All Subjects
      All Types




        Permitted Use

        Part of Wide Angle
        16 Favorites

        This Land is Our Land

        How have political borders been drawn in different historical situations, and how does their presence impact people? The borders discussed include the current situation between Botswana and Zimbabwe, as well as the historical cases of Italy, Australia, and other countries.

        Lesson Summary


        Throughout history, as the concepts of empire and nation-states took hold, individual countries secured their borders and tried to keep unwanted migrants out. As we enter the 21st century Anwarul K. Chowdhury, an Under-Secretary of the United Nations, says, "The first step towards examining the road to peace should start with an appreciation of the changing nature of conflicts. Gone are days of war between states for conquest, extension of spheres of influence in the name of ideology ... Today's wars are about settling border disputes ... ." In these lessons students confront that issue.

        Students begin by discussing why people cross borders and the rights people have when they enter another country. Students will discover the factors that determine the location of borders through the examination of maps, cartoons, and primary source documents. After completing this introductory activity, students will analyze a chart comparing the economic situation in the neighboring countries of Zimbabwe and Botswana, and predict what economic problems each country has. They will then view segments of the Wide Angle film "Border Jumpers" (2005) to understand why these economic problems exist, develop further arguments for those streaming into Botswana from Zimbabwe and for those in Botswana itself, and compare them to their own predictions.

        As a culminating activity, students will work in groups to develop a presentation for a simulation of the 17th Annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Their presentations will be shared with their classmates, and, if desired, sent to the United Nations.


        • Analyze maps and documents to develop an understanding of the concept of a border and how borders are developed;
        • Utilize information from a chart to draw conclusions and make predictions;
        • Appreciate multiple perspectives about the same issue;
        • Investigate a contemporary border dispute using web-based resources;
        • Develop a presentation with visual and aural components that analyzes a contemporary border dispute and proposes a solution;
        • Communicate the results of research and analysis to the class.

        Grade Level:


        Suggested Time

        Five 45 - minute class periods

        Media Resources


        For the class:

        Per group of five students:

        For each pair of students:

        For each student:

        Web Sites

        For the Introductory Activity:

        • Endeavour Captain Cook's Journal 1768-1771
          This site describes the voyage of exploration around Australia and Cook's claim of the continent for England. It contains a journal entry in Cook's own writing as well as a transcript. It also has a month by month map of his journey with an explanation of the route.
        • HRW World Atlas
          This site provides a physical map of Switzerland with the geographical features that mark the country's border.
        • Philosophy, Biography, Family History
          This map of Italy shows the states that were unified by Garibaldi's soldiers.
        • The Avalon Project at Yale Law School
          This page displays the section of the Versailles Treaty that dictates defeated Germany's borders.
        • John Jay College of Criminal Justice
          The background and selected sections of The General Act of February 26, 1885 adopted at the Berlin Conference are displayed here. This act divided up Africa among the European powers.

        For the Culminating Activity:

        • Wide Angle, "Border Jumpers"
          The site contains an interactive map of controversial borders around the world.
        • Portals to the World
          This site contains articles, statistics, and other resources pertinent to the national security concerns of countries around the world.

        Before The Lesson

        Bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, or upload all links to an online bookmarking utility such as

        Preview all of the video segments and Web sites used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students, currently available, and accessible from your classroom.

        Download the video segments used in this lesson onto your hard drive, or prepare to stream the video segments from your classroom. RealPlayer is needed to view the video segments. If your classroom computer does not have it, download RealPlayer for free at

        Bring a United States Passport to class to display to the students. Be sure your classroom has a world map. (If necessary, project one from the URL under Media Components.)

        Post the focus for media interaction questions for the Introductory Activity on the wall, or write them on the board, or have them ready to project.

        Make copies of the "This Land Is My Land: Developing Borders" student organizer (enough for every student pair), "Comparison of Botswana and Zimbabwe" student organizer (enough for every student pair), and the "Planning Page for Border Dispute Presentation" (enough for every student group). Duplicate the "Exit Ticket" page and cut each in half -- there should be one for every student.

        Review the "Answer Key for the Comparison of Botswana and Zimbabwe" student organizer.

        When using media, provide students with a focus for media interaction, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

        The Lesson

        Part I: Introductory Activity

        1. Hold up a copy of a United States Passport and ask the students if any of them has one. Ask the students what a passport is and why they need one. (Students may reply that a passport proves they are United States citizens and they have a passport so they can travel to other countries.) Then ask, why would you want to go to another country? (Student answers may include: to visit family, to travel, to study, to work.) Next ask, why does a country require a passport for entry? (Students might say, to be sure you are legal, to be sure you stay for only a specific amount of time, to be sure you are not a criminal, to be sure you are from a friendly country.) Ask, if you were driving from one country to another, where does an agent first look at your passport? (The border.) What is a border: Write student answers on the board and develop the definition (A border is a boundary, the line or frontier area separating divisions of geographic regions.) If you have a word wall, add "border" to it. Pull down or project a political world map and ask a student to trace the border of any country. (See URL for a world map under Media Components if necessary.)

