Introduction to Module Six: Africa and Its Geography
OVERVIEW: In this module, you will gain a better understanding of the geography of Africa by learning about Africa’s geographic location, its diverse landforms (physical characteristics), climate, and how Africans from a diversity of locations interact with their environment through productive activity, social institutions, and the movement of people, goods, services, and ideas. You will be engaged through a variety of computer based learning activities, teacher-led discussions, and individual homework assignments.
PURPOSE: Geography is a subject that “bridges” the natural sciences and the social sciences (which in school we refer to as the social studies) in the study of the physical, or natural, and human dimensions of the world. Geography is the study of the interconnection between people, places, and the environment.
Geographers have identified five important themes in the study of geography. This lesson will introduce these themes with special reference to the study of the geography of Africa.
1. Location and spatial relations: The surface of our world, land and water, mountains and plains, oceans and lakes, is a defined space called earth. Earth can be divided into smaller spaces defined as continents, or divided further still into political units that are called countries, states, or even cities and villages. All human beings live, work, and play at specific locations that are called districts, villages, cities, countries, and continents. Geographers believe that every place where people live, work, play, etc. is shaped by that place’s location in relationship to other places. Geographers use the term spatial relations when they study the impact of location on human activities.
This lesson will investigate Africa’s spatial location in relationship to other spaces and locations in the world. Maps, visual representations of space and locations, will be an essential tool in undertaking this investigation.
2. Places and Regions: In the locations or places where they live, people organize themselves in social, economic, cultural, and political institutions. Geographers are interested in how the physical surroundings of particular places interact with social, political, economic, and cultural institutions to create geographically defined areas called regions. This lesson will introduce five regions in Africa: North, West, Central, East, and Southern. Later lessons will investigate the physical, human, and social characteristics of these regions.
3. Physical Systems: Geographers are interested in the physical systems and characteristics that shape places and regions. Geographers pay particular attention to land forms (mountains, valleys, plateaux, plains) and the forces that shape them: climate and vegetation.
This lesson, with the help of maps and photographs, will introduce the physical environment of Africa. We will begin to study the impact that Africa’s richly diverse environment has on the way people live and organize themselves into societies. The lesson will also explore the ways in which people look at, understand, and use the environments in which they live.
4. Movement: Most of social studies related subjects-history, civics, economics, and sociology- share with geography an interest in the study of human societies. As indicated above, geography is particularly interested in the inter-relationship among space, physical environment, and human activity. Given this focus, geographers have a strong interest in studying the movement of people, goods, services, and ideas between places.
This lesson will explore the importance of the movement of people, goods, services, and ideas in Africa, from early times until the present.
5. Human-Environmental Interaction: Geography recognizes and studies how the physical environment -land forms, vegetation, climate- affects the way people live and the ways that humans organize themselves in social, political, and economic institutions. Just as importantly, geographers recognize that human beings, through their actions, impact and change the environments in which they live and work.
This lesson will begin the study of key environmental relationships and issues in Africa. This is a theme that will be returned to throughout our study of Africa.
OBJECTIVES: At the end of this lesson, you will be able to do the following:
- Identify important landforms/ physical features of Africa and show how they influence what people do and how they organize themselves politically, socially, and economically.
- Identify the different climates and vegetation and show how they affect people in what they do and how they organize themselves politically, socially, and economically.
- Locate Africa on a World map and make basic inferences on how location affects Africa’s global and inter-regional relationships.
- Describe the effects of human usage of landscapes over time.
- Identify important mineral and agricultural resources of Africa
- Recognize, through extensive map work, the geographic diversity of Africa and its central place in world geography.
- What are the key landforms, climatic zones, and vegetation types of Africa?
- How do landforms, climates, and types of vegetation influence people’s way of living?
- What factors impact the movement of people, goods, and ideas in Africa?
- How do the activities of people impact the environment?
Begin this module with Activity One or select from one of the other activities.
- Activity One: Location
- Activity Two: Africa’s Rivers and Lakes
- Activity Three: Africa’s Topography, Vegetation, and Climate
- Activity Four: Africa’s Natural Resources
- Activity Five: Four Maps of Movement
- Activity Six: Homework