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Globalization: How and Why, From Here to There

Through these three activities {definitionbot=disable}students will have the opportunity to explore today’s globalization and its effects, both good and bad. They will have fun while building upon Our Small World and the importance of natural resources, free trade and the spread of disease.

Materials Needed
Extension Activities
Relevant Curriculum Standards



These three activities offer students the opportunity to explore globalization through the concepts of resource distribution, free trade, and specialization.

  • The first involves an attempt to create a "wind farm" in four different countries with unequal distribution of resources.
  • The second allows students to experience free trade and discover its effect on their level of satisfaction with what they have. It also allows students to see how trade can affect their health.
  • The third demonstrates through the clothes they wear and the electronic devices they use that different parts of the world specialize in different products. It asks them to think about why this is so.

Finally, students are asked to apply their learning from these three activities together, along with material from this EcoHealth website to research, discuss, and debate today’s globalization.

Estimated class time:
3-4 class periods (50-minute blocks)


Students will:

  • Explain how availability of resources and lack of resources (natural and human) can affect whether countries can serve the needs of their citizens
  • Identify reasons why free trade can both improve the quality of life for some and not improve it for others, including potential health risks
  • Explain the pros and cons of specialization in the global economy
  • Relate how globalization is tied to resource distribution, trade, and specialization


Part I:

  • Straws or thin dowels
  • Small brads (type of nail)
  • Paper cut into squares
  • Pinwheel. Click here for complete directions.
  • Sharpened pencils
  • Scissors

Part II:

  • Lunch-size paper bags, with a red dot (using a marker or stickers) on the inside bottom of one-fourth of the bags
  • An assortment of small objects, one for each student (these can be bought at a dollar store, for example, and should all be different and appeal to different students, including objects that mostly girls would prefer, objects mostly boys would prefer, and off-beat objects that only a student or two is likely to prefer)
  • A calculator
  • Prepared charts for each student to fill out during the activity such as the following:

  • Round No.
    Object Name

    I kept my object

    I traded my object to
    (student's name)





Part III:

  • Maps or atlases
  • Internet access



Introduce the topic of globalization by asking students what they think it means. Then brainstorm with them ways in which they see that their part of the world is connected to other parts of the world. Create a concept web on the board to organize their ideas into different categories, asking them to identify useful categories. If the students do not identify resources as a category, be sure to point it out to them.

Part I: Resource Distribution

  • Divide the students into four groups, telling them that each group represents a different country and that each country has different resources. However, all of the countries are facing energy shortages. Engineers in one of the countries have developed a new technology for harnessing wind power, suitable for use in all four countries. Now all they have to do is build the wind farms.
    • Distribute to Country A enough straws for all the students in the class.
    • Distribute to Country B enough brads for all the students in the class.
    • Distribute to Country C enough square pieces of paper for all students in the class.
    • Distribute to Country D enough directions for making pinwheels for all students in the class, as well as enough sharpened pencils and scissors for groups to share later on.
  • Ask them, using the resources they have, to make pinwheels for a wind farm. Obviously, they can’t. Lead a discussion on why they can’t: No country has all the resources needed; every country lacks some needed resources. Ask why this might be so. Also ask them what kinds of resources each country has, and be sure they understand that all but one lacks educated innovators and technology.
  • Next, have the students distribute the materials so each student has a straw, a brad, and a square piece of paper, and each group has enough copies of the directions, sharpened pencils, and scissors to share.
  • Allow each student to make a pinwheel, so that each country can have its own "wind farm."
  • End the activity by asking students how uneven distribution of resources (natural resources, as well as opportunities for people, such as education) might be addressed in the real world. In the simulation, the resources were shared equally so everyone had enough. Is this realistic? These questions lead to Part II.

