UCCI Course Description

World Geography by Design

Overview Course Content Course Materials
Length of Course
Half Year (1 semester; 2 quarters)
Subject Area - Discipline
History / Social Science (A) - World History / Cultures / Historical Geography
UC Honors Designation
CTE Sector
Arts, Media, and Entertainment
CTE Pathway
Design, Visual, and Media Arts
Grade Level(s)
9 - 12


World Geography by Design is the study of geography through the lens of the Design, Visual and Media Arts pathway. Students will use visual design to make connections between geographical regions and the human cultures that populate them. Students will learn design principles that communicate the fundamental language of geography. Throughout the course, students will create a multimedia profile of a teenage global citizen and examine how visual images impact the human perspective.

Culminating Product / Recurring Assignments

Profile of a Global Citizen

The Profile of a Global Citizen is a project designed to inform students and their peers about what it means to be a global citizen. Students will create a profile of a teenager from an area of the world that they are unfamiliar with, and emphasis should be placed on regions that allow for all seven continents to be equally represented. Students will research the geographical and cultural features of their assigned region and create various maps, information graphics, and products that will be compiled at the end of the course.

Critique Process

Throughout this course, students will give and receive formal critiques of each other’s work, both written and verbal, to analyze effective use of elements of art, principles of design and credibility of source data. These critiques also afford students the ability to examine and learn about the cultures and geography investigated by their classmates, thus providing them with opportunities to gain breadth of knowledge across cultures. Based on the feedback from the critiques, students can revise their previous products.

Course Content

Unit 1 : Mapping The Road to Global Citizenship

Unit 1 Description

Students will be introduced to concepts such as spatial organization of people, places, terrain and environments on Earth's surface. Then, students will learn how cartographers and social scientists use the principles of art and design to analyze, compare, contrast and communicate these ideas through iconography and information graphics. They will present this acquired information visually by using the Principles of Art and Design to create individual and regional maps. This will become a component of the culminating course project: Profile of a Global Citizen.

1: Global Citizenship Starts at Home

Students will begin their journey as global citizens at home by creating a publication (such as a brochure, pamphlet or web page) highlighting basic geographic features of their own region or state. In this introductory assignment students will consider lay-out, space, fonts/typography, and basic principles of design. This will also serve as an introduction to the basic features of industry standard print or web design software.

2: Empathy Through Knowledge

Each student will assume the persona of a teenager from a particular region (country, area of the world, etc.) to develop an understanding of the world through that teenager’s eyes. This should be a region unfamiliar to them. Using industry standard word processing or presentation software, and sound research principles, the student will produce an essay, report, slide presentation, live presentation, or similar that demonstrates knowledge of the geography of their region and the impact that geography has on the life and choices available to their hypothetical teenager. In their research, students should find a historical map (pre-1800) of their region. Students analyze the geographic features of that map, including design elements and aesthetics of the time compared to those of their own time. This analysis is incorporated into their essay/presentation. This product will become one component of their culminating project, Profile of a Global Citizen.

3: Mapping a Global Citizen

Through exploration of their global peers’ physical world, students will be introduced to the effective use of the principles of art and design, iconography, symbols and visual shorthand used to communicate ideas in various forms of media (advertisements, traffic signs, corporate logos). They will then learn how cartographers and graphic designers use these techniques to represent the basic geographical features in maps and other graphics. Students will put these techniques into action by producing a map of their region including key, scale, the global grid, a compass rose, and icons to identify significant landmarks, geographic features, cities and other key elements. The completed map should also include symbols and icons that represent the political boundaries, major geographical features as well aspects of daily life and routines (recreation, employment, education, diet). As representatives and global citizens of that region, they will present their map to the class, and explain their design choices.

Unit 2 : Physical Geography, Maps, and Natural Disasters

In this unit students will explore the physical systems of the earth by studying maps outlining the physical characteristics of a region and the physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface. In addition to map studies, students will also explore the region's history of natural disasters and its influence on the ecosystems where individuals live, and how the physical geography creates the unique characteristics of different hubs of civilization in the region. Students will also explore their region's natural resources and analyze the utilization of resources and their relationship to a country’s gross domestic product, through mapping and graphs. Students will analyze their compiled data and make claims as to how effectively resources are handled regionally. Through this process of learning about a region's physical geography and creating visual representations of those aspects students learn how a region’s physical geography helps form a distinct culture and economy. Using standard industry software, elements of art, and principles of design students will create maps, graphs, and infographics showcasing their regions specific geological features, differing ecosystems, natural hazards, natural resources,and physical makeup of the different population hubs of the region.

