Putting “Geographia” Back into Geography Education

—Geography: from the Greek geographia, meaning “writing or describing the world.”

Most Americans travel to school or work in private vehicles, or perhaps by public transit, safely enclosed and protected from the elements. We live, work, shop, and learn in climate-controlled buildings. Modern, comfortable, middle-class living has separated from our natural environment.

With this reality in mind, Daniel Edelson, National Geographic’s Vice President for Education, writes in ArcNews that today’s students need some “old-fashioned geographia” that gets them outside to observe and explore their natural environment.

Before students can understand the world, they need to observe it. To observe it, they need to experience it, of course, but they also need to notice it. It’s not just about looking; it’s about seeing. And teachers have known forever that the best way to get students to be good observers is to engage them in documentation and description.

One such initiative Edelson cites is Project BudBurst, which encourages people to observe, record, and share seasonal changes in plants, a kind of research sometimes called citizen science or community geography.

Yes, geography helps us answer questions, solve problems, and understand the world, Edelson writes. But we must not neglect observing the world around us.

How do you practice geographia?

–Tim Hill


3 thoughts on “Putting “Geographia” Back into Geography Education

  1. It always puts a smile on my face when my kids take a running leap into the Mediterranean Sea for the first dip of the summer, after swimming in the sterile pool of their hometown, or even the freshwater of the Great Lakes. They come up with this look of surprise and confusion, the youngest of the 3 licking his lips and saying “Yum!” We often compare the pine-laced hills, the salty smell in the air, or the fact that we need to take a boat to our vacation home, to the flat plains of the Midwest where we spend most of the year. It isn’t difficult to explain why pistachio trees grow there and corn grows here, because they have experienced both of these environments – as your article and Daniel Edelson suggest. However, when we are hunkered down for the winter and the school routine, we are pretending to “travel” to other countries during our family project called Travel on Tuesday. I want my children to love travel and geographia as much as I do.

    • It is wonderful that your family continues to “explore” even during the cold, dark winter months. Spring will be here before we know it, and getting back outside will be a much more comfortable experience!

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