Why geography matters

A while ago, I published a post about the importance of geography in which I described how my passion for geography was ignited by the simple act of receiving a geographic encyclopedia from my parents when I was a child. This week is Geography Awareness Week, the perfect moment for a follow-up post on why geography matters. Plus, it’s Thanksgiving… and I’m thankful that my interest in geography was sparked at such an early age! 🙂

Geography is a lot more than being able to point out a country on a world map or knowing the capital city of every country in the world (though if you did, I would be VERY impressed!). It’s about getting to know our world and its people better and understanding what makes societies tick. Geography helps to trigger our curiosity and as we become more curious, our awareness grows. We begin to see that our world extends a lot farther than the boundaries of the town we live in. It opens our eyes to different cultures and perspectives, and helps us grow as well-rounded, emphatic individuals.

In conjunction with Geography Awareness Week, Gil Grosvenor, the National Geographic Society Chairman of the Board, was asked about the importance of geography. In the interview, he provided a myriad of reasons, the most important being that an effective democracy requires sufficient knowledge of geography. I’ve included the ten-minute video interview below.

How to encourage an interest in geography

Travel bloggers testing their knowledge of geography

My parents sparked my interest in geography when I was eight by giving me a geographic encyclopedia as a birthday gift. There are many more ways in which parents can encourage their children to take an interest in geography. Here are five ideas from me and fellow bloggers:

  • Aye, a fellow blogger, bought a shower curtain with a world map on it and teaches her daughter about the world during every bath.
  • Andy Jarosz brings an inflatable globe with him on his travels to teach kids he meets about where he comes from.
  • Travelpod has a cool online game that tests your knowledge of geography (as well as educates!). This is one of my favourites but there are many more online quizzes out there. An alternative is to purchase an interactive globe such as the LeapFrog Junior Explorer Globe. It’s good fun for the whole family.
  • Mrs. Allen’s class is a brilliant example of how social media can be utilised to encourage interest in geography. Social media platforms like Twitter can play an important role in bringing the world into our classrooms. As an example: get out a big world map and a box of pins. Send a tweet asking your followers and their followers to introduce themselves (for the purpose of a little geography lesson). Request some information about where they live and maybe a photo of the most famous landmark in their hometowns. As the tweets pour in, get your child(ren) to pin the locations on the map and show them the photos of these places.
  • Purchase a geographic encyclopedia that’s full of colourful illustrations and facts. Encourage your children to look up travel stories and photos from magazines or travel blogs to complement the information in the encyclopedia. Zoom into these places on Google Earth.

What can we do to nurture an interest in geography? Please share your ideas in the comments section.

30th Nov. 2010: A big thank you goes to National Geographic for being a huge inspiration to me… and for this wonderful comment via Twitter. 🙂

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13 Responses to “Why geography matters”

  1. Laura 29/11/2010 1:15 am
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    I like a classic map on the wall. I hope to learn capital cities of all countries at some point. I love geographic facts!

  2. Renee in BC 27/11/2010 7:55 pm
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    I home school my daughter, 9. What works best for us is simply having a massive world map on the wall, and then referring to it frequently.

    Whenever we’re chatting about news or history or current events or travel plans, we go over to the map and find the relevant area and talk about it. One key is that her dad and I do it casually, without making it “schooly.” It’s more natural.

    Of course there’s more to geography than memorizing the map, but I find that once a person knows the whole map, all current events and history become much more relevant and much “stickier.”

    Cheers,
    Renee

  3. Leigh 27/11/2010 6:54 pm
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    My huge National Geographic Atlas is one well thumbed book. I’ve given nieces atlases with the hopes of encouraging travel in the future. I love Andrew’s idea of bringing along a blow up globe and I’ll check out Gary’s recommendation too.

  4. Franz 26/11/2010 12:02 pm
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    Geography helps us to understand easier the people who live there or there.
    I love to spend time on a Google map and to watch picture from all over the world. I feel so small when I do that ! This really impress me…

  5. Australian Visa 26/11/2010 9:18 am
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    I just remember the times when i use to hate Geo Subjects, but as time goes by I’ve learn that it is a part of our life.

  6. Ant Stone 25/11/2010 6:33 pm
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    I love the breakdown of other people’s ideas for teaching geography. I think the subject fits really nicely with travelling, too. Great post, well-researched and — as always — very well delivered.

  7. Andy Jarosz 25/11/2010 4:56 pm
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    That picture looks very familiar Keith! By the way, that globe is reduced in all shops at the moment – it’s around €50 which is half of the usual price.
    Enjoyed the article – like you I’m thankful that I was given the encouragement to be so curious about geography when I was a child.

  8. velvet 25/11/2010 4:51 pm
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    Haha! My Geography teacher in secondary school was Mrs. Yen. She was awesome! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Keith

  9. Ching Ching 25/11/2010 4:47 pm
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    Totally agree with your article!
    I remember receiving a small globe as a birthday present when I was in primary school, luv it 🙂 Too bad Geography lessons were boring in secondary school, no thanks to the teachers. But since leaving school I really do appreciate the subject.

  10. velvet 25/11/2010 12:56 pm
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    Thank you Gary for the excellent tip!

    Hi Juno, I’m sure you’ll fill that map with many, many pins! And… yes, that’s Isa & Melvin in the photo. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Keith

  11. Juno 25/11/2010 12:54 pm
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    I always loves the world map on the wall. There’s a scene in the movie time to time, they put a push pin on the map where they want to go or where they’ve been. I always wanted to something like that. Now I only need not many pushpins but someday I will fill the map with countless pushpins! 🙂
    Most of all, love the pic! Are they Melvin and Isa? 🙂

  12. Gary Arndt 25/11/2010 12:52 pm
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    I recommend playing WhereOnGoogleEarth.net every week

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  1. Capital cities that have relocated | Velvet Escape - 28/02/2012

    […] beat though – he literally knew each and every capital city in the world! It’s this early interest in geography that sparked my passion for travel so when I was approached with this guest post by Andy Jarosz […]

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