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Author: chris tobola

to understand the world geographically

this will help to understand the basic concepts of geography


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Ferris Bueller's Day Off

The Five Themes of Geography

Resources for Ferris Bueller's Day Off

I. Rationale:

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!

There are numerous definitions of geography, but geography is not just the memorization of place names on a map. There are definitions of the field of geography in every social studies or geography textbook, and students often try to grasp at a definition such as: "geography is the study of . . . landscapes, mountains, maps, climates, rivers, and people.”  However, while a definition of the field certainly includes “maps and mountains and regions and people”, it is essential for students to understand geography's unique way of understanding the world; they must discover their own unique method of defining the essence of geography, and learn to apply the tools of analysis that characterize the study of human geography in an entertaining and stimulating manner.
In the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris and his friends will skip school, and in the process lead students through a travelogue of the city of Chicago. Discussions, map exercises, and a final report and debate will allow Ferris--and the instructor--to showcase the definition of human geography and demonstrate the five major themes of geography in preparation for the AP Exam.

II. Instructional Objectives:

Students will:

Assign relative and absolute location.
Determine the significant characteristics of "place" .
Describe a region in terms of culture, physical features, trade, industry.
List reasons why movement and trade are key events in the study of geography.
Understand that human actions modify the physical environment be able to explain significant human-environment interactions.
Use mental maps to organize information about people, places and environments in a spatial context.
Analyze the spatial organization of people, places and environments on the Earth's surface.
Describe the physical and human characteristics of places.
Gain an awareness of the characteristics, distribution, and movement of human populations on Earth's surface.
Recognize the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface
Engage themselves in the process of defending a position

III. Materials and Equipment:

Handouts: Five Themes, Maps of Chicago, Video Introduction.
Video: "Ferris Buller’s Day Off" (Paramount) 1986.

IV. Instructional Procedures:

(Time Required: Five Class Periods; 45 minutes each)

Part One: Defining Geography

1. Lesson Initiating Activity - Give the instructor concepts which might be included in the study of geography. On the board, map these using visual concept mapping.

2. Core Activity #1 - Define the science based on what these concepts have in common. Some definitions include:

a social science that focuses on the spatial distribution of human and physical phenomena;
the study of the physical world, its inhabitants, the interaction between the two, and the patterns and systems involved;
the world and all that is in it;
the study of pattern and processes associated with the earth;
the study of relationships between humans and their environment by emphasizing a spatial and environmental perspective at a variety of scales;
a spatial discipline---it is a perspective that seeks to understand patterns on Earth and the processes that created them;
the study of humans interacting with their environment including the physical environment, the built environment and socially constructed spaces; and
a spatial perspective of all human and physical phenomena.

3. One can readily see that the word “spatial” appears in these definitions or is implied in all of them. Geography is concerned with where and why things are located as they are. It is concerned with the patterns of phenomena and the processes that created them. Therefore there is no special or specific subject matter which it studies, but rather its subject matter is Earth, described and explained using the spatial perspective. History is somewhat similar because its subject matter is Earth in the historical perspective.

4. The 1986 Guidelines for Geographic Education and the "Five Themes of Geography."

- Relative Location
- Absolute Location
- Humans adapt to the environment
- Humans modify the environment
- Humans depend on the environment
- Formal
- Functional
- Perceptual (vernacular)
- Human Characteristics
- Physical Characteristics
- People
- Goods
- Ideas

Part Two: Chicago vs. Ferris

The students will:
- Read and analyze maps of Chicago
- Watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off
- Create a paper with a map of Ferris' route

5. Lesson Initiating Activity - Instruct pairs of students to refer to Google Maps, or any reputable mapping site throughout the movie.  In the film, Ferris and his friends will spend the day in and around Chicago. It is the students' job to track where and when Ferris is during the course of the day with the expectation that they will be able to conclusively prove whether or not Ferris could have done all the things he does in the film in real life.

6. Core Activity #2 - Watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Students will have five minutes to discuss the previous day’s segment at the beginning of each class period. They should be following Ferris’ adventures on their map. Students will have to go online to discover the absolute location of some of the places depicted in the scenes of the movie. Keep in mind that there are several different maps with different scales and intended users.

7. Closure Activity - After acquainting themselves with the movie, noting pertinent facts and evidence from the film, and highlighting their maps of Chicago, students should be able to complete their arguments as the viability of Ferris’ day trip.  Students must be prepared to present their evidence, and identify thematic relationships to the themes of geography (example: Where is Ferris’ home and school? How do they know that? Why are suburbs built? Why would Chicago have a German day? Where did these immigrants come from and why?), and they must be able to back up their arguments with evidence from the film.

V. Assessment and Evaluation:

1. Class Participation - The quality of student participation in class discussion and concept achievement will be assessed.

