the people who lived in those areas adapted. Then, have them compare those people to people who lived in an entirely different area, to better show the relationship between one’s place and how one lives. 

To extend the concept and make connections for your students, discuss your own area. How is your city or town divided into different places? Are some suburbs or areas known in particular ways? Why? Are the areas defined by economics, landforms or water features, development, usage, or in other ways? How do the different places affect the people who live there? Do people stay in your town or city, or do they move? Why do people move or even emigrate? Notice that there is much to be said on this topic!!!!

High-quality geography products for the classroom. From globes to wall maps, atlases to games, offers a wealth of products to help put your classroom on the map.

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