– Part 2: Chicago Teaching Geography Workshop 3: North America

Teaching Geography Workshop 3: North America – Part 2: Chicago
Next, we travel to Chicago in the Midwestern region of the United States.
Like growing cities throughout North America, the Chicago area is being
transformed. More and more people are choosing to live and work far
from the old center of the city.
But as development here expands outward, it threatens active farming
communities on the edges of this metropolitan area. Geography
Standard Four-- the physical and human characteristics of place-helps us focus on the idea that a place changes over time. Standard 12-the processes, patterns and functions of human settlement-- helps
us understand the forces that propel such change. In North American
cities like Chicago, automobiles, extensive highway systems and
communication networks have accelerated suburbanization and made
possible a new kind of urban area. These "edge cities" are full-fledged
urban employment subcenters far away from the central city.
After watching this case study, you should be able to explain the impact
of transportation systems on the growth of urban centers.
Later in the program, we visit two high school classes approaching the
difficult subject of urban change, but in very different ways. Marlene
Brubaker's class explores the historic development of their home city,
Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Phil Rodriguez leads his students in an inquiry
into the future direction of San Antonio's growth.
The expansive growth of North American metropolitan areas leaves an
unmistakable signature on the landscape. Standard 16-- the changes
that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of
resources-- reminds us that a rapid change in land use may have a cost.
Our second objective asks you to identify the issues associated with
resources needed by urban regions, suburban centers and rural
Productive farmland becomes a nonrenewable resource, lost forever
when it is used for housing, commercial or industrial development. And
the pace at which America's most productive farmland is being lost has
alarmed some geographers.
RICHARD GREENE: We're standing on the new edge of Chicago's suburban frontier. Behind
me is a farm that will be gone in five years-- literally wiped out. We're
seeing the black dirt that took thousands of years to develop. What will
be in its place is suburban development.
But it's not nostalgia for days gone by that concerns geographer Richard
Greene. At Northern Illinois University, he's studying development
patterns around the Chicago metropolitan area, and what worries him is
the science and economics of what's being lost.
The soil that is being removed here took 10,000 years to create. And in
just a matter of a few weeks, this soil will be gone, and in its place will be
new development. This is the best soil in the world for producing crops.
And if you don't believe it, ask a local farmer.
Yeah, when I put that driveway in, I had a cat come in here, and he took
black dirt out of here that was easily 18 inches to two feet deep... before
he hit gravel. Now, when he hits gravel, that means that it's... not only is it
good dirt, but its well-drained dirt, which is what you want. Good soils with
good drainage is what grows crops. You also have to have the climate,
you also have to have the rainfall, you also have to have the
infrastructure. So it has everything going for it, this area does, it has
everything going for it.
But in the past ten years, an intense competition for the land has been
raging. To see how the pressure developed, we head downtown to the
center of Chicago. The tallest building in North America, the Sears
Tower, rises over downtown Chicago. It is the trademark of this city's
skyline and a symbol of urban America's vitality. But in 1992, Sears fled
its downtown home and moved 5,000 employees here, 30 miles outside
the city, into the cornfields. Working farm communities surround the
Chicago area, but to many, this farmland is better suited for growing
something other than corn. As businesses relocate, so can their
employees, like Michael Morrison and his wife, Margot Brown. Now they
have what they've always wanted: a house in the country.
It's basically a farming community, it's a rural community. It just... it's a
feel-good kind of place to live. Boulevard... Come in this route...
Just down the road, Tim Edmonds is building a whole new community for
people like Margot Brown. Soon his efforts will transform this farmland
into corporate office parks, a golf course and 4,600 new homes. (\rooster
crowing\) All of this growth is putting the pressure on farmers like John
Pihl. More and more developers are anxious to buy their land.
Somebody is offering you an amount of money for... a very tough, hard,
physical lifestyle, and you could take the money and go fishing and forget
about the chores and the water and the droughts and everything else. But
they're also buying your lifestyle, they're buying your community, they're
changing everything that you hold dear, and, uh... that's... that's a very
tough decision.
