Physical vs. Human-Made Features


In third grade, the students learn the difference between physical features and human-made features. Learning begins with just looking at a set of pictures and discussing what they notice and what the images might have in common. Then they look at another set of pictures and have the same conversation. Usually at this point, they make a connection to prior learning and they see that one set of images is all natural features and the other is all human-made. However, that’s just the beginning of our learning.

The objective is for students to observe and explain the differences in these features based on the region (usually where students live or but you can explore other regions as well). We can really get students engaged in accomplishing this particular objective by giving them flip cameras to take outside and photograph the different features around our schoolyard environment. The students take a collection of images that range from flowers in our garden to a basketball hoop. The images showcase all of the different physical and human-made features that exist within just our small schoolyard.

The students love taking photographs and are very creative in exploring to find the most unique features. In years past, I had students photograph ladybugs, dandelions, monkey bars, and so much more. We then take the images and create a slideshow presentation with images and captions. It is a simple activity that allows for student engagement and creativity.

After we have explored our schoolyard we then have conversations about how this environment has different features from other places. We discuss how the features in a desert or arctic region would be very different from what we just explored outside our school. This leads to a more meaningful conversation of how these features impact the lifestyles of people and the adaptations of animals.

By the end of these activities the students can clearly explain the difference between the type of features and they are beginning to discuss how different regions can have different features. Check out this free worksheet I use to help measure student understanding of physical vs. man-made features!

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