Ted's teaching tips;The Big Picture

14th May 1999 at 01:00
This unusual depiction of the Earth at night raises several questions about where and how we live.

Planet Earth: Look at a world map - pick out where people live in large cities (North and South America, Europe, Japan, India, China) and where it is sparsely populated (Sahara, Alaska, Siberia, Australian outback). Where is the United Kingdom most highly populated (south-east, Midlands, north, GlasgowEdinburgh, south Wales, Belfast) and sparsely populated (south-west England, East Anglia, Scottish highlands, much of Wales and Ireland)?

Maps: We live on a ball-shaped planet, but this map is flat, how can you translate a sphere into a rectangle? Look at various types of map projection in an atlas - what does each distort (far left of map, Alaska, USA, and far right of map, eastern tip of Russia, are only 53 miles apart, either side of the Bering Strait)?

Resources: Where are the main oil centres (Middle East, Africa, Russia, South America)? What happens in countries that have no oil (need to import it, use alternative fuels)? What do we use oil for (fuel - a bit of a waste; lubrication)? What about vegetable oil (olive oil, sunflower oil, used in cookery)?

Writing: You are the commander of an extraterrestrial starship visiting Earth. Your navigator hands you this map. Where will you land - and why? Describe what you see, through alien eyes.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University

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