A decision prompted by a new trend in this region. Here, the geography
of America's past is undergoing a postindustrial transformation, away
from its agriculture and even its urban roots. Metropolitan Chicago is
being reformed, and its new "edges" are reaching out further and further
into the surrounding farmland.
This community is very typical of the suburban fringe of Chicago. We are
about 45 miles from downtown Chicago, downtown Chicago being the
largest employment center. Historically, then, that was the core, that was
where people traveled to work. The metropolitan area has since evolved,
and you have subcenters now, employment subcenters, and we're about
two hours' commute from downtown Chicago, whereas to the subcenters,
we're as few as 15 minutes away from those subcenters.
Greene studies these rapidly growing subcenters, called "edge cities."
Des Plains, Schaumburg, Addison and Oakbrook are all located close to
the major highways and to the airport. At first, shopping malls sprouted
up in these once purely residential subcenters. Then businesses
themselves followed their employees to this suburban fringe.
In the Information Age, with the growth of white-collar service and hightech industries, companies no longer need the central business district to
prosper. And thanks to the widespread reliance here-- as in the rest of
America-- on the automobile, commuters who work in these subcenters
can now move even farther away from downtown-- commuters like
Margot Brown.
Each day Margot takes just 20 minutes to drive from her home in
McHenry County, through the rural countryside and east along Interstate
90 to her job at the corporate headquarters of Motorola. This electronics
giant left the high taxes and congestion of downtown Chicago in the early
1980s, to come to the edge city of Schaumburg. Since then, many other
businesses have followed Motorola to the edge.
Richard Greene charts the rapidly changing land use to investigate
development's impact on the area's prime farmland.
The geographic information system has allowed us to integrate
databases from different sources. For instance, we're able to take
development patterns as one layer in the GIS, take information from the
Soil Conservation Service on soil quality, overlay those two, and to really
address how much of the best farmland is being converted to urban land
Greene's GIS produces a map highlighting in red productive farm
communities which are most threatened by encroaching development.
Greene has also created a national map of the U.S. showing the areas
that are most susceptible to farmland loss. He finds that densely
populated farming regions, like those in California and Florida, are
particularly threatened by suburban growth.
Though Americans are not in danger of going hungry, they are in danger
of paving over some of the best agricultural land in the world. Once
developed, it's almost impossible to return it to agricultural use. In the
Chicago area, farmers are not the only ones alarmed by the rapid growth.
Margot Brown is concerned that traffic like this could soon be on its way
to her little town of Marengo.
My greatest fear for Marengo, if development should take on the worstcase scenario, is going to be that the way of life and the quality of life are
going to disappear.
The irony is, the threat to Margot's quality of life is created by other
people just like her. She and Michael used to live in Schaumburg, but it
was too crowded. They came out here to Marengo and found what they
were looking for.
What we have in Marengo that we didn't have in Schaumburg was space,
peace and quiet, and pretty much everything I need is at my fingertips.
This is the American dilemma. People want peace and quiet, along with
shorter commutes and continued access to the conveniences of modern
Everybody is convenience-driven. And we want to have everything at our
fingertips. You're seeing this migration and the eating up of these areas
by development, that's undeniable. It's not that we've created it; we're
taking advantage of the demand.
And as demand increases, John Pihl is feeling closed in.
We see pressure every day here on this farm. We have housing,
residential housing slated for right up to our fence line right next to the
John knows farmers in the county who have sold for as much as $20,000
an acre. An offer like that could bring in $10 million for this 500-acre farm.
Since he now earns about $40,000 a year, the pressure to sell is building.
But for now, his concerns are holding him back.
I think probably what we're most concerned about is that things are
changing incredibly fast, and I hate to see things, good things get lost in
the frenzy.
Whether or not John continues to stay on this land, others will not resist
the temptation to sell. Farming is fast becoming a thing of the past in
Chicago's edge communities, and though local zoning regulations can
moderate the effects of growth, as the search for space continues, so
does development's steady push down the interstate.
