be essential to later activities and investigations in the unit. Following my own introduction to GIS, however, I decided to try a new approach and introduce sub-Saharan Africa in an altogether different way.
Our unit on sub-Saharan Africa began with the examination of a world map of infant mortality rates (IMR). Figure 11.1 clearly indicated that sub-Saharan Africa has some of the highest IMR rates in the world.
As we looked at the map, class discussion focused on the regional patterns of infant mortality rates that we observed. When I asked students to identify questions that were raised by those patterns, many asked why infant mortality rates in Africa were so high. The question became the springboard for a challenging activity—an investigation of the causes of and potential cures for the high rates of infant mortality in this region.
Before we began our investigation, I asked students to speculate about what might cause a region—any region—to have a high infant mortality rate. We listed possibilities on the board: not enough doctors, not enough hospitals, lack of food, disease, poverty, war. The preliminary list became the basis of our investigation.
I presented students with a scenario to shape their investigation. In the scenario, the students had been asked to serve on a World Health Organization (WHO) task force charged with recommending programs to address the high rates of infant mortality in sub-Saharan Africa (Figure 11.2). The WHO had several program options but, because of cost, they could not implement all of them. The WHO wanted the IMR Task Force to identify the programs that would be most likely to result in reductions in the high infant mortality rates. Among WHO’s program options were providing immunization against preventable childhood diseases, creating public service messages on radio and television regarding key health issues, funding the construction of sanitation systems for water and sewage, training more doctors and nurses, and expanding opportunities for elementary and secondary education. The students’ task was to discover the leading causes of infant mortality in sub-Saharan Africa and identify the programs that would most effectively target those causes.
The class was enthusiastic about the assignment and anxious to get underway. Our investigation began in the computer lab; GIS was to be the IMR Task Force’s principal investigative tool. In a GIS project that I created for them, students began their search for a cause by looking for other indicators that correlated closely with patterns of infant mortality rates (Figure 11.2b). Using GIS, they compared spatial patterns of infant mortality rates with spatial patterns of the following variables: percent of the population with access to safe water, average number of calories consumed