Geography is alive and well in social studies. The waxing and waning of geography education as a standalone course is still an important topic of conversation, but social studies educators and curriculum writers remain committed to integrating geography into the other subfields. This list of tips for geography course writers is designed to help with that continued weaving of this important subject into social studies education.
1) Geography is So Much More than Maps
The physical geographical features of the Earth are still an essential part of geography, but there is a great deal more to offer. Human geography is becoming an increasingly popular course wherein students learn about the determinant effects of geography on human behavior. The ancient migrations across the Bering Strait land bridge into the Western Hemisphere are a great example of how changes in physical geography can impact human behavior. Curriculum writers have the opportunity to bring geography to life now more than ever before by folding environmental change into the timeline of human history. Human geography is such a rich area of study that the College Board has revamped its course offering to reflect this growing area of interest. Curriculum writers can learn a lot about the essentials of the course here.
2) The Resources for Curriculum Writers Are Plentiful
Geography is perhaps the easiest of all social studies courses for which to find rich writing resources. The National Geographic Network Alliances for Geographic Education is a fantastic site for finding primary source documents, model test questions, and multimedia resources. NatGeo is only one of many revivals of geography education and is particularly effective at providing curriculum writers with the foundational information and references they need to construct high-quality curriculum.
3) Don’t Be Afraid to Use Traditional Maps
As geography education strengthens and students are exposed to more map education, curriculum writers should integrate content-driven maps into their writing. For example, when writing about the geography of the New World and the European explorers, it can be helpful to use traditional continental maps with shaded sections which call out the claim stakes by the European powers and the physical geographical features, such as mountains and rivers, that influenced the boundaries of their claims. Great examples of this type of enhanced traditional map can be found at the National Humanities Center.
4) Simulation in Geography Can Be a Valuable Tool
The two-dimensional nature of maps makes most people think of geography as something they study on a piece of paper, but there are fun ways to engage students in geography curriculum by bringing geography into three dimensions. Curriculum writers can integrate raised contour maps into their writing by either recommending them in the curriculum or prompting the creation of these fun maps as part of the curriculum. Not to be outdone, National Geographic reaffirms its namesake because of their commitment to student-driven three-dimensional maps here.
5) Writing and Composition Can Supplement Geography Curriculum
As three-dimensional modeling supplements geography curriculum, so too does the inclusion of student-driven writing about geography. The process of consuming information in geography is the one we tend to focus on, but students also need to understand how to express geographical learning. By including descriptive terms, references to specific points, and other linguistic devices, curriculum writers can enrich their writing and meet the increasingly rigorous expectations for student writing, i.e., short answers and essays, as a form of evaluation.
6) Geography is Technologically Driven
The information that curriculum writers can gather from maps and legends is important and shouldn’t be forgotten. However, what was recently considered less important in social studies has now reemerged as a cutting-edge science. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) offer the most sophisticated sets of numeric and descriptive data regarding both modern and ancient geography. Using precision scans, satellites, and other measurement devices, GIS can be integrated into geography curriculum by, for example, teaching students how to determine how space was used in history. The American Association of Geographers has an entire collection of tools and resources that curriculum writers can use to pique students’ interest in GIS and to take a once less-engaging subject and turn it into a rich learning experience.