North America may be the world's most urbanized region. At the same
time, the metropolitan population density in the U.S. is lower than any
other country in the world. This seeming paradox can be explained in
spatial terms. The highways here provide extraordinary mobility to the
people who live in North America. And that mobility helps fuel rapid
growth of residential and commercial land uses. As a result, more people
live in larger houses on bigger plots, often near new regional shopping
malls, and just a short commute to jobs in newly developed edge cities.
The overall effect: lower population density.
But there are real negative consequences of heavy reliance on the
automobile, and they extend far beyond air pollution. We've seen in
Chicago how sprawling development threatens farmland. We should not
forget agriculture's key contribution to the national and the international
And there's another important international implication; reliance on the
auto in the U.S. contributes significantly to making the country the world's
major consumer of energy, a key factor affecting our national security. In
North America, automobiles and highways have come to dominate the
landscape of human settlement. Along the way, they have led to an urban
development pattern that is unique in the world.
In the Chicago case study, we see a city expanding beyond its borders.
This growth is part of a process geographers call "urbanization." "Urban
areas" are places characterized by high population densities and nonagricultural employment. These "urban areas" include downtown
neighborhoods as well as suburbs.
The pace of urbanization in recent decades has accelerated dramatically,
especially in the developing world. Thirteen of the world's 20 largest cities
are now located in Asia. Indeed, scholars predict that the 21st century will
be dominated by ongoing waves of massive urbanization.
The city of Sao Paulo, for example, has doubled its population in the last
20 years, and today it's one of the world's three largest cities.
Urbanization continues here in earnest. Like Chicago, Sao Paulo is
growing at its edge, where newcomers settle on the only land available.
But the squatter shanties of Sao Paulo are in stark contrast to the orderly
upscale developments of the Windy City's new communities. In Delhi,
India, where a torrent of humanity migrating in from the countryside
threatens to overwhelm the resources of the central city, planners are
trying to develop better transportation infrastructure at the city's edge to
encourage economic development there. They hope that this plan will
also encourage incoming migrants to settle in the outer part of the city,
far from an already overcrowded downtown. When geographers look at
the urbanization process, there is one simple and obvious truth. In city
after city around the world, many of the most dramatic changes are
happening at the city's edge. So it's here at the edge where enlightened
planning can really make a difference.
Cities present a challenging realm for investigation. Why do some grow?
Why do others shrink? What effect do they have on neighboring
suburban and rural areas? And as a teacher of adolescents, how do you
make these questions relevant and interesting to them?
In the following classroom segments, we observe two teachers
accomplishing this goal from slightly different perspectives. First we have
a short visit with Marlene Brubaker, a biology teacher in Philadelphia,
whose class studies historical maps to get a sense of that city's
development. Phil Rodriguez, on the other hand, takes his San Antonio
students on a deliberate, step-by-step analysis of their city using the
inquiry approach.
As you watch, notice how teachers can use familiar urban landmarks
to teach students geographic concepts and principles.
Bartram's Garden lies on the edge of Philadelphia. In this historic setting,
Marlene Brubaker’s biology class will develop their map skills by taking a
look at their city’s past. Today’s lesson is going to be examining how
Philadelphia has changed over the last 200 or 300 years.
They are assisted in their inquiry by the garden’s director of education,
Debra Olsen.
Each group has a different map or different set of maps. Look very
closely at these maps. Try and figure out when they were made, why they
were made. Comparing that map to this map, what's happened to the
green open spaces?
More buildings were built. It's... gone. Yeah, more buildings were built.
Okay. What used to be right here?
The green square.
The green square. And what's there now?
City Hall.
City Hall-- mm-hmm. So which river is this river, and then which river is
this one?
This one's going to be Delaware.
You think that's the Delaware? I think so. Okay, and so you think this is
the Schuykill?
Knowing what you know about he modern city, do you think this is a very
accurate map?
No, it isn't.
