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CareerStart lessons: Grade seven

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Learning outcomes

Students will evaluate a map showing physical features of Africa and determine how geography affects the people of Africa. Students will learn about careers that require mapping skills.

Teacher preparation

Time required for lesson

Approximately one class period (55 minutes). Homework time (10-15 minutes) may be needed.

Materials needed

  • Computer and projector to project physical map of Africa (Note: to access the largest size of the map, click on the link below the image, and then click to zoom in.)
  • Note: If you don’t have access to a computer and projector, you may make a transparency copy of the map
  • Overhead projector and pen
  • Student handouts:
  • Classified ad page from a newspaper (optional but suggested)
  • Optional: Computers with internet access


  1. Write the word cartographer on the board or overhead. Ask students to brainstorm what they think a cartographer does. If no one knows, tell class that a cartographer is a person who makes the maps and charts that help us to know more about our world. If available, have students look through classified ads and write down jobs that require some level of mapping or map-reading skills. (Examples could include UPS workers, postal workers, pizza delivery, bus drivers. If classified ads are not available, help the students to brainstorm careers that use maps.) (10 minutes)
  2. Explain that many careers involve decision-making based on maps, charts, data files, etc. Tell students that the objective of this lesson is to see how physical maps can help us understand and make inferences about how those features impact the lives of the people of a region.
  3. Review the following terms with the students:
    physical features/characteristics
    land forms, bodies of water, climate
    human characteristics
    the cultural elements of a region, including its language, religion, food, sports, and government
    relative location
    the location of a place in relation to other places
    population density
    the number of people living per unit of an area (e.g. number of people per square mile)
  4. Tell students that they will work alone or in small groups to examine a physical map of Africa and make inferences regarding how those features affect life. At the end of the lesson, students will brainstorm careers that involve analyzing data from charts, maps, etc. (5-10 minutes)
  5. Guided Practice: Project the physical map of Africa and have students note the continent’s general physical features, including:
    • Africa is between 35º N and 35º S latitude
    • The equator crosses the continent at its center
    • The continent is surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

    Then have students note the relative location of the Namib Desert. (It borders the Atlantic Ocean and the west side of the continent, the Tropic of Capricorn goes through it, near bottom of Africa). Have students speculate what they think the population density of the Namib desert might be (probably low because the desert is a hot and dry area). Ask students to guess how people in the region might make a living (possibly coastal fishing, perhaps herding animals). Have students speculate on the people’s lifestyle in this region (possibly nomadic — people would need to move around to find water/available grazing areas). Tell students that the purpose of this exercise is to speculate about the human features of a region based on what we can learn from a map. Remind students that these answers may not be correct, but that geography can sometimes give us clues as to how the people in a region live. Encourage students who are interested in learning more to do independent research. (10 minutes)

  6. Independent Practice: Hand out the data chart and the physical map of Africa and have students use the map to complete the chart. They may work alone, with a partner, or in small groups to find information. If computers are available, students may use the online version of the map, or may look at the CIA World Factbook or other trusted websites. Circulate through the class and monitor information gathering. (20 minutes)
  7. Large Group: Ask students to share what they learned about each region and explain their responses. Clarify students’ answers as needed. (10-15 minutes)
  8. Extending the Lesson: Have students complete the questions below. If you use this extension of the lesson, you will need to take time in the next class to allow students to share.
    • Ask your parents if their jobs require them to analyze and interpret information as you’ve done today in class. Write down examples of how they use this skill.
    • We’ve seen that the job of a cartographer is an important one because so many other careers rely upon information that the cartographer records. Imagine that you are a professional cartographer. Write down two positive and two negative things regarding this career.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 7

  • Goal 1: The learner will use the five themes of geography and geographic tools to answer geographic questions and analyze geographic concepts.
    • Objective 1.02: Generate, interpret, and manipulate information from tools such as maps, globes, charts, graphs, databases, and models to pose and answer questions about space and place, environment and society, and spatial dynamics and connections.
  • Goal 2: The learner will assess the relationship between physical environment and cultural characteristics of selected societies and regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia.
    • Objective 2.01: Identify key physical characteristics such as landforms, water forms, and climate and evaluate their influence on the development of cultures in selected African, Asian and Australian regions.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 7

        • 7.G.1 Understand how geography, demographic trends, and environmental conditions shape modern societies and regions. 7.G.1.1 Explain how environmental conditions and human response to those conditions influence modern societies and regions (e.g. natural barriers,...
        • 7.G.2 Apply the tools of a geographer to understand modern societies and regions. 7.G.2.1 Construct maps, charts, and graphs to explain data about geographic phenomena (e.g. migration patterns and population and resource distribution patterns). 7.G.2.2 Use...