Scholastic Explorer

Why People Move
by Frank Cerutti

Frank Cerutti was an Earthwatch Institute Fellow in July 2001.


  • That students understand the variety of factors that cause people to migrate, immigrate and/or emigrate to new areas to live and work.
  • That students gain a better understanding of the Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest by examining various materials and information.

Opening Activity:  (10-15 minutes)

For a warm-up the students will take out their notebooks and complete a free writing assignment in response to the following question which I will write on the board: 

“Why would you decide to move your family across the country to California?  Or across the Pacific Ocean to Australia?  What would cause you to make such a significant change for you and your family?  How would you feel about this?  Why?”

The goal of this warm-up is to get the students to begin thinking about how difficult it is move and to apply this idea to their own lives and how it would affect them.

Lesson Core:  (30-40 minutes)

I will begin the lesson with a brainstorming activity led by the students.  I will ask them to list all of the factors, causes and issues that cause people to pack up and move themselves and their families.  I will make a list of these items on the board and have the students write them down.  After doing this I will take a few minutes to give them some notes and factual information concerning the reasons why people move (extrinsic factors such as environment, war, famine, drought, etc. and intrinsic factors such as seeking a better life, wealth, opportunities or a family).  I will then pass out a map activity that will have the students label the major Pueblo Indian settlements of the southwest.  They will also label the geographic features such as rivers, lakes, mountains, latitude & longitude, deserts, etc.  We will then give dates for each of the major pueblo civilizations and list when they were inhabited and deserted, if that applies.  I will then ask the students to look at the map, the dates, the settlements and the land features and ask them to try to come up with some ideas and theories of their own as to why the Pueblo Indians moved around and what caused this to happen.  I will offer my own insights, experiences and knowledge learned in the field.  I will also show them some pictures and share other information and items I gained on my Earthwatch Expedition.

Concluding Activity:  (10 minutes)

In order to reinforce what was learned in class today, and also to remind them of previously learned material and how to apply today’s lesson to that information the students will do the following.  Think of all the cultures and peoples we have learned about in the past that have experienced a mass migration event (Bantu’s of Africa, European immigration to America, refugees escaping war torn Africa, Asia & Europe, etc.)  Come up with at least 3 examples of other peoples & cultures that have migrated from their homelands to a new land.  Why did they move?  What factors caused them to move?  Was their move successful?  Why or why not?  The students will further develop these ideas and concepts and I will include a short essay question covering this topic on the unit test.


I will need to use the chalkboard, atlases and map worksheets to complete this lesson.  I will also bring in my own books, pictures and items that I acquired in New Mexico during my Earthwatch Expedition.  Students will need to bring pens/pencils, colored pencils/markers for map labeling and their notebooks.