I often use stories and analogies to help my students understand what another place or another time would be like. This has the most impact when I can present facts to back up my story. If It Were My Home provides just that by generating statistical comparisons between two places.
The site was first created to show the scale of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by superimposing the contaminated area over a location of your choice. If It Were My Home has since expanded to include a fabulous country comparison tool. Choose a country and you get, “If ___ were your home instead of the United States…” followed by social and economic comparisons based on data from the CIA World Factbook. By default it uses the United States, but you can compare any two countries. The page also includes a short description of the country and an Amazon-generated list of suggested books. Just glancing at the titles gives an idea of the country’s identity; for Russia it displayed books about Stalin, the Cold War, and the transition from communism. The comment section on each country’s page adds an interesting social element, but beware inappropriate posts.
For English or social studies teachers, this is a compelling way to show students the facts of life in other parts of the world. The country comparisons also offer opportunities for math classes working with fractions and proportions. And you can still check out the original page about the Gulf oil spill. If you and your students were so lucky, you’ll be thankful that it was not your home.