The 5 Themes of Geography: Place

Contributor: Hallah Elbeleidy. Lesson ID: 10413

You might be so used to living in your city or town that you don't think it's very special. Visitors might think it's great! Examine what makes locations unique, and try to get people to visit yours!


United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Seattle, nicknamed “The Emerald City,” located on the Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, is surrounded by water, mountains, and evergreen forests, and encompasses thousands of acres of parkland. It's home to a thriving tech industry, with Microsoft and headquartered in the metropolitan area. So what are you waiting for? Plan your visit today!

What is it that makes a city unique — one that you'd like to visit?

One of the major themes of geography is place.

Place refers to both the natural and human features of a specific or general location.

Let’s start with some basic definitions.

Human features refers to characteristics of the environment created by human beings, e.g., the NYC skyline.

Natural features refers to the characteristics of a geographic region that were not created by humans, e.g., Rocky Mountains.

The term “place” refers to an area having unique physical and human characteristics. No two places are exactly alike, so place geography focuses on what makes a place unique.

In the Related Lesson on movement, found in the right-hand sidebar, we took a deeper look into the movement of people from one place to another. Look at the map below showing the largest ancestry populations in every county in America. It was compiled using data from the 2000 Census. What do you see?

Census 2000 Top US Ancestries by County

Image, via Wikimedia Commons, is a work of a United States Census Bureau employee, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

The census is a systematic procedure to collect and record information about the members of a given population. This is the federal government’s way of keeping track of everyone in the country. This information is public and accessible to everyone.

The New York Times Mapping Segregation is another resource that will allow you to take a closer look at racial segregation in 13 major U.S. cities.

Review the From Sea to Shining Sea: Introduction (Annenberg Learner) to familiarize yourself with all of the major features of the U.S. Then, play Find the Feature to test what you learned!

These features are some factors that make a place unique. Watch US Geography From Sea to Shining Sea The Country Evolves by the Altschul Group Corporation (below). This video is a great overview of how the United States' physical geography influenced the placement and expansion of early settlements. Write down 10 facts that you find most interesting in this video:


Advertisements created by the tourism industry capture place geography amazingly well because their purpose is to sell you on the place. Watch these commercials to better understand how both human and physical features are captured for the city of Seattle:

Seattle – City Video Guide (Expedia):


Pemco - Flawless Firewood Stacker:


Who needs a lawnmower when you can rent some goats instead? (KATU Communities):


These brief video peeks into different regions give the viewer a sense of what makes each region unique. Goat Rental Northwest is a featured company of Portland, Oregon; this business isn't available in Philadelphia or Washington, DC!

Travel on to the Got It? section to examine your own community's unique features!

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