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Middle East: Land, Resources, and Economics
Lesson Snapshot

Learning objectives
Students will be able to describe major geographical features of the Middle East and explain how these features and other natural resources influence the economy of the area.

Grade level



NCSS standards

Time estimate
90 minutes over two class periods, with homework

  • Part 1: Introduction to region and homework assignment
  • Part 2: Discuss research and develop graphic organizer

What you'll need (see Resources for links)

Lesson Plan

Part 1

  • Distribute copies of the Middle East Topographical Map to students.

  • Begin a class discussion of some of the similarities and differences between locations throughout the Middle East. Sample questions include the following:

    • What are the topographical features of the Middle East?

    • Geographically, how are the United Arab Emirates and Oman alike? How are they different?

    • What about the locations of the Upper Nile Valley and the city of Haifa?

    • What natural resources might be available in the Middle East?

  • Assign each student a country from the list provided to research. Suggested sources for research can be found in the Resources section.

Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates

  • Distribute copies of the graphic organizer, and have students answer the following questions:

    • Describe the country's physical geography (terrain). Provide pictures if available.

    • What is the population of the country?

    • What is the average life span? For women? Men?

    • What is the climate? Note: Climates can range across regions.

    • Does this country have a fresh water supply? What is the source of water? Does it originate in this country? Does this country share its water supply with another country?

    • What is the country's gross domestic product (GDP)? What is the GDP per capita?

    • What percentage of the GDP is contributed by agriculture? What crops are grown?

    • What other natural resources does the country possess? Oil? Gas? Forests? Mineral deposits?

    • What industries does the country support? List the GDP percentage per industry sector.

    • What does the country export? Import?

    • What international issues is the country currently facing?

Part 2

  • Work with students to combine their research on larger, blank graphic organizers (projected on the wall or drawn on a flipchart or the blackboard) to create a visual representation of the Middle East. Discuss issues such as

  • Physical geography -- What countries are primarily made up of deserts? What countries have mountains? Rivers?

  • Population -- Organize the countries from most to least populated.

  • Climate -- List different climate types found in the Middle East (e.g., dry, temperate, rainforest).

  • Water -- What is the annual rainfall? What countries have a fresh water source? What countries do not? Keep in mind that if a river's headwaters are in a different country, access to that water can be limited.

  • Oil -- List the amount of oil produced by each country to show the significance of oil in the region.

  • Natural gas -- Which countries have significant deposits of natural gas? Indicate amounts.

  • Agriculture -- Organize the countries from highest to lowest percentage of GDP that is contributed by agriculture. What crops are grown? Is there a rationale for growing these crops? What irrigation techniques are used? Are livestock an important agricultural commodity? Which animals are raised, and why?

  • GDP -- Organize the countries from highest GDP to lowest.

  • Per capita GDP -- Organize the countries from highest per capita GDP to lowest.

  • Ask students to use this data to draw inferences about ways in which the Middle East's physical geography and natural resources have influenced the economy of individual nations and the region. Questions to ask include the following:

    • Which countries are the richest in the Middle East?

    • Where might their wealth come from?

    • The United States has a GDP of more than US$9 trillion. How do these countries compare?

    • Do you think there is a connection between a country's natural resources and its economy?

    • What impact, other than economic, might a country's natural resources have?

    • Discuss the similarities and differences of countries with water, agriculture, and other exports.

    • What surprised students about their research?


  • To what extent can the student articulate differences between countries?

  • How well can the student make connections between a country's natural resources and its economy?


Core Resources:

Global Connections Essays:

Internet Resources:

Print Resources:

  • Middle East: Crossroads of Faith and Conflict (map)
    Supplement to National Geographic, October 2002

Related Activities:

NCSS standards

People, places, and environments

  • Describe, differentiate, and explain the relationships among various regional and global patterns of geographic phenomena such as landforms, soils, climate, vegetation, natural resources, and populations.

  • Analyze and evaluate social and economic effects of environmental changes and crisis resulting from phenomena such as floods, storms, and drought.

Production, distribution, and consumption

  • Apply economic concepts and reasoning when evaluating historical and contemporary social developments and issues.

For more information, see the National Standards for Social Studies Teachers, Volume I.

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