Part II: Free Trade

  • Start by reviewing the ideas shared at the end of Part I, and tell students they are going to explore how people share resources and goods.
  • Divide the class into four groups. Randomly give each student a paper bag in which there is an object, EXCEPT all students in one of the groups should be given the bags with the red dots inside. However, do not mention the dots to anyone at this point. Direct them to look inside without revealing to anyone else what object they see inside.
  • On the board, create a simple chart on which you have Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, and Round 4 written in a column down the left side and a place for a total for each round written in a column down the right side. Ask students to determine how satisfied they each are with the object they have in their bag on a scale of 1 to 5, five being the most satisfied. Next ask students individually to tell you what number they have awarded their object, and record them horizontally in the Round 1 row. Have a student with a calculator adding the numbers as you write them so that at the end, you can write the "satisfaction total" for that round.
  • Give each student a copy of the chart for recording trades. Tell them it is important to keep a record of their trades. Then, in each of the four groups, students should show each other what they have in their bags, without letting other groups see. Tell students that they can trade within their groups if they like, but tell them they must keep their own bags and trade just the objects. All trades must be agreed upon by both parties. All items should be kept inside the bags except during actual exchanges so that other groups can’t see them.
  • Ask students to again assess their satisfaction with their object (new, if they did trade, or original, if they didn’t trade), 1 to 5. Record their numbers on the board next to Round 2, and again have a student find the total. At this point, the total might have gone up or down. Ask students to speculate why (e.g., people liked what they traded for better; having seen what objects other students had, they liked their original item even better or less but they couldn’t make a trade).
  • Next have two groups join together so you have half the class trading with each other and the other half doing the same for Round 3. Repeat the procedure for recording the level of satisfaction.
  • Finally, for Round 4, let the whole class trade, and then record the final level of satisfaction. The total at the end should be higher than at the beginning. Have the students discuss why (e.g., when people have goods to trade and are allowed to trade freely, their level of satisfaction with what they have goes up). Ask whether anyone’s level of satisfaction went lower or stayed low, and why (e.g., they didn’t like what they had in the beginning and neither did anyone else, so they could never trade for anything better).
  • Discuss with students how this new understanding of trade relates to the previous activity about resource distribution.
  • Next, ask everyone to look inside their bags and see whether there is a red dot in the bottom. Inform those students who find a red dot that they represent a country in which a serious new contamination has arisen, one that is carried by microbes on its trade goods. Write the names of those students in a column down the left side of the board. All of these students were exposed to the microbes. Ask whether they could have passed on the contamination during the first round (no, because they were trading with each other). Ask these contaminated students to look at the charts they filled out as they traded, and ask which of them traded with someone else in the second round. Draw an arrow from the name of each student who traded and connect it to the name of the student with whom the trade was made. Next find out which of those students holding contaminated objects from Round 2 traded in Round 3, and draw arrows to connect them with the newly contaminated. Be sure to include any students from the original group who didn’t trade in Round 2 but did in Round 3. Do the same for Round 4. You will end up with a chart that shows how the microbes spread and how many people were infected by the end.
  • Discuss with students how this new understanding of trade might relate to the unforeseen sharing of microbes (or invasive species).
  • Ask:

Important: Tell students to be sure to wear shoes other than flip-flops to the next class (don’t alert the students to the activity, but this is because flip-flops are rarely labeled with country of origin) and to wear a watch if they have one and/or bring a calculator.

Part III: Specialization

  • Begin by going over the understandings gained in the previous two activities. Ask what might have happened if everybody had had the same object in their bag (no reason for trading). What if everyone had had an assortment of objects but the assortment was the same (some trading would have occurred because some people would want more of a particular object and none of another)? What if everyone had each had a number of the same object, but of an object no one else had?
  • Ask students to look at the labels on their shirts, their shoes, and their watches or calculators. Students can help each other look at their shirt labels. Have them record where these items were made. (If a student has an item that doesn’t have a label, they will just not have a location for that item.)
  • Then, starting with shirts, go around the room asking students where their shirts were made. Write the names of the countries on the board. Depending upon the geographical knowledge of your students and how much time you want to put into this aspect, you can list the countries and then have students use maps or atlases to locate the countries; or you can list continents on the board, and, as students give you their countries, have them also tell you which continents they are on.
  • Discuss why the shirts come from the countries they come from. Most will probably come from the Caribbean, Central America, and South Asia. Ask why this would be so (e.g., natural resources, level of technology, workforce, production costs, outsourcing).
  • Repeat for shoes (most will be from China) and for small electronics (most will be from Asia).
  • Ask:
    • What regions are most represented by each item?
    • Why do you think these regions specialize in these items?
    • Why doesn’t the U.S. produce many of these items?
    • How can the clothing come from so far away and still be relatively inexpensive?
    • What other regions of the world are missing and why?
    • What do the items produced in a region tell us about a region (e.g., natural resources, technology, production costs, workforce)?
    • What effects might countries and regions specializing in certain products have on the relationships between countries and regions?
    • What might be the advantages of this specialization? The disadvantages? Think back to the trading activity to help you think about these questions.

