In this challenge, students explore the diverse natural features found in each region of Alberta, by interpreting maps, and then use this information to decide on a new, more representative name for the assigned region.
Explain that Alberta currently has six distinct natural regions:
- Boreal Forest
- Canadian Shield
- Rocky Mountains.
As a class, examine a map of the natural regions and explore some of each region's basic attributes. Point out the current names of regions and identify the criteria that might have been used to determine these names; e.g., vegetation, geology. Invite students to imagine the government wants to review the current names of regions to decide if they are accurate.
Before beginning this activity, you may want to ensure students have been introduced to the various mapping techniques discussed in The Story within the Map (Critical Challenge). Explain that it is expected that students learn as much as they can about a particular region of Alberta. Consider modeling the process, using one of the regions as an example, or researching most of the regions as a class. Then, have students work individually or in groups to compile and record detailed information from a variety maps; e.g., relief, climate, geological, vegetation. These maps may be found in a student atlas or online (see References). You may want to provide supplementary text sources of information.
Encourage students to go beyond their initial conclusions to uncover less obvious facts; e.g., no other region in the province has the same kind of rocks or vegetation. Consider adapting the chart and strategies for Supporting Conclusions (Support Material) to structure and assess students' research. If this chart is used, draw students' attention to the difference between a conclusion (i.e., what they think) and a clue (i.e., why they think this) as they uncover facts.
Help students categorize the information they found and understand the names of the categories; e.g., geography, climate, vegetation, major landforms, geology, paleontology, population, economy. Suggest that students cut out the conclusions they have reached and paste them under the appropriate category to create a web. You may adapt the chart and strategies for Webbing Ideas (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity or create a large wall chart to organize information.
Post the finished webs around the classroom and ask students to identify differences and similarities. After reviewing the other webs, direct each group to highlight features of its region that are not found in many other regions.
Explain to students that their next task is to provide a new, more representative name for their assigned region, based on important features of the region. Ask each group to identify five features of its region and rate how well each feature meets the following four criteria:
- uniqueness; e.g., Is it special and not shared by many of the other regions in the province?
- permanence; e.g., Has it been present for a long time? Is it not likely to change much for many years?
- effect on the people who live or visit the region; e.g., Does it greatly influence the way people live and what they do?
- effect on the climate; e.g., Does it greatly influence the temperature and weather in the region?
Ask students to select the highest rated feature for their region and present their choice to the class, along with evidence that it meets the criteria. Each group should then come up with a name that clearly describes or identifies the highest rated feature and present the recommended name to the class, with its justification. Consider adapting one of the charts and the strategies in Rating Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
If a large outline map of Alberta has been prepared, invite students to identify the location of the natural regions, record the traditional name and, in parenthesis, write their recommended name.