Tracking the T-Wolves


Using the NBA to Teach Geography!
Last updated 12-17-21


Introduction: Not really a lesson plan, this is an ongoing activity for the intermediate or middle grades designed to take advantage of students' interest in professional sports to help them learn about the first of the five themes of geography: location, particularly the location of U.S. and Canadian cities having NBA teams. Though this activity is designed for Minnesota students and follows the travels of the Minnesota Timberwolves (the state's NBA franchise), it could easily be modified for other states or cities with professional sports teams.

Materials Needed: A map of the United States and Canada (posted on the classroom wall), colored pins, and a computer with Internet access (helpful, but not essential - a good atlas will also work)

Duration: During the entire NBA season (November through April or May if the team progresses in the playoffs)

Procedure: At the start of the basketball season (about November 1) the teacher should write the name of each city with an NBA franchise on a strip of paper (see or your newspaper). Each student will then draw the name of a city. Every time the Timberwolves play a road game (41 times a year!), the class will identify the city and state (or Canadian province) where the team is playing. The student who drew that city will then locate it on the map (with help, if necessary) and insert a colored pin designating the city's location (extra cities can be done by the whole class, and if the teacher prefers, the entire activity can be a whole-class activity). To learn the city's absolute and relative location, the class (or an individual student) will find the city's longitude and latitude. The distance from the Twin Cities to the city where the team is playing should also be calculated and recorded. Flying time and driving time to the city can then be determined. Using a web page such as MarQuest or Goole Maps will provide the mileage (or use a travel atlas), and the students can then divide by 60 (or whatever speed is chosen) to get an approximate driving time. Flight time can be investigated by going to the Minneapolis - St. Paul International Airport Information Page or sites for specific airlines such as Delta.

Extensions: Many extensions for this activity are possible such as finding information about the cities and states the team is visiting as whole-class activities or individual projects; planning driving routes to the various cities and identifying states, cities, geographic features, historic sites, and landmarks one would encounter during the trip; determining which NBA city is located the farthest from the Twin Cities, or the farthest north, south, etc.; calculating the total number of miles the team travels during the season; and calculating the cost of traveling to all the team's road games.

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