1: Students will study the physical systems of their country/region, by looking at physical and topographical maps of the region, and the iconography used by cartographers to distinguish different geographical features. Based on the information gathered from that study, students will make a digital publication (such as an interactive maps, infographics, photographic journalism) showcasing the different areas that people live in, and how their lifestyles differ from others based on their geographic location (Mountain Village life vs. Coastal Village Life). They will also include an explanation as to why the difference of lifestyle is impacted by the physical geography of the region (eg., recreational activities or careers dictated by physical geography). Using standard industry software students will compile graphs of natural resource exports and imports and compare those with the country's GDP. After analysis of their region’s data, students will expound, through class discussion or other appropriate format, on the cause of the country’s economy and why its handling of natural resources is beneficial or detrimental.

2: Students learn of the natural disasters and dangers of their region and explain how the physical geography dictates what natural disasters and hazards are present; for example, volcanoes pose threats due to the region being on a plate boundary, or hurricanes pose a threat depending on the the region's proximity to the coast and equator. Using industry standard software, students create a disaster preparedness pamphlet that informs citizens of procedures to follow in the event of a disaster, taking into account that visual understanding of the information is paramount so that illiterate or non native speakers can understand without reading. Through this process students connect the region’s geography to the natural dangers and catastrophes present in the region, and utilize the power of the image to communicate non verbally.

3: Students will collect data on their region's natural resources, trade patterns, gross domestic product, and career opportunities related to the region's natural resources. Using industry standard software students will create an advertisement showcasing a main resource available in the region and what career opportunities are available from that resource. For example, gold is present so you might spend your life as a gold miner. Students will obtain an understanding of the relationship between local careers and natural resources.

Unit 3 : Human Geography: Culture, Environment and Society

This unit allows students to understand the power of an image along with the link between design and information. Students research, analyze, and visually represent their country’s human systems, environment, and society -- specifically, population (distribution and human settlement), region’s cultural mosaic (mixture of ethnic groups), economic interdependence, and human cooperation/conflict. Students research how a subgroup in their region is represented in the media by viewing multiple images (i.e., photographs, political cartoons, or other types of illustrations). For an advanced level understanding, students identify images that conjure positive and negative connotations. Armed with that knowledge, students will utilize digital or traditional methods to create information graphics that display complex information quickly and clearly. Ultimately, this will become a component of the culminating course project: Profile of a Global Citizen.

1: Cultural Significance

To develop a deeper understanding of their country’s cultural significance, students select, justify, and research a subgroup of their region, including the geographic history that subgroup dating back at least 500 years. Students research representations of their subgroup in the media by viewing multiple images such as photographs, political cartoons, or other types of illustrations, and should identify images that conjure positive and negative connotations. Students extend their understanding of the principles of design as they analyze how artists use those principles to influence an audience’s perception of its subject. For instance, they could examine the ways in  which the combination of balance, emphasis, and movement provide insight to the key figure’s background and/or contribution. In a written reflection, students again assume the persona of the teenager from their particular country to describe how the various images of their subgroup empower or diminish the sub group's significance. This reflection will aid them in compiling the information graphic.

2: Humanizing a Global Citizen

Students utilize a variety of tools (search engines, newspapers/magazines, textbook, supplement texts, graphs, videos, personal narratives and the like) to determine the region’s ethnic groups, religions, and cultural aspects (education, arts, leisure, and family dynamics). Students display this collection of information through text and images in a cohesive collage, which highlights life today in their region, but also illustrates at least three culturally significant historical images dating to pre-1800. Students draw upon knowledge gained about principle of design to pay close attention to layout of the collage, and label or annotate it with relevant dates and key terms that highlight historical and cultural information.The research and design skills from creating this collage will aid students in compiling the information graphic in the next assignment.

3: Presenting the Human Perspective

Students combine the research from assignment 2 with the images from assignment 1 to create an infographic. Students self-select a number of researched facts and information to include in an information graphic that clearly communicates a factual reality. The infographic must include text and images about the region’s key figures, ethnic groups, religions, and culture. It should represent the human perspective of the region in an original, eye-catching form and should represent students’ understanding of how the principles of design influence an audience’s perception (i.e. the power of an image).

