Where in the World is the Desert?
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.13 Describe limited resources and scarcity.
      2. Benchmark E.5 Recognize the wise use of resources as <i>stewardship</i>.

The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint the learners with the four different types of desert regions and their physical characteristics.

PrintTwo 45 to 50 minute class period

The learner will:

  • identify the characteristics of each of the four zones of the Earth: Subtropical Deserts; Cool Coastal Deserts; Cold Winter Deserts; Polar Deserts.
  • label a map with the name of at least one desert on each continent.
  • Black line master of a world map. (See Bibliographical References map source.)
  • Colored pencils
  • Atlases and/or physical world maps.
  • Videos of deserts if possible approximately 30 minutes or less in length. (See Bibliographical Reference for suggestions)
  • What We Know About Deserts? chart from lesson one
Home Connection: 

Learners will take their maps home to share them with family members. They should ask if any of their family members have ever visited or lived in any desert regions. If they have, learners will add the name of the desert to the map.They should ask family members about the experience. Ask: Did you do anything to adapt to the environment? (wore a hat, used an umbrella for shade, carried water) Some learners may have family members that live or have livedin Middle Eastern desert areas. Be sure that learners include any information from those family members.



  1. Anticipatory Set: Review with the learners information gained in the previous lesson.Refer to the chart What We Know About Deserts created in lesson one.Tell them that they are going to continue exploring information about deserts and how to be good stewards of the Earth.They will also explore the characteristics that make a region a specific type of desert.

  2. Show the learners a video about deserts. ( See Bibliographical Reference for suggestions)

  3. Tell them as they watch the video to observe the general characteristics of deserts. (sand, very little water, high temperatures, cold temperatures, ice pack, few animals, not many people, few plants, plants and animals are generally small with the exception of camels, people)

  4. Explain that deserts are located in all three of the climate zones of the earth: Tropical Deserts are hot and dry; Temperate Deserts have extreme temperatures – hot during the day and cold at night, and Polar Zones are the farthest from the equator around the north and south poles and are very cold and dry. Because of extreme climates resources are scarce and must be protected.

  5. After viewing the video, discuss what the learners observed. Add any new observations on the What We Know About Deserts? chart using a third color.

  6. Compare the physical (natural not human made) characteristics of the area where the learners live with the characteristics of deserts. Possible comparisons might be: “We have a lot of grass, trees and flowers, but the desert doesn’t.” Some learners might live in a desert region and will have common characteristics. For example those that live in the southwestern United States or those that live in the Polar regions of northern Europe. Be sure to include the natural resources of the desert. Teacher Note: It might be helpful to record the comparison attributes on a Venn diagram (two intersecting circles).

  7. Explain that in some deserts there are communities that have planted trees, built houses and created water sources, but these are notnatural to the environment. These are adaptations made to the environment by humans to make the desert habitable. People living in desert regions must use resources wisely.

  8. Discuss ways and reasons that people make adaptations to the desert. (building structures that stay cool, planting plants that require very little water)

  9. Give the learners a blank black line map of the continents of the World. Ideally these should be free of any political boundary lines. Give them several atlases/physical maps to use as resources. Teacher Note: Be sure that the learners understand how to use a physical map. For younger students, it may be necessary to model this activity with the class as a whole and then give those learners individual maps to “copy”.

  10. Ask the learners to locate and label at least one desert on each continent as well as one human adaptation mentioned. (tents to keep cool, knowing which plants provide a liquid to quench thirst). Teacher Note: Information from https://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0778851.html Deserts of the World could be printed for each student to use as a reference in completing the map.

  11. Using the colored pencils, students should color the map.


Evaluate the maps for accuracy. All maps should include: Title (Deserts of the World); Orientation (compass rose); Author (learner's name creating the map); Date (date map was created); and Legend (TOAD-L)