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Pop Culture, Hunger Games and Geography class


November 14, 2014
Uploaded a post with links to Hunger Games lesson plans and resources with a focus on social justice.

October 9, 2013
Added a post highlighting 8 Hunger Games lessons and resources

March 26, 2012
I added a more recent post concerning the Hunger Games series with links to lessons plans and more maps.


I haven’t read it.

I’ve heard all about it.

Both my teenage daughter and wife are deep into the third book of the Hunger Games trilogy and, right now, series heroine Katniss rules the roost in our house.

Inspired by the “blurring” between reality television and Iraq war coverage as well as the Greek Theseus myth, author Suzanne Collins wrote the first book of the trilogy in 2008.  So why should do we care? You probably need to know a bit of the plot first.

If you don’t know the plot but are still planning to go through the series, close your eyes for just a second.


Basic plot – a post-apocalyptic North America is now called Panem and is ruled by a powerful government called the “Capital.” States and provinces have been replaced by a dozen official “districts.” Each district is forced to send a boy and girl to compete in an annual, and deadly, competition called the Hunger Games. Much distress ensues along with romance, oppression, heroism, courage and eventually a rebellion. Good conquers evil. Sort of. The end.

Okay, you can open.

And the so what?

The series seem like a great way to incorporate a variety of social studies concepts into your instruction. Rule of law, the establishment of governments, individual freedoms, Locke, Constitution, really all sorts of things. (It’s interesting to note that Kansas State University ordered 3,800 copies of the first book and passed them out to every freshman this fall.)

But I’m more intrigued with the idea of using the Hunger Games series to focus on geography themes. We often don’t ask kids to think deeply enough about the link between geographic space and personal identity, about how regions impact who we are and how we think. I think we could use the descriptions of people and place within the books to facilitate a clearer understanding of these themes.

You could start with having kids create maps of the 12 different regions based on descriptions in the series. (If you read the book, you know that there is really 13. Sorry . . . close your eyes. There are actually 14, if you count the Capital.)

Lead student conversations about why Katniss and other characters act as they do. How might where they live impact how they live?

You might also download this generic “Defining Regions” lesson plan and adapt it to fit the context of Panem.

I’ve heard from some that this sort of thing is too much like “entertaining” students. That we shouldn’t have to use pop culture to teach social studies. I disagree. I will use pretty much whatever it takes to engage kids in content. And if the relationship between Katniss, Peeta and Gale hooks students into a better understanding of civic and geographic concepts, we ought to be all over it.

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12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Yessica #

    Kudos to you for your forward thinking! I am a 6th grade Social Studies teacher in a charter school in Miami Dade County, Fl and I am so happy you posted this. Our 6-8th graders are reading The Hunger Games in their Reading classes and all subjects have been encouraged to embrace Katniss and Peeta’s journey. I have already started to create lesson plans on how the “games” mimic Roman Gladiator games and how the stadium can be compared to the ancient amphitheater. I think your idea of ” the link between geographic space and personal identity” is genius. Too bad I don’t teach College, I would love to discuss this in the context of Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”. Once again thank you for your blog, it has gotten my creative juices flowing! Much success to you and your students.

    January 3, 2011
    • glennw #


      Thanks for the comment! I am a huge believer in finding whatever it takes to get kids engaged and learning about geography. It’s a tough subject to teach. I like your comparison to Rome (I just finished reading a great article about the Coliseum in the latest issue of Smithsonian magazine). My kids and I had a similar conversation and it’s one that seems to make sense to them.

      Good luck!


      January 3, 2011
  2. Chantel #

    The map you have chosen is not exactly right to fit the book, I’m sorry to say. It is supposed to include Canada as well, because Panem is all of North America. The project that you have said about the students creating maps is an amazing idea. It is amazing because each map would be different in their own way according to the students imagination. Thank you for putting this up! C:

    January 7, 2011
    • glennw #

      Thanks for the comment! I also like the idea of each map being just a little bit different based on how the student interprets the book’s content. It would also be a great way to introduce the concept that all maps “lie.”


      January 7, 2011
  3. Sharon #

    I also greatly appreciate the idea of the lesson, and think it would be extremely valuable for the students to identify the products of each district and analyze where it most likely would fit in North America, according to the evidence we see in the book. My only critique is that your map seems to inaccurately depict the Capitol and the lay-out of Panem. As with the previous post, Panem is all of North America. Also, the Capitol is in the Rocky Mountain Range, as Katniss states in HG. Thank you for a great lesson idea, though!

    October 24, 2011
    • glennw #


      Thanks for the comment! My hope was that the post would generate conversation and thought among teachers. And because I didn’t go through the entire book and learned much from my wife and daughter, I didn’t feel like I could actually create the map. Maria Rizzoni created it. But I’m glad you could still see the benefit of using popular lit to help kids dig into geography.

      One of the things I would probably try is show kids this particular map and ask them to “correct” it. How is it right? How is it wrong? How do you know? Why would the Capital create these boundaries rather than in another place? I think the possibilities for discussion, student products, etc are endless – especially with the movie coming out soon.

      Thanks again!


      October 25, 2011

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