ERIC Identifier: ED381480 Publication Date: 1995-03-00
Author: Stoltman, Joseph P. Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.
The National Geography Content Standards. ERIC Digest.
"Geography for Life: National Geography Standards 1994" is a major
contribution to social studies and geographical education. It specifies what
students in American schools should learn and be able to do with regard to
geography. There are six essential elements of geography into which 18 standards
ELEMENT 1: THE WORLD IN SPATIAL TERMS
Maps, photographs, and satellite images are principal tools for investigating
the relationships between people, places, and environments. When information is
shown using those tools, it is in a spatial context. The spatial context for
geography is the Earth. The geographically informed person knows and
understands: (Standard 1) How to use maps and other geographic representations,
tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a
spatial perspective. (Standard 2) How to use mental maps to organize information
about people, places, and environments in a spatial context. (Standard 3) How to
analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's
ELEMENT 2: PLACES AND REGIONS
People are attached to particular places and regions. Regions and places have
been given meaning by people, and in turn those places and regions help people
to organize and understand the complex world. The geographically informed person
knows and understands: (Standard 4) The physical and human characteristics of
places. (Standard 5) That people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.
(Standard 6) How culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places
ELEMENT 3: PHYSICAL SYSTEMS
The Earth is always changing. Many of the changes are the result of physical
processes. Geography includes four types of physical processes that are
important to understanding the Earth. The atmosphere (weather and climate), the
lithosphere (plate tectonics, erosion), the hydrosphere (oceans, water cycle),
and biosphere (ecosystems, vegetation) are the physical systems that shape and
change the surface of the Earth. The geographically informed person knows and
understands: (Standard 7) The physical processes that shape the patterns of
Earth's surface. (Standard 8) The characteristics and spatial distribution of
ecosystems on Earth's surface.
ELEMENT 4: HUMAN SYSTEMS
Human systems are in constant change on the Earth. People migrate, increase,
decrease, or stabilize their numbers in different places, and learn ways of
living that distinguish a group from other groups. Human systems are comprised
primarily of population, culture, settlement, and the cooperation, conflicts,
and relationships among those components. The geographically informed person
knows and understands: (Standard 9) The characteristics, distribution, and
migration of human populations on Earth's surface. (Standard 10) The
characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics.
(Standard 11) The patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's
surface. (Standard 12) The processes, patterns, and functions of human
settlement. (Standard 13) How the forces of cooperation and conflict among
people influence the division and control of Earth's surface.
ELEMENT 5: ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY
Human history has witnessed many different instances of people interacting
with the environment. People sometimes adjust their lives to fit the
environmental conditions, while in other settings the natural environment has
been greatly altered to meet the needs of people. Some societies have benefited
greatly from environmental resources and others have created environmental
hazards and crises in the way the resources have been used. The geographically
informed person knows and understands: (Standard 14) How human actions modify
the physical environment. (Standard 15) How physical systems affect human
systems. (Standard 16) The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution,
and importance of resources.
ELEMENT 6: THE USES OF GEOGRAPHY
Geography provides a means to look at the past, present, and future. Events
and issues, regardless of their past, present, or future nature, have a
geographical context. The geographical context is important to explaining what
happened and where, and what the consequences were or might be, both
historically and geographically. The geographically informed person knows and
understands: (Standard 17) How to apply geography to interpret the past.
(Standard 18) How to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the
DEVELOPING GEOGRAPHIC SKILLS
Five skill sets for geography
are presented with the content standards. The skills are (1) asking geographic
questions; (2) acquiring geographic information; (3) organizing geographic
information; (4) analyzing geographic information; and (5) answering geographic
questions. This distinction between skills and content is important. The
standards make it clear that geography skills are the means to access and
address the content in the standards. The five skills and suggestions for their
inclusion focus upon critical thinking and incorporate such processes as
knowing, inferring, analyzing, judging, hypothesizing, generalizing, predicting,
and decision making. While the skills are clearly identified, they must be
integrated within the numerous content standard suggestions across the students'
APPLYING THE STANDARDS TO CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION
the K-12 range of curricula, a serious effort should be made to include content
standards from geography at every grade level. There are several compelling
reasons why geography standards should be used: (1) The standards reflect the
scholarly contributions of geography to student learning in grades K-12. (2)
There is considerable agreement among constituent groups that the standards
include what young people in the United States should know and be able to do in
using geography. (3) The universe of geographic content is reduced to a
manageable level within the standards. (4) The standards may be mixed and
matched in various scopes and sequences to provide for a content rich social
studies. (5) The standards will link all schools that use them with common
threads in the curriculum and will provide continuity in content selection for
students who change residences and schools during their K-12 educational
The true test of using a content standard from geography is its application
with students in classrooms. They are inclusive of the five fundamental themes
of geography that have been widely accepted and especially useful to teachers
since 1984 (Joint Committee on Geographic Education). These themes are location,
place, human/environment relationships, movement, and regions.
"Geography for Life: National Geography Standards 1994" is available for
$9.00 from the National Geographic Society, Post Office Box 1640, Washington, DC
20013-1640. Credit card holders may call 800/368-2728 to place an order.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
The following list of
resources includes references used to prepare this Digest. The items followed by
an ED number are available in microfiche and/or paper copies from the ERIC
Document Reproduction Service (EDRS). For information about prices, contact
EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite 110, Springfield, Virginia 22153-2842;
telephone numbers are (703) 440-1440 and (800) 443-3742. Entries followed by an
EJ number, annotated monthly in CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE),
are not available through EDRS. However, they can be located in the journal
section of most larger libraries by using the bibliographic information
provided, requested through Interlibrary Loan, or ordered from the UMI reprint
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STANDARDS 1994. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 1994. ED 375 073.
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Maryland Geographic Alliance. GEOGRAPHY IN THE MIDDLE SCHOOL: A COMPENDIUM OF LESSON PLANS FOR SOCIAL STUDIES AND OTHER SUBJECT AREAS. Baltimore, MD: Maryland Geographic Alliance, 1990. ED 322 065.
Natoli, Salvatore, J., ed. STRENGTHENING GEOGRAPHY IN THE SOCIAL STUDIES. NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR THE SOCIAL STUDIES BULLETIN NO. 81. Washington, DC: National Council for the Social Studies, 1988. ED 296 946.
Patrick, John J. GEOGRAPHY IN HISTORY: A NECESSARY CONNECTION IN THE SCHOOL
CURRICULUM. ERIC Digest. Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social
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Patrick, John J., and Joseph Stoltman. GEOGRAPHY IN U.S. HISTORY: A TEACHER'S
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Reinhartz, Dennis, and Judy Reinhartz. GEOGRAPHY ACROSS THE CURRICULUM.
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Salter, Kit, and Cathy Riggs-Salter. "Yet Another Perspective on Educational
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Stoltman, Joseph P. GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION FOR CITIZENSHIP. Bloomington, IN:
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