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Seeing beyond AsiaBookmark

Learning area: Geography
Year level: Year 6
Country: Australia, China, India, Japan

This learning sequence investigates country-specific data and interactive maps and graphs to achieve an appreciation for the diversity of the countries that make up 'Asia'. Students will use a variety of online data display software to investigate and present information about Asian countries.

Key inquiry questions

  • Where is 'Asia' and what is it like?
  • What does the data tell us about the diverse countries that make up Asia?
  • How can I use data to help others understand a chosen country from the Asia region?


Busy traffic in the city, surrounded by commercial buildingsA street scene in Tokyo

Acknowledgements

Image: Law of perspective (Original image cropped) by heiwa4126 (CC BY 2.0)

Related resources

Activity 1: Where and what is Asia

In this activity, you will investigate the geographical region that is 'Asia', using maps, and identify major physical features and the diversity of people and cultures in the region.

Key inquiry question: Where is 'Asia' and what is it like?

  1. Before you begin, write down Where is Asia? and What is Asia like? Write answers to these questions to record what you already know about Asia. If you think you know something but you're not sure if it's right, for example, the name of a country that you think might be in Asia, write it down. The purpose of this activity is to record your ideas before you start learning about a topic so you can look back at the end of the module to see how your knowledge and understanding has changed.
  2. View the map of Asia (on the right). As you are looking at the map, consider how far beyond the centre of this map Asia extends and whether everybody agrees on what parts of the world are in Asia.
  3. Look at the printed black and white map (on the right) and answer the following questions:
    • Are all the countries on this map within the boundaries of Asia that you identified in Step 2, above?
    • Was your impression of Asia bigger or smaller than the area on this map?
    • Are you surprised by some of the countries included in Asia on the printed map?
  4. Use three different colours to label North-East Asia, South-East Asia and South Asia on your printed map to use for reference in the next activity.

Acknowledgements

Images: ‪Asia: Urban Extents (Original image cropped) by SEDACMaps (CC BY 2.0)

Activity 2: The diversity and rise of Asia

In this activity you will investigate the rise of incomes in China, Japan and India, compared with the United Kingdom and the United States, since 1800. In the process you will experiment with some online tools to see different ways that data can be displayed.

Key inquiry question: What does the data tell us about the diverse countries that make up Asia?

  1. Look at the Worldmapper land area map (on the right). This map is divided into 12 colour-coded geographical regions. Compare the regions that comprise Asia on this map and the countries on your hard copy map of Asia.
  2. Watch the video by Hans Rosling called 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 minutes (on the right).
  3. As you watch the video, make note of the factors that have influenced countries' movement over the past 200 years from 'poor and sick' towards 'wealthy and healthy'. What does Hans Rosling say about inequalities within countries? Why is this important when looking at country data?
  4. Go to Gapminder World to view the interactive graph entitled Asia's Rise: How and When?, created by Hans Rosling, Gapminder Foundation, and answer the following questions:
    • What does this graph tell you about the 'how' and 'when' of Asia's rise?
    • What does this graph not tell you about the 'how' and 'when' of Asia's rise?
    • Where would you look to find this information?
    • Experiment with the tools on this graph to work out how to add data about Australia and remove data about the United States or the United Kingdom.
    • Change the countries on the graph to compare different countries in Asia with each other and with countries from different regions in the world. Do you notice any patterns?
    • Change the y-axis to a different indicator by clicking on the triangle at the end of the y-axis title to see different options. Discuss the things you found out with your classmates. Remember the comment made in the video about inequalities within countries. How might country data of this sort give misleading results?
  5. Open the Worldmapper animation and select the play button under the map. What are the mapmakers showing you in this animation?

Activity 3: Using data to present information

You have learnt how to access and interpret country data using online data display software. In this activity, you will put those skills to use by investigating the situation of one country in Asia. To give this activity a clear audience and purpose, imagine your classmates are new staff members at the Australian embassy in your country and your job is to 'explain' your country to them.

Key inquiry question: How can I use data to help others understand a chosen country from the Asia region?

