Order Out of Borders


Students will examine the difference between natural and man-made borders.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters


Students will examine the difference between natural and man-made borders.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Language Arts
  • Art


  • 2nd
  • 3rd

Class Time

  • Sessions: Three
  • Session Length: 30-45 minutes
  • Total Length: 91-120 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Pairs
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of:

  • Compass rose directions
  • State geography

Terms and Concepts

  • Quarter
  • Reverse (back)
  • Natural border
  • Man-made border


  • Copies of the "United States Map"
  • 1 overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the Texas quarter reverse
  • 1 overhead projector (optional)
  • 1 class map of the United States
  • Chalkboard or chart paper
  • Chalk or markers
  • Lunch trays
  • Clay or dough that will harden without cracking
  • Large pieces of paper
  • Copies of the "Big Picture Map"
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • 1 overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the "Texas Map Key"
  • Copies of the "Texas Round Up" page


  • Plan for assistance from a parent aide or the school art teacher.
  • Make copies of the "United States Map" on page 51 (1 per student).
  • Make an overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the Texas quarter reverse.
  • Make copies of the "Big Picture Map" (1 per pair).
  • Make an overhead transparency of the "Texas Map Key".
  • Make copies of the "Texas Round Up" page (1 per student).


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

Session 1

  1. Distribute a "United States Map" to each student and review the compass rose directions.
  2. Give the following clues about the location of a mystery state and instruct students to use the process of elimination to determine the state about which you are talking.
    • This state borders a body of water.
    • No part of this state borders California or Florida.
    • This entire state is south of Kansas.
    • This state's name is less than 5 syllables.
    • This state is southwest of Arkansas.
  3. Describe the 50 State Quarters Program for background information, if necessary, using the example of your own state, if available. Then display the transparency or photocopy of the Texas quarter reverse. Locate Texas on a classroom map. Note its position in relation to your school's location.
  4. Have students look at both the outline of the state on the coin and the "United States Map." Ask them what they notice about the state outline and what about it is unique. Write down students' observations on the chalkboard or a piece of chart paper.
  5. Discuss why Texas' borders are so unique. Guide students to make observations such as: Texas borders water, states, and another country; its borders are straight lines in some places and very curvy lines in others.
  6. Direct students' attention to the borders of Texas. Ask students what is to Texas' north (Oklahoma), northeast (Arkansas), east (Louisiana), southeast (Gulf of Mexico), northwest (New Mexico), southwest (Mexico), and south (Mexico).
  7. Divide students into groups of two and distribute a lunch tray, clay, and a large piece of paper to each student pair. Direct students to place the large piece of paper on their lunch tray (it should cover the entire tray). Using the map or the quarter reverse as a guide, create an accurate model of Texas in clay/dough on the lunch trays. Leave out overnight to dry.

Session 2

  1. Explain the two types of borders: natural and man-made. Discuss with your students the meaning of both words. If necessary, introduce the idea that we can not see state borders anywhere other than a map.
  2. Ask students to generate examples of natural and man-made borders.
  3. Create a class chart of examples. Guide students to include examples such as mountains, lakes, rivers, oceans, and valleys for natural boundaries. For man-made boundaries, guide students to include examples like war, and the buying and selling of land.
  4. Have students meet in the same pairs as session 1. Distribute the "Big Picture Map" to each pair. Direct each pair to draw on their models, in pencil, the rivers and oceans that form natural boundaries for Texas. Once students have correctly identified these boundaries, have them paint onto their models the rivers (in blue) and oceans (in blue wavy lines).
  5. Have students decide which borders are natural borders. Paint these borders green. Let these dry overnight.

Session 3

  1. On the models, have students label the names of the rivers and large bodies of water that were painted in the previous session.
  2. Which borders are left? These are man-made borders.
  3. Read to students the following information. Allow an appropriate amount of time for students to locate the pertinent border, before reading the information following.
    • Locate the eastern border of Texas north of the Sabine River and south of the Red River. This part of Texas's outline is an almost perfectly straight line. A long time ago, the United States bought this land from France. This set the southwestern border of Arkansas and the northwest border of Louisiana.
    • Locate the Sabine River on the eastern border of Texas. Almost 200 years ago, Spain and the United States decided that this river would be the northern boundary for Texas.
    • Find the part of Texas that borders Mexico. Over 150 years ago, Mexico and the United States fought over this boundary. The U.S. won, and made the Rio Grande the southern boundary of Texas.
    • Find the western and northern boundaries of Texas that are completely straight lines. Over 150 years ago, Texas sold a lot of land to the U.S. government. The government paid Texas 10 million dollars for the land.
  4. Paint the man-made borders red.
  5. Share the models with the class. Display the "Texas Map Key" on the overhead and discuss any discrepancies.
  6. As a culminating activity, have students complete the "Texas Round Up" follow-up worksheet. You can use this as an informal assessment, or collect it for a grade.
  7. Display maps in the classroom or in a hallway showcase.

Differentiated Learning Options

Prepare appropriate labels for the rivers and oceans (using toothpicks and strips of paper) and allow students to use these to mark their maps.


Create a model of your own state and examine its boundaries. Are they natural or manmade? How do they compare to Texas' borders? Or, examine the boundaries that define our country and answer the same questions.


Use the worksheets and class participation to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

National Standards

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Disciplinary Standards
Cluster: Geography
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • guide learners in the use of maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective
  • enable learners to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context
  • assist learners to analyze the spatial information about people, places, and environments on Earth’s surface
  • help learners to understand the physical and human characteristics of places
  • assist learners in developing the concept of regions as a means to interpret Earth’s complexity
  • enable learners to understand how culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and regions
  • provide learners opportunities to understand and analyze the physical processes that shape Earth’s surface
  • challenge learners to consider the characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth’s surface
  • guide learners in exploring the characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth’s surface
  • help learners to understand and analyze the characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth’s cultural mosaics
  • have learners explore the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth’s surface
  • enable learners to describe the processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement
  • challenge learners to examine how the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth’s surface; help learners see how human actions modify the physical environment
  • enable learners to analyze how physical systems affect human systems
  • challenge learners to examine the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources
  • help learners to apply geography to interpret the past and present and to plan for the future
  • enhance learners’ abilities to ask questions and to acquire, organize, and analyze geographic information so they can answer geographic questions as they engage in the study of substantive geographic content

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: K-4 Visual Arts
Cluster: Standard 6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Students understand and use similarities and differences between characteristics of the visual arts and other arts disciplines
  • Students identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: K-4 Visual Arts
Cluster: Standard 1: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Students know the differences between materials, techniques, and processes
  • Students describe how different materials, techniques, and processes cause different responses
  • Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories
  • Students use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner