Rationale

The environment of the desert and the life that it contains is a topic that is in the third grade curriculum for the Urbana School District. The study of the Southwestern United States (as well as the entire United States) is also in this curriculum. This unit identifies the relationship between these two topics and integrates the topics to form a coherent unit of study that will encompass a developing understanding of this environment by examining it in several ways.
The desert is important for the students to study. Being from an area in which deserts are non-existent, the students will broaden their range of knowledge about other areas of their own country, and of other countries, in this unit. They will examine differences and similarities between this biome and that with which they are familiar. The students will also develop an understanding of the different kinds of life present in the desert, and knowledge of how organisms have adaptations to survive in certain climates. The ability to identify differences among organisms is a goal that the students will begin to achieve during this unit.
The Southwestern United States is an area that is fairly distant from this state of Illinois. Though some students may have visited, it will be valuable for all of the students to be able to identify differences found within the environment of the United States. The study of the Southwestern United States will bring these third grade students an understanding of an area of their own country. By examining both the past and present Southwest, the students will study this area of the United States through many different viewpoints, and using several different means. It is important that the students are able to compare and contrast an area of the country, or world, with that of their own. The main goal of this unit is to provide the students with the ability to learn how to do this.
The importance of expanding student's views of the environment in which they live is key to this unit. By expanding this understanding, the students will also expand their ability to understand the living organisms around them, the differences present among them all, and how each plays a crucial role in his or her environment.
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