Themes to Emphasize in the Geography Curriculum

Article excerpt

There are major themes in geography, which all teachers should incorporate into the social studies. These themes assist students to organize information and relate relevant ideas. Teachers need to study and experiment with using a set of structural ideas to facilitate student learning. Otherwise, learning may comprise of isolated facts, concepts, and generalizations, which are difficult to remember, use, and to apply. Then too, what is taught may consist of trivia and the unimportant. These situations can be largely avoided if time is taken to select vital ideas, which stress a structure of knowledge. Geography teachers in the social studies need to meet together with university professors of the social sciences to identify salient ideas in the curriculum. The identified ideas may then become objectives for use in teaching and learning situations. A good set of guidelines to use here was developed cooperatively by the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE, 1994).

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Place Geography in the Social Studies

Place geography in the past might have stressed location and memorization of capitol cites of states and nations. When being a grade school and high school student, 1934-1946, the author remembers well when mimeographed outline maps within a unit of study, with heavy basal textbook use, were handed out to students. Capitol cities, states and nations, along with major rivers, were to be identified and labeled by the student. In fact in a college course entitled "Principles of Geography," the instructor handed out several outline maps, and we the students were to fill in different information or data thereon such as the location of bays, seas, oceans, major seaports, and capitol cities of nations, among other items. The author cannot say that this was all in vain, because there are a plethora of salient remembrances here on place geography.

But, the study of place geography might have been enriched with meaningful characteristics. Thus, a study of the Dead Sea in the land of Palestine may be enriched with the use of AV materials containing vital facts, concepts, and generalizations such as:

* It has no outlet and thus contains 26 per cent salt and other minerals.

* It is receding at an annual rate of 300 yards since almost no water is received from the Jordan River.

* It is a desert area with less than five inches of rainfall per year.

* It had ancient civilizations nearby such as the ruins of a religious sect known as Qumran with its storerooms, scriptorium, communal kitchen and dining area, along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.

* It is the place where the Dead Sea scrolls were found.

A multi-media approach in teaching needs to be used so that all students may benefit optimally in geographical learnings.

Location

Location describes the connections of the specific place, such as the Dead Sea, with other places and people. The Dead Sea has interesting connections with other places such as:

* It is connected with the fresh water Sea of Galilee in the north, 67 miles distant, the connector being the Jordan River. Water used for irrigation purposes from the Sea of Galilee has made the Jordan River almost without water as it empties into the Dead Sea.

* The Sea of Galilee is excellent for fishing and used by tourists for commercial water transportation to nearby villages including the ancient site of Capernaum with its restored Jewish synagogue of the third century AD.

* The Sea of Galilee is 660 feet below sea level whereas the Dead Sea is 1300 feet below sea level making the former much more hospitable for human endeavors.

* It receives most of its waