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X9: Migration
Migration: Why People Move
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Migration: Why People Move
- Standard #9: The
The idea for this lesson plan was inspired by Marie Loiselle of the
Maharishi School in Fairfield, Iowa, who received a teacher grant
distribution, and
from the National Geographic Education Foundation in support of a
migration of human
project called Geographic Learning and City Growth.
population on Earth's
surface Since the dawn of human evolution, humans have migrated across
continents in search of food, shelter, safety, and hospitable weather.
People still move for these reasons, but new reasons for human
migration are arising, such as job relocation and overpopulation.
- Population Pasta This lesson will review the reasons humans move around the planet. It
- Through the Eyes of a will focus on both internal (to the U.S.) and international migrations.
Refugee Students will form small groups and research one example of
migration in depth.
Connections to the Curriculum:
Geography, demography, history
Connections to the National Geography Standards:
Standard 1: "How to use maps and other geographical representations,
tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report, information
from a spatial perspective"
Standard 9: "The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human
population on Earth's surface"
Standard 12: "The processes, patterns, and functions of human
Standard 16: "The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution,
and importance of resources"
Standard 18: "How to apply geography to interpret the present and plan
for the future"
Two to three hours
Materials Required:
• Computers with Internet access
• Wall map of the world
• Large piece of paper or poster board
• Blank Xpeditions outline maps of the world, one for each small
• Drawing and writing materials
Students will
• use a world map to think about their own potential migration
and the reasons behind that decision;
• answer and discuss questions about human mobility using
figures and graphs;
• explain migration in terms of push and pull factors;
• relate migration patterns to economic, political, social, and
environmental factors; and
• create a map of a past or present human migration.
Geographic Skills:
Asking Geographic Questions
Acquiring Geographic Information
Organizing Geographic Information
Answering Geographic Questions
Analyzing Geographic Information

Suggested Procedure
Ask students to look at a world map and think about two places they
would like to move to after graduation from high school or college.
Have them create a list of reasons why they think they would like to
move there. Then discuss why they chose these locations. What would
be the downside of moving?
Ask students how they define migration, and keep track of their
answers on a large piece of paper or poster board.
Have students look at a map of world population density at National
Geographic's MapMachine. What are their impressions of how the
world's population is spread out?
Why do people move? Ask students to think about the forces that drive
human migration. Have students look at this overview of the human
migration and explore the "push" and "pull" factors involved. What are
some examples of things that push or pull people away from their
homeland? Ask students to think about real world examples of some of
these situations. The examples should cover historical (e.g., Africans
brought to America for slavery) and current (e.g., the Kurds in Iraq)
examples, as well as situations that illustrate both voluntary (e.g.,
moving to another city because of a job transfer) and forced (e.g.,
displacement by a natural disaster) migration.
Have students read the following articles published by the U.S. Census
Geographical Mobility: Population Characteristics March 1999 to
March 2000
Why People Move: Exploring the March 2000 Current Population
[Note: These documents are available only in PDF format, so you may
want to download them before class and pass them out to students. If
you cannot print PDFs for some reason, point students to the related
links at the bottom of this page and ask them to research more general
answers to the questions below.]
Ask students to form small groups and discuss the following questions:
• What are the different types of human movements described in
the articles?
• What is the most common type of human movement?
• Which age groups move the most? Why do students think this
is the case?
• What types of people—by race, ethnic group, income, and
education level—show the highest rate of migration? Why do
students think this is the case?
• Why do students think the United States has a distinct pattern
of regional movements? Discuss migration trends in terms of
each region's economy, climate, politics, and connection to
international communities.
Have students return to their discussion about where they think they
would like to move someday. Have they changed their minds since the
beginning of this lesson? How would they feel if they were forced to
move somewhere, even if it were somewhere they thought they might
want to live? How have their ideas of migration changed since they
first defined it in the opening?
Suggested Student Assessment:
In their small groups, have students select a migration in history to
study further. Ask them to conduct research to answer the following
• When did the migration occur?
• From where to where did the migration occur? Give each group
a blank Xpeditions outline map of the world where they can
illustrate the migration. (Other Xpeditions atlas maps may also
be helpful; students can click on the continent or country they
are studying to show movement in a more detailed way.)
• What were the characteristics of the people who migrated (e.g.,
race, gender, and religion)?
• Why did the group migrate? Was it a forced or voluntary
• Did the group face difficulties adjusting to their new
environment? What were they? Did they resolve them? How?
• Did the migrants stay in their new land or return home? Why or
why not?
These Web sites will help students begin their research:
Population Reference Bureau
United Nations Population Division: Department of Economic and
Social Affairs
University of California, Davis: Migration Dialogue
US Census Bureau
US Census Bureau's State Data Center Program (includes county-level
Ask students in each small group to present what they have learned to
the rest of the class.
Extending the Lesson:
• Have students create an imaginary immigrant character living
somewhere in the world today. Ask them to write a series of
journal entries describing their family background, reasons for
leaving their home, journey to a new place and their
experiences upon arrival.

• Have students investigate their own family history and develop

an "immigrant family tree" or map tracing their ancestors and
their travels to other countries or areas of the country. Students
should include the motivations that caused the movement of
family members. This information could be gathered by
interviewing or looking at old letters, diaries or journals of
family members.

• Ask students to interview a person who migrated in one form or

another (e.g., emigrated from another country, moved from
another state, or moved from a rural area to an urban area or
vise versa). Have them develop a series of questions to gather
background information on the subject as well as push/pull
factors that motivated the person to move to America, and
create a written report or oral presentation with the results.
Related Links:
Geographical Mobility: Populations Characteristics
Migration Policy Institute: Migration Information Source
National Geographic Magazine: Changing America
National Geographic News: Forecast Sees Halt to Population Growth
by End of Century
Population Reference Bureau
US Census Bureau
United Nations Population Division: Department of Economic and
Social Affairs
University of California, Davis: Migration Dialogue
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