What’s wrong about it?
On the other map I’ve seen earlier, this was closer, this was connecting
Right, right.
The little islands are in the wrong spot. The islands are in the wrong spot
compared to the other maps.
Yeah, there’s lots of weird things about this map.
Everybody walks in and takes this class and then for the next four years,
they’ve got these experiences that teachers can draw from. And this
particular course, "The Peopling of Philadelphia" activities are used in the
environmental science class as well as the social studies classes.
All right, I’m going to give you all an opportunity to share with the rest of
the group.
This map is older than that one, so you can see that this one has more
green areas and stuff. And this one has more building, because it’s more
What kind of information did they list here?
The types of churches and the types of groups there.
Why would they list types of churches? What’s the purpose of this map?
Commercial use. Yeah.
It's like a brochure. Well, you know, "They have the kind of church I
belong to." Was there an African-American church listed on here?
Anything else?
Mostly the city population is towards the water. And it's not really
populated outside the city.
I think that map skills are important in environmental science, also in
biology because students need to see how resources are developed. If
you look at the map of Philadelphia today, you know, what was
marshland is places that are of high economic interest. Then if you can
recognize on the map, "Oh, yes, now I understand why marshlands are
being drained-- because of their location."
If you look over to the board, you’ll see that today we’re going to be
focusing our attention to San Antonio to find out San Antonio’s pattern of
The main paper that I want to focus on right now is this paper here. This
is your instruction sheet. We’re talking about a primary question, which
is: Where will the future growth of San Antonio be?
You have a city map. On the city map, I want you with your yellow
highlighter... your yellow highlighter... I want you to put a dot where any
major mall is found. Flip your instruction sheet over one, one page, and
on the bottom you’ll see locations of Ingram, North Star, South Park,
Windsor Park. You all see that down there? Okay. Also, I want you to
color in incorporated cities throughout San Antonio’s city limits and
surrounding areas. Look at your map and tell me what an incorporated
city would be. What is an incorporated city? Would Leon Valley be one?
Which one, ma’am?
Leon Valley.
Leon Valley-- absolutely. Leon Valley is an incorporated city. It’s a city
that’s inside the city of San Antonio city limits. San Antonio built around it.
Can you find another little city within San Antonio?
Um, Castle Hills.
Castle Hills, very good. Okay, let’s go ahead and get started.
Malls, we got to find some malls.
Those are going to be hard to find. "Ingram Park Mall, 410 at Ingram
There’s 410. 410... McAllister... Austin Highway... There's 410. It’d be
somewhere around here.
I found Rolling Oaks Mall.
There's... And then 1604?
So it would be somewhere over here.
Yeah. Just put a dot.
Sir, I can’t find Ingram Road.
Ingram is not going to be on there.
So where would I put the dot?
But, okay, well, let’s think a little bit. We’re on Ingram here. What’s the
next exit over there?
Culebra-- what’s the next exit over there?
Bandera. So just look for Bandera and Culebra, and then what do you
need to do?
In the middle. Culebra and Bandera in the middle.
Um, Leon Valley... Leon Valley... Kirby... What's that? Those cities
around San Antonio. Castle Hills. Look at question number three.
I asked you to label the malls. Melissa, what can you tell me about the
malls? Where are they located at?
Off the highway, right off the highway.
They’re all next to a highway. Excellent. Off of the highway. Why do you
suppose... Why do you suppose they put that there?
When people are on the highways, they always see the malls, so that
makes them, interests them to go shopping. And, like, a lot of girls want
to go in. When they’re driving down the highway and they see a mall,
they’re going to go in and buy stuff.
Yeah, they’re going to go-- right, they’re going to go right in. And it
makes for easy what?
Access, yeah, it’s right there. You get back on, you’re on your way home.
Okay, look at your cities. Do you find them in the middle of nowhere?
No. Where do you find them?
In between two highways. Right, around...
Residential areas. Right, the highways, the major roads, right? Why?
Easier for people to see.
