The 5 Themes of Geography: Movement

Contributor: Hallah Elbeleidy. Lesson ID: 10478

Where did your ancestors come from? Where did your breakfast come from? Where did slaves come from? Using videos, articles, and your family, learn about the push-pull factors of migration, or travel!



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

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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In geography, a major theme that is explored is movement.

Movement doesn't simply refer to the movement of human beings, but the spread of disease, manufactured goods, animals, and even ideas!

The photo above depicts the combined international routes of US Airways and American Airlines. Hundreds of planes are transporting people across thousands of miles over land and sea. The world is more connected by technological advancements than ever before!

We know that people are always moving; however, movement as a geographical theme is not just about people moving from place to place.

The study of movement focuses on how and why people move from one place to another. Examples include moving for a new job or to be closer to loved ones. Some people need to move to avoid religious persecution or to escape war. Others simply move for better opportunities, like the pioneers who traveled west into new American territories during the 1800s.

This geographical theme also examines how products and resources are transported from one place to another. Examples include be a tractor-trailer carrying oranges from a farm in Florida to a supermarket in Pennsylvania and a cargo ship carrying automobiles from a factory in Japan to a dealership in Canada.

Finally, movement applies to the exchange of ideas such as fads, music, language, and religion. As technology continues to advance, these ideas can be quickly shared around the world.

Some of the materials you’ll be reading and watching are going to portray a vast number of events in a condensed period of time. This method for organizing and visualizing data is useful for better understanding a very large amount of information over a big stretch of time. This strategy is known as a time-lapse, defined by in the following way: “Denoting the photographic technique of taking a sequence of frames at set intervals to record changes that take place slowly over time. When the frames are shown at normal speed, or in quick succession, the action seems much faster.”


  • The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes - This interactive time-lapse allows you to pause the video and find out more about these voyages by clicking directly on the ship in the map (
  • Migration Guide found in the Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar.
  • The push-pull factors of migration - This article provides a basic overview of the many reasons why people choose to migrate from one place to another. Pay special attention to the vocabulary and definitions because you will be expected to use them later on in this lesson (
  • What is International Trade? - This article will provide an important overview for understanding why trade among countries even exists in the first place. Try to not be overwhelmed by all of the vocabulary in this piece, because all of the terms enter into the realm of economics. Focus your energies on understanding and taking notes on the basic concepts of international trade. You should be able to answer the who, what, why, and how of international trade (Investopedia).


The image you saw above showing the combined international flights of US Airways and American Airlines is a fascinating image. Curious as to how an image like this would look in motion? Check out A Day in the Life of Air Traffic over the United States (below). This visualization shows all the air traffic in the US over a 24-hour period, including US Airways and American Airlines:

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This time-lapse video (below) shows global traffic routes by ships. The majority of the stuff you have probably was transported on these cargo carrier ships.

JRC reveals global traffic routes using LRIT ship tracking data:

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Next, International Trade and Supply Chains (below) provides a simple breakdown of how manufacturing has changed and how these changes affect global trading and you.

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