        2. Ask students to pair/share while they brainstorm how borders develop. Have them make a list of their ideas in their notebooks. Have students share their answers and record their responses on the board. (Answers may include: exploration, national claims, geographic features, war and conquest, national unification, international conference.) Tell students that today we are going to look at examples to understand, "How have political borders developed throughout history?"

        3. Distribute the "This Land is My Land: Developing Borders" Student Organizer to each student pair. Tell students that you are going to project maps and documents relating to the development of political borders. Provide students with a focus for media interaction, asking them to answer two questions with their partner as they view each image. Point to the two questions that are posted on the wall, written on the board, or projected:

          • To what country or countries does the image refer?
          • What determined the political borders?

          Show them the columns on the chart and direct them to fill in the chart after viewing each image.

        4. Project the Endeavour Web site, and click on "The Journal." Explain to the students that they are looking at a journal entry written by the explorer Captain Cook while he was sailing on the Endeavour in 1770. Click on "The Transcript" and ask, "What kind of information is Cook recording?" (Students may answer: location, latitude, miles from point to point) Return to the home page and click on "April, 1770." Tell the students that based on the Journal we are able to show the exact route of Cook's journey. Have a student trace the red line depicting the route. What land was Cook sailing toward? (Australia or New Holland) What did the Dutch call it? (New Holland) Continue to click on the right arrow to show Cook's journey along the east coast of Australia until you pause at August, 1770. What did Cook do when he reached Possession Island? (He claimed Australia -- or New Holland -- for England based on the borders he mapped.) Remind students to pair/share what they have just viewed and fill in their charts (Australia, known then as New Holland; claimed by an explorer).

        5. Project the physical map of Switzerland, Ask the students what helps determine the borders of this country. (Mountains, Lakes, Rhine River on northern border). Remind students to discuss what they see with their partners and fill in their chart. (Switzerland; Geographic features).

        6. Project the map of Italian unification, Remind the students that the various individual states were remnants of the political divisions of the Middle Ages and the Holy Roman Empire. Why would these separate states join together? (Students may reply Nationalism or Unification of states with factors in common: history, language, religion, customs, culture, contiguous territory; ideology of Mazzini and Cavour; March of Garibaldi and his soldiers). What country did they form with a single encircling border? (Italy)

        7. Project the section from the Versailles Treaty, Who determined the boundaries in this document? What country must accept the boundaries according to the document? (The victors in World War I determined Germany's borders.)

        8. Project the page on the Berlin Conference of 1885, Read the first sentences of the background to the treaty and then continue from "International rivalry..." to the end. Ask students why the nations were meeting at the Berlin Conference? Then read the actual provision XXXIV to the students before they discuss the document. To what countries does this document refer? How are the borders going to be determined? What does a nation have to do when it claims part of Africa? (Africa, particularly present day Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe; by international agreement at the Berlin Conference; a nation has to notify others of its control or "sphere of influence") Explain to the students that one example of the process was in 1885, following the Conference, when the British declared a protectorate known as Bechuanaland over the land that is now Botswana.

        9. Go over the student answers recorded on their charts and add the specific examples to the list already on the board.

        10. Give students an "Exit Ticket" for end of Introductory Activity to fill out and turn in before they leave to assess understanding.

        Part II: Learning Activity #1

        1. Answer any questions that arose from your examination of the exit tickets and explain that today the class is going to examine a specific example to answer the following questions: Why has a border conflict developed between Zimbabwe and Botswana? What arguments are raised by both sides? Can the conflict be resolved?

        2. Have a student point out the location of Botswana and Zimbabwe on the world map. (See URL for a world map under Media Components if necessary.) Explain that the border between the two countries was set by the imperialist European powers during the 19th and early 20th centuries and remains in effect after independence of the two countries.

        3. Provide students with a focus for media interaction, asking them to identify what defines the border between Botswana and Zimbabwe today. Play The Fence QuickTime Video for the class. Discuss what defines the border (a man-made electrified fence, 300-miles long). Ask students to predict why a nation would build a fence? (Student answers might include: to keep out people flooding in looking for work, to keep out people who are looking for political asylum; to keep out illegal migrants.)

        4. Distribute the "Economic Comparison of Botswana and Zimbabwe" Student Organizer and have the students complete the analysis of the chart in pairs. Discuss the answers as a whole class. (An Answer Key is provided). Be sure the students predict what they see as the economic problems of both countries.

        Part III: Learning Activity #2

        1. Provide students with a focus for media interaction, asking them why Zimbabweans would want to cross the border into Botswana. Play the Botswana Today QuickTime Video for the class. Check for comprehension, asking the students to describe the economy in Botswana. (Fastest growing in the world fueled by diamond mines, cattle and tourism) Ask the students why the economy is successful. (Free elections, free markets, rule of law) Ask in spite of its success what problems does the economy in Botswana have. (Unemployment, HIV, vulnerable to influx of migrants.)