Yeah, because, yeah, that’s one of the access routes, right? It’s one of
the ways to go in there-- right.
I think if by relating things that they are familiar with, for example, the
malls, you find that the kids are able to say, "Oh, yeah, I know where
that’s at." They were able to see, for example, in this case, that there is a
very good relationship between, uh, major roads and the malls.
Now you’re going to use that big book of yours. And I want you to open it
up to the third section. The third section, which has the information, the
data from where? Where is that data taken from?
Census Bureau, okay. Those are the counties that surround San
I want you to go and look at each county and I want you to tell me if you
think people in these counties work in San Antonio. You’re going to have
to think this out, because it’s not going to say, "Hey, we live in New
Braunfels but we work in San Antonio." It’s not going to say that,
obviously. Go ahead and begin. Travel five minutes...
The census data shows home locations and travel times to work.
Students must infer where people work based on travel times.
People that live, like, ten to 14 minutes, in Hays, there’s about 4,000 of
them. But there’s also about 4,000 that live, like, 30 minutes. So that's,
like, even. And if there’s a lot of people that live around 45 to 59 minutes,
and that’s about the time it takes from San Antonio to get to Comal, then
that means that a lot of people could be working in San Antonio or other
places around.
We dealt with transportation, and my purpose, what I wanted the
students to do, was to get, to develop some inferences as to what may be
happening just based on the little bit of information that they had. Now,
later on, they can start, uh, putting these pieces together and see
whether or not the movement is towards the outskirts.
The shorter the time it takes to work, the closer their work is and the
longer that it takes them... I got you. is the further away their work is.
Well, let’s start wrapping this up. What did you find out by looking at this
data table? Do some people live in outskirting towns and travel into San
Antonio to work?
What we know is they’re expanding but yet there's still a lot of businesses
here in San Antonio.
Okay, excellent. So let’s go back to the primary question. "Where will
the future growth of San Antonio occur?" Where would you say? Where
would you say? Yes, ma’am?
Outside of San Antonio.
Outside of San Antonio? In the where, sir?
In the outskirts, and...?
What were you saying?
I just said it's going to keep expanding. The small cities are going to turn
into big cities just like San Antonio.
Now, there’s a good hypothesis, a good inference. Is that correct? Now,
what kind of an impact might it have, Melody?
Well, if a lot of people move out of San Antonio, then San Antonio will
become smaller in its population.
In population, right. How would we prove it if that’s the pattern? What
would we have to do? Yes, ma’am.
Take census, like, every year. Take a census. Look back at the way San
Antonio was ten years ago and how much it grew.
You bring a tear to my eye, ma’am. That’s a good answer. Yes, ma’am,
that’s absolutely correct. Any ques... yes, sir? Add more to that?
We can do research on other big cities like New York or Chicago and see
how they ended up and began.
Great. And that is a good way-- to do a case study of those cities-- and
that way you can find out if that’s happening over there, then what?
And if it’s going to happen in the same instance with San Antonio.
When you look at the questions and the answers I was getting from
them, they were looking at it spatially, and I felt that in doing so, what
they were doing was actually giving me a geographic perspective to the
I think it’s important for students to understand the growth of their area
simply because they live in this area. They should be aware of any
ramifications that will eventually occur because of different movement,
because of the economic status of the area.
I want to thank you. You did a very good job. I think, I hope that you got
something out of this lesson, because that was the intention. And the last
thing is, I want you to have a good weekend.
In both lessons, we see our teachers, Marlene and Phil, use skillful
questioning to promote student understanding of complex urban change.
By using historical maps, Marlene’s students are able to make inferences
about Philadelphia’s past and its future. Using maps, data analysis and
familiar landmarks like shopping malls, Phil’s students are able to make
similar inferences about San Antonio. And both lessons are enriched
because our teachers use geography as a perspective, linking
information and resources from other disciplines.
We notice also in both classes the essential role of student interaction-interaction with data, with their teachers and with each other. Inquiry
learning is inherently a social as well as an academic process.