Photo: Map of languages

National Geographic's Enduring Voices Project strives to preserve endangered languages by identifying hotspots.

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Does the city or town in which you live have a neighborhood in which a language other than English is commonly spoken? Are there restaurants that specialize in foods from other countries? If you live in or near a large urban area, is there a mosque or Buddhist temple?

How did these diverse cultural features come to your city or town? The movement of people, goods, or ideas from one place to another is a part of a process known as diffusion. And diffusion plays an important role in shaping the unique characteristics of the places in which we live.

Collecting Data

a) Engage students in a discussion of the process of diffusion. Have them identify cultural characteristics of the local area that may be a result of diffusion, e.g., foods, religions, historic or cultural markers, local place names, celebrations, etc.

b) Gather a set of phone books for your or a nearby city or town. Divide students into small groups and assign each group one of the categories of diffusion that the class has identified. Have students scan listings in the phone books, especially the Yellow pages, to identify specific examples of diffusion in your community or a nearby city.

Presenting the Data

c) Once the students have collected data about diffusion in your community or a nearby city, have them sort the data by country or major region.

d) Now have the students prepare maps that show the source areas for the examples of diffusion that they have identified. Have them add lines to their maps that show that these countries or regions are linked to your local area.

e) Display student maps and lead a class discussion of how your local area has been influenced by diffusion.

Extending the Activity

a) Encourage students to research major diffusion streams that have affected world cultural patterns, such as:

i. the spread of the English language

ii. the spread of major religions

iii. major population movements

b) Have students search the Internet for photos and maps that reflect cultural diffusion. Have them use presentation software, such as PowerPoint, to share their research with the class.

Each year thousands of schools in the United States participate in the National Geographic Bee using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society. The contest is designed to inspire students to be curious about the world. Schools with students in grades four through eight are eligible for this entertaining and challenging competition.

Registration for the 2015 Geo Bee has ended. Schools can register for next year's Geo Bee in August 2015.

School Geo Bees have all been held. Please mark your calendar for the upcoming State Geo Bee on March 27, 2015, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. To find out the location of the State Geo Bee for your state, email us at ngbee@ngs.org.

The national competition of the Geo Bee will be held May 11-13, 2015, at the National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. It will be televised on May 15, 2015, at 8 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel and NG Wild.

Gain a Global Perspective

The 2014 National Geographic Bee finalists gush about geography.



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    Fund a School

    Donations help fund schools to participate in the National Geographic Bee.

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    2014 State Winners

    Fifty-four of the nation's brightest young geography whiz kids gathered in Washington, D.C., last spring to take part in the 26th annual National Geographic Bee.

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