  1. To give this activity a clear audience and purpose, imagine your classmates are new staff members at the Australian embassy in your country and your job is to 'explain' your country to them. Your role is to be the 'explainer' for your chosen country in Asia. These new staff members have just been transferred from an embassy in a different region of the world. They know very little about your country or Asia for that matter. Your task is to create a five-minute presentation that will give your audience:
    • an overview of the climate and major physical features of your country
    • the challenges it has faced and achievements it has made against international development indicators
    • the relationship your country has with Australia – for example, historical and business links.
  2. The new staff members are in the health, trade and energy sections of the embassy. Each of them has been invited to submit a question before your presentation. These are their questions for you:
    • What prospects are there for Australia to trade with your country?
    • Are per capita incomes rising or falling?
    • Is energy consumption increasing and is this affecting carbon dioxide emissions?
    • One of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is to reduce mortality rates for children under five years old by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. How is your country doing in its pursuit of this goal?
  3. Remember the ways the sites you have looked at represented the data visually and think about ways you can present your data to help your audience make sense of it. As well as the Gapminder and Worldmapper websites, sources you will find useful for data include:

Activity 4: Reflection

When we started these activities, you were challenged to identify the Asia region. By exploring different maps you discovered that there are different opinions about how to categorise the regions of the world.

You then looked at ways to represent country data visually and experimented with data display tools to compare countries according to different indicators. You saw how statistics presented on a graph can help to show trends and comparisons, but also that whole-country statistics can mask inequalities within a country.

Finally, you took responsibility for explaining one country in Asia to your classmates. In this activity, you used data from the tools you had experimented with earlier and included information from other sources to give a more detailed picture of your country than statistics alone can provide.

  1. Now, look back at the answers to the questions Where is Asia? and What is Asia like?, which you wrote down at the beginning of these activities. How has your knowledge of Asia changed?
  2. Understanding a country and its people is deeper than knowing facts about that country. Consider what you learnt about your chosen country in the process of preparing your presentation and what you learnt about other countries by listening to and viewing your classmates' presentations. Do you feel you understand your chosen country better than the other countries? Were any of your classmates' presentations particularly successful at helping you understand their country? What was it about their presentations that made them successful?
  3. Which country or countries in Asia are you now most interested in learning more about? What would you like to learn? How might you go about this?

This learning sequence is designed to help students develop their understanding of the Asia region and its member countries through a process of inquiry and communicating information to others. Students use online data display software to learn about countries and to understand how data display tools can be used to make comparisons and reveal trends.

Through investigating one country in more depth, students gain more understanding of that country and reflect on the difference between knowing and understanding. Each phase builds on the previous one in the inquiry process.

Activity 1: Where and what is Asia?

The resources used in this activity reinforce the notion that there is not one right answer to the question of how to categorise the world's territories. That being said, it is useful to have an agreed working definition of the area to be covered. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority provides this definition:

Asia can be defined in geographical terms, but it can also be described in terms of cultural, religious, historical and language boundaries or commonalities.

While it includes West and Central Asia, in Australian schools, studies of Asia will pay particular attention to the sub-regions of:

  • North-East Asia, including China, Mongolia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan
  • South-East Asia, including Indonesia, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, East Timor, the Philippines and Cambodia
  • South Asia, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Students begin by recording what they already know about Asia as a reference point for their reflection at the end of the module.

They are then challenged to identify the Asia region and, through exploring different maps, they discover that there are different opinions about how to categorise the regions of the world.

Activity 2: The diversity and rise of Asia

Students investigate ways to represent country data visually and experiment with data display tools to compare countries according to different indicators. They consider how statistics presented on a graph can help to show trends and comparisons but also that whole-country statistics can mask inequalities within a country.

Activity 3: Using data to present information

Finally, students take responsibility for explaining one country in Asia to their classmates. In this activity, they use data from the tools they experimented with earlier and include information from other sources to give a more detailed picture of the country than statistics alone can provide. 

In arranging this activity you might choose to assign each country to a different student or small group of students or you might choose to focus on a few countries from each part of Asia. For example, you could divide a class of 25 students into five groups of five students and assign each group a country. Once the groups have prepared and practised their presentations, they regroup so that each group has a representative from each country to present to the small group.

To make the imagined audience for this task more authentic go to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website to see which countries have Australian embassies, which have high commissions and which are represented by embassies or high commissions in nearby countries.

Activity 4: Reflection

It is important that students have the opportunity to reflect on and discuss what they have learnt about Asia and how data and online display tools can be used to provide successful presentations.

Useful websites


It is recommended that teachers preview websites to ensure they are suitable for their students prior to use in class. Content accessed via these links is not owned or controlled by the Asia Education Foundation and is subject to the terms of use of the associated website.

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