2. Paper - The paper's grade will be based on the students' effort and ability to recognize, analyze, and use the tools of geographic analysis on the film.  Each partnership/triad must submit a type-written paper of no more than five pages dealing with two critical issues:

a. Explain whether or not Ferris could have completed his trip in the allotted time.  Give a complete timeline of the days' events, and highlight three events/reasons why Ferris could/could not complete his excursion in one day.  All opinions must be completely backed up with facts and figures.  Graphs, charts, and other illustrations may be included to augment your arguments.

b. Explain the five key geographical concepts of location, place, interaction, movement, and region using actual examples from the film.  Use ONE example for each concept, and be complete in the breadth of your explanation.  Be sure to use the "geographic jargon".


3. Map - A map depicting the travels of Ferris will bolster the presentation's validity and reliability.  The map must highlight the route Ferris and his friends throughout his day off.  The map must be attached to the final paper. (Note: you may use more than one map; you could use multiple scales to show the greater Chicago area as well as downtown Chicago, for instance)


4. Additional Elements - The font of the paper should be Times New Roman (size 12), with 1.5 spacing, and no more than 1" margins.  Each paper must include a cover page with a title and at least one graphic, a works cited page, and a section outlining the amount of work each member of the partnership/triad contributed to final product.


Top of Page



"Where are we?" is the question that the theme Location answers. Location may be absolute or it may be relative. These locations, whether relative or absolute, may be
of people or places.

An absolute location in a latitude and longitude (a global location) or a street address (local location).

Florence, AL is 34°46' North latitude and 87º40' West longitude
Paris, France is 48°51' North latitude and 2º20' East longitude
Marshall Islands are 10°00' North latitude and 165°00' East longitude

Relative locations are described by landmarks, time, direction or distance from one place to another and may associate a particular place with another.


What kind of place is it? What do you think of when you imagine China? Japan? Russia? Saudi Arabia?

Places have both human and physical characteristics, as well as images.

Physical characteristics include mountains, rivers, soil, beaches, wildlife, soil. Places have human characteristics also. These characteristics are derived from the ideas
and actions of people that result in changes to the environment, such as buildings, roads, clothing, and food habits.

The image people have of a place is based on their experiences, both intellectual and emotional. People's descriptions of a place reveal their values, attitudes, and

How is your hometown connected to other places? What are the human and physical characteristics of Florence? How do these shape our lives?


How do humans and the environment affect each other? We change the environment and then sometime Mother Nature changes it back. For example, floods in the mid-West, Hurricane Emily (Hatteras), and earthquakes and mudslides in California.

There are three key concepts to human/environmental interaction:

Humans adapt on the environment.
Humans modify the environment.
Humans depend to the environment.

People depend on the Tennessee River for our water and transportation. People modify our environment by heating and cooling buildings for comfort. People adapt to the environment by wearing clothing that is suitable for summer and winter; rain and shine.

All places on Earth have advantages and disadvantages for human settlement. One person's advantage may be another person's disadvantage. Some like the excitement of large cities whereas others prefer remoteness. Environment is not just trees, spotted owls, and rain forests. Environment is a feeling. What is the environment of a big
city? Boston? Los Angeles? Dallas?

Given the choice, where would you live? Why? What is the environment? How do people interact with the environment? How do the physical features affect us?

How have we adapted to or changed our landscape? For example, in the Sudan even though everything is seemingly barren, the land sustains farmers and nomadic herders. People and animals have adapted to a hot, dry climate.


The movement of people, the import and export of goods, and mass communication have all played major roles in shaping our world. People everywhere interact. They travel from place to place and they communicate. We live in a global village and global economy.

People interact with each other through movement. Humans occupy places unevenly on Earth because of the environment but also because we are social beings. We interact with each other through travel, trade, information flows (E-Mail) and political events.

Not only do humans move but also ideas move; fashions move; fads move. What is an example of an idea that moves? Fashion? Fad? How do we depend on people in other places? How would our lives change if our movement options changed? What would happen if we traveled by camel or horse? How do we move from place to place? How do
we actually get food?


A region is the basic unit of study in geography. A region is an area that displays a coherent unity in terms of the government, language, or possibly the landform or situation. Regions are human constructs that can be mapped and analyzed.

There are three basic types of regions.

Formal regions are those defined by governmental or administrative boundaries (i. e., United States, Birmingham, Brazil). These regional boundaries are not open to dispute, therefore physical regions fall under this category (i. e., The Rockies, the Great Lakes States).

Functional regions are those defined by a function (i. e., TVA, United Airlines Service area or a newspaper service area). If the function ceases to exists, the region no
longer exists.

Vernacular regions are those loosely defined by people's perception (i. e., The South, The Middle East).

What region do we live in? What type of region is it? What are its characteristics? South, North Alabama, the Shoals, the University community? What states do you
define as the South? The Northeast? The Bible Belt? What characteristics and perceptions go along with these regions?