K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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  • The regions of North Carolina: In this lesson, students analyze the differences between North Carolina's geographical regions: the Mountains, the Piedmont, and the Inner and Outer Coastal Plain.
  • Introducing the Blue Ridge Parkway: In this lesson, students will be introduced to the Blue Ridge Parkway. They will work in groups to analyze historical photographs of the Parkway in order to determine what purpose it serves and why it is such a unique landmark.
  • Shifting coastlines: In their study of North Carolina's changing coastline during the Paleoindian and Archaic periods, students will determine the positions of the coastline at different times and decide what types of archaeological information has been lost due to rising sea levels.

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Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to answer these essential questions:
    • How do the people who settle within a state affect its growth and development?
    • What events in history affected the geography of North Carolina?
  • Students will be able to form answers to this thought-provoking question and support their answers with valid arguments:
    • How might North Carolina’s culture and population change in the next century?
  • Students will also be able to:
    • Utilize visual data
    • Draw inferences
    • Draw conclusions
    • Form opinions and support them with facts

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

One or two 70-minute class periods


  • student textbooks
  • copies of blank outline maps of North Carolina
  • copies of “Group Findings: Historical Map Analysis” worksheet — one copy for each group (Note: This Word document can be modified to fit your students’ needs)
  • current map of North Carolina
  • photographs from the Built Heritage collection from the North Carolina State University Special Collections Research Center — one map copy for each group. (Note: To access the images, you may need to make sure you have enabled your browser to accept pop-ups from the Built Heritage page.)
  • optional: computer with LCD projector or an overhead projector to project photographs from the Built Heritage website (You may choose to project the images instead of distributing paper copies.)


  • Make copies of the images to distribute among the groups of students. Each group will need one historical map. Another option is to set up an LCD or overhead projector to display the images for the class.
  • Before this activity students should have background knowledge of:
    • Latitude, longitude, absolute location
    • North Carolina’s geographic regions
    • The groups that settled North Carolina and why


Preview Activity: Reviewing for Previewing

  1. Give students a blank outline map of North Carolina that contains lines of latitude and longitude.
  2. Have students label the regions of North Carolina and any other geographic feature they think influenced the settlement of North Carolina.
  3. Have students write a paragraph detailing the settlement of North Carolina.
  4. Ask two or three students to share their paragraph or to name some of the major geographic features of North Carolina they included on their maps.
  5. Ask students the following questions:
    • What did the shared maps and paragraphs have in common?
    • What geographic features do you think most influenced the development of North Carolina? Why?
  6. Show students a map of North Carolina as it is today and ask:
    • What do you think will be the next big geographic change to North Carolina? Why?

By leading students through this questioning process, you give them conceptual information they will need to better evaluate the maps they will be given.

Activity: Social Studies Skill Builder

  1. Explain to students they will work in small groups to gather information about the geography of North Carolina in different time periods to form hypotheses about the major events that affected this development.
  2. Place students in cooperative groups of two to three (depending on class size).
  3. Give each group a copy of one map from the Built Heritage Collection and one copy of the “Group Findings: Historical Map Analysis” worksheet to record their observations. Using their textbooks, notes, and each other, they are to complete the worksheet for the map they examine. The worksheet can be modified to fit your students’ needs.
  4. This activity will take at least 30 minutes, since students need to gather information about the time period from their textbooks and their notes.
  5. Pull the class back together to debrief the activity. Have each group share their findings. Did groups make the same inferences? If they made different ones, what evidence caused them to make these inferences? What events have had the greatest effect on North Carolina?
  6. To conclude the lesson, the author recommends using one of the following activities, which allow students to express themselves creatively while demonstrating what they have learned during the unit:
    • Illustrated historical atlas: Explain to students they will be given three blank outline maps of North Carolina. Using the maps from the Built Heritage Collection, their textbook and its atlas, and the internet, they are to create an illustrated historical atlas. Make sure their final product contains the following items, which can be used to create a rubric:
      • Three North Carolina maps: one each from the 1700s, 1800s, and the 1900s
      • At least four events that affected the geographic development of North Carolina (Four for each map; twelve total), with a short description written in complete sentences for each event
      • One picture to illustrate each of the events chosen for each map (One for each event; twelve total)
      • No spelling or grammar errors to distract the reader
    • Future North Carolina map: Students will create a map of North Carolina in the 21st century. Make sure their final product contains the following items, which can be used to create a rubric:
      • A title to specify changes the student wants to emphasize (resources, change in population, counties, etc.)
      • A date to denote the year or decade of this map (should be dated at least thirty years from now)
      • A key to denote special information
      • A two-to-three paragraph explanation of the changes that have occurred to North Carolina’s geography and what caused these changes
      • Free of spelling and grammar errors that confuse or interrupt the reader

Critical vocabulary

The distance north or south from the equator of a point on the earth’s surface, measured on the meridian of the point.
The distance east or west on the earth’s surface, measured by the angle contained between the meridian of a particular place and some prime meridian, as that of Greenwich, England, and expressed either in degrees or by some corresponding difference in time.
absolute location
A point on the earth’s surface expressed by a coordinate system such as latitude and longitude.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 8

        • 8.G.1 Understand the geographic factors that influenced North Carolina and the United States. 8.G.1.1 Explain how location and place have presented opportunities and challenges for the movement of people, goods, and ideas in North Carolina and the United States....
        • 8.H.1 Apply historical thinking to understand the creation and development of North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.1.1 Construct charts, graphs, and historical narratives to explain particular events or issues. 8.H.1.2 Summarize the literal meaning of...
        • 8.H.3 Understand the factors that contribute to change and continuity in North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.3.1 Explain how migration and immigration contributed to the development of North Carolina and the United States from colonization to contemporary...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 8

  • Goal 1: The learner will analyze important geographic, political, economic, and social aspects of life in the region prior to the Revolutionary Period.
    • Objective 1.01: Assess the impact of geography on the settlement and developing economy of the Carolina colony.
    • Objective 1.06: Identify geographic and political reasons for the creation of a distinct North Carolina colony and evaluate the effects on the government and economics of the colony.
  • Goal 8: The learner will evaluate the impact of demographic, economic, technological, social, and political developments in North Carolina since the 1970's.
    • Objective 8.01: Describe the changing demographics in North Carolina and analyze their significance for North Carolina's society and economy.