Unit 4 : Social Issues of Global Concern

Students will research and study a number of current global issues (such as climate change, overpopulation, international drug trade), which has an impact on societies and individuals around the world. Applying their geographic knowledge, students discuss current events and news, considering the impact of events on teenage life in different countries and regions. Students read articles to compile information about these issues, and the impact they have on their lives and the lives of their peers in the twenty-first century. Following class discussions, students each develop a narrative about the impact of an event on society in one country, supporting their position with facts and images and then adapt that narrative into sequential graphic art to tell the story of an event’s impact upon a teenager’s life. Students apply skills in technology and graphic arts to produce presentations that communicate their learning to the class. These products will be added to their Profile of a Global Citizen.

1: Research and Class Discussion of Global Issue

After conducting exploratory research, students work as a class to identify important current global issues and should settle on 2-3 for the focus of a class discussion. Students further their research by evaluating and identifying reliable sources from the internet, reading appropriate articles and locating relevant facts and images that reflect the impact of the event/s or issue/s on the lives of teenagers. Students write summaries of their research with an annotated bibliography, which can be used during the discussion. In a group discussion format, such as a Socratic Seminar or Philosophical Chairs activity, students discuss the researched issues. Each student should discuss their topics from the point of view of teenagers living in different regions of the world.

2: A Written Narrative

Students research the news and current events in their focus region or country and select an important recent news event that relates to current global issues. This could be a continuation of the topic/s selected in the prior assignment, or could be a new issue. For this assignment, students create a narrative about how a teenager’s life has been affected by a current event. The narrative should tell a story about changes in the person’s life over time, should include a discussion of cause and effect and should make connections to the specific economic, social and/or climate conditions in the country or region where the teen resides. This written narrative will form the basis of the presentation in the next assignment and may take the form of written text or a rough-draft storyboard.

3: An Artistic Presentation of A Teenager’s Reaction to a Current Event

Students adapt their narrative from the previous assignment into a presentation to illustrate their work in a meaningful way. The class will first review examples of sequential art, with a focus on conveying cause and effect and changes over time. This review should include selecting still or video images that illustrate the current event and related social issue/s. The presentation may take the form of a comic strip, a slide show, a video documentary, or similar product. Students should use at least two forms of communication media and apply design principles to complete an affecting and moving presentation intended to educate American teenagers about the social issue in their assigned country. The presentation will become part of the Profile of a Global Citizen.

Unit 5 : Presenting the Global Citizen

In this final unit, students will create a digital or print profile of a hypothetical teenager that lives in a specific region. This profile can take the form of a Social Media-style web page, a website, magazine, booklet, video or similar. The profile will combine their previous key assignments, including his/her place in cultural history, into a cohesive visual narrative designed to give a holistic view of life in a specific region. Students share their completed work with the class, through a gallery walk, class web page, or live presentation.

The Profile of a Global Citizen will use two or more forms of media (digital illustration, desktop publishing, video, web design) and should include maps, infographics and such created in past key assignments. Students will demonstrate effective of use of iconography, various types of maps and information graphics.

Students display their final project to the public via gallery walks or other appropriate form of presentation to celebrate their accomplishments and showcase their Profiles of Global Citizens in a public forum.

Course Materials

Primary Texts:

  • Geography Alive!, 2006, Teachers Curriculum Institute (by Diane Hart, Berger & Brunez, eds.)
    Supplemental materials for this text including the placards and mapping labs are also well designed.

  • Glencoe World Geography and Cultures, 2008 McGraw Hill, pub.

Teaching Resources:

  • The AVID Student Success Path Teacher Guide Set, AVID Center (www.AVID.org)
    Includes teacher guides for Socratic Seminars and Philosophic Chairs.

Supplemental Instructional Materials:

Software for Design Projects:

  • Several different types of software could be used to compete the projects in this course, including web page design applications, slide show or presentation packages, video editing software, or desktop publishing / page layout programs. The selection would depend upon teacher preference and skills, and the software available in the school. The most robust classes would involve the use of two or more of these options.

  • Commonly used software applications that might be used for this course include Adobe Creative Suite, Google Applications (e.g. Slides, Web Designer, etc.), Microsoft Programs (e.g. Publisher, Power Point), Apple Software (e.g. iMovie, FinalCut).

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