        Part IV: Learning Activity #3

        1. Provide students with a focus for media interaction, asking them to describe how the political situation in Zimbabwe has contributed to the numbers of people crossing the border. Play the Detainees QuickTime Video for the class. Ask the students why the political situation in Zimbabwe causes people to cross the border. (elections rigged, members of opposition parties harassed, jailed, beaten, no freedom of expression) Check for comprehension by asking students what "political asylum" is. (Fearing for your life because of your political beliefs, you seek sanctuary in another country.)

        Part V: Learning Activity #4

          1. Provide students with a focus for media interaction, asking them to determine how workers in Botswana are impacted by new arrivals who are willing to work for less pay. Play the Anti-Immigrant Sentiment QuickTime Video for the class. Discuss how workers in Botswana are impacted by the new arrivals. (According to some Botswanans, new arrivals take jobs, are dirty, smell, are suspected of committing crimes, some think they have a right to be there.)


          1. Provide students with a focus for media interaction, asking them what evidence they see that the official reason for building the fence is valid? Play the Foot and Mouth QuickTime Video for the class. Explain to the students that to Japie Strauss, the fact that the government is erecting the fence is a hopeful sign. Ask the students to point out the evidence that supports the official reason for the building of the fence. (The official reason given for the fence is to stop Zimbabwean cattle from crossing the border carrying Foot-and-Mouth disease. Students might point out statistics or cite the story of Japie Strauss.)


        1. Have students work with a partner to construct a T-chart entitled "Why has a border conflict developed between Zimbabwe and Botswana?" Have them label one column "Arguments for Zimbabweans Crossing the Fence," and have them list some possible arguments (work, getting basic necessities unavailable in Zimbabwe, political asylum) Have the students label the other column "Arguments for the Botswanan Fence," and list arguments (Botswana itself has 23% unemployment, economy vulnerable to mass influx of refugees, fear of Foot-and-Mouth disease) Direct the students to try to develop a solution for this conflict after they have developed their arguments. Discuss the T-chart and the conflict solution as a whole class activity. (Student answers will vary, but the teacher should encourage the students to see there are valid arguments on both sides and a solution would be a difficult process.)

        Part VI: Culminating Activity

          1. Display the interactive map found at the Border Jumpers web site: Provide students with a focus for media interaction, asking them: aside from the Botswana/Zimbabwe border conflict, what other border conflicts are there in the world today? As students answer, click briefly on each border dispute to stimulate student interest. Tell them we are going to engage in a simulation to understand some of these conflicts and to propose a solution.


          1. Divide the class into five groups. Distribute the "Planning Page for Border Conflict Presentation" Student Organizer to each group, go over the directions, and assign a conflict to each group. Provide students with a focus for media interaction, by stressing the questions the presentation will answer: Where is this border dispute taking place? Why did this dispute develop? What are the issues from the point of view of both sides? How do you propose to settle the conflict?


          1. Provide time in class for student groups to plan the presentation, and then schedule a date for them to present to the class. Students may do their research and preparation of the presentation as homework.


        1. Have each group present its border dispute. Conduct a summative discussion about why border disputes develop, the points of view over border disputes, and the difficulty of resolution.



        Have the students write an essay addressing the following statement:

          "Borders, like so many other political devices, are essentially designed to serve the interests of the elite."

        Remind them that the essay must:

        • Have a relevant thesis and the thesis must be supported with appropriate historical evidence;
        • Address all parts of the question;
        • Make direct, relevant comparisons;
        • Use examples drawn from border disputes in at least two different regions of the world.


        Language Arts

        • Write a diary entry for a person from Zimbabwe who crosses the electrified fence into Botswana. What challenges did the person face? How did the people in Botswana react to him or her? How did the person feel?
        • Students might read The Distant Shore, by Caryl Phillips. New York: Knopf, 2003. The novel is about a migrant from St. Kitts who enters England illegally. After reading the novel, students could create a fictionalized news story about the illegal migrant.

        Fine Arts

        • Students should access the painting "Crossing the Border" by Arthur Grottger, available online at and analyze its style. Ask the students to compare and contrast this version of a border crossing with the one in "Border Jumpers."


        • Have students create skits that would involve an illegal migrant being confronted by a citizen after the illegal migrant has crossed the border. Perform the skits for the class.

        Community Connections

          • Invite a speaker from a community organization that deals with the problems of illegal aliens to your class. Have each student write a question for the speaker in advance of the visit.


          • Arrange an exhibition of the student presentations on border disputes at the local public library or another community center.


        • Have student groups locate the address of the United Nations Committee that deals with the border dispute they researched in the Culminating Activity. Have them submit their presentations to the proper committee.


        You must be logged in to use this feature

        Need an account?
        Register Now