Part IV: Putting It All Together

  • Direct students to the "Our Small World" section on this EcoHealth website, in particular the section on "What in the World is Globalization?"
  • Students can read these sections in class or as homework. They can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups. Using whichever procedure works best for your class, have students create a list of the pros and cons of 21st century globalization. From individual or group lists, create a class list on the board.
  • To check for understanding, have students respond to the following (in writing or through discussion):
    • What role do resources (natural resources and human resources) play in a country’s ability to participate in the global economy?
    • How does free trade help/hinder countries around the world?
    • What role does specialization play in the global economy?
    • How does global trade contribute to the spread of disease and invasive species?


  • Participation in class activities and discussions
  • Written assignment


  • Hold a debate on a topic such as the following, "Globalization is good for both the developed and the developing world," "Globalization has increased health risks in the U.S." or some other related statement of your choosing.
  • Research wind farms to learn how they work, what their advantages as an energy source are, where they can be placed, why many people oppose them.
  • Research what laws the U.S. has in place to ensure that the products we buy are safe; how these laws are used for products coming from other countries; and whether the same rules apply (and work or don’t work) for products the U.S. exports to other countries.


This lesson correlates to the following National Science Education Standards, National Economics Standards, National Geography Standards, and Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies.

National Science Education Standards

As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop understanding of personal health, risks and benefits, and natural and human-induced hazards:

Content Standard F:

  • Students should understand the risks associated with natural hazards, with chemical hazards, with biological hazards (pollen, viruses, bacterial, and parasites), social hazards and with personal hazards.
  • Natural environments may contain substances that are harmful to human beings. Maintaining environmental health involves establishing or monitoring quality standards related to use of soil, water, and air.
  • Human activities can enhance potential for hazards.
  • Natural and human-induced hazards present the need for humans to assess potential danger and risk. Many changes in the environment designed by humans bring benefits to society, as well as cause risks.

Health Education
Standard 1:

  • Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention by describing how lifestyle, pathogens, family history and other risk factors are related to the cause or prevention of disease and other health problems.

National Economics Standards

As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of:

Content Standard 1

Productive resources are limited. Therefore, people cannot have all the goods and services they want; as a result, they must choose some things and give up others.

  • Productive resources are the natural resources and human resources, and capital goods available to make goods and services. Natural resources, such as land, are "gifts of nature;" they are present without human intervention. Human resources are the quantity and quality of human effort directed toward producing goods and services. Scarcity is the condition of not being able to have all of the goods and services that one wants. It exists because human wants for goods and services exceed the quantity of goods and services that can be produced using all available resources.

Content Standard 5
Gain from Trade

Voluntary exchange occurs only when all participating parties expect to gain. This is true for trade among individuals or organizations within a nation, and usually among individuals or organizations in different nations.

  • People voluntarily exchange goods and services because they expect to be better off after the exchange.
  • Free trade increases worldwide material standards of living.
  • Voluntary exchange among people or organizations in different countries gives people a broader range of choices in buying goods and services.

Content Standard 6
Specialization and Trade

When individuals, regions, and nations specialize in what they can produce at the lowest cost and then trade with others, both production and consumption increase.

  • Economic specialization occurs when people concentrate their production on fewer kinds of goods and services than they consume.
  • Greater specialization leads to increasing interdependence among producers and consumers.
  • Like trade among individuals within one country, international trade promotes specialization and division of labor and increases output and consumption.
  • As a result of growing international economic interdependence, economic conditions and policies in one nation increasingly affect economic conditions and policies in other nations.

National Geography Education Standards

As a result of activities in grades K-12, students should develop understanding of:

Content Standard 11
Human Systems

  • The patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth’s surface.

Content Standard 16
Environment and Society

  • The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources.

Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies

Production, Distribution, and Consumption
Content Standard VII
Middle Grades

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study how people organize for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, so that the learner can:

  • Describe the role of specialization and exchange in the economic process.

Global Connections
Content Standard IX
Middle Grades

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of global connections and interdependence, so that the learner can:

  • Analyze examples of conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among groups, societies, and nations.
  • Explore the causes, consequences, and possible solutions to persistent, contemporary, and emerging global issues, such as health, security, resource allocation, economic development, and environmental quality.

Globalization: How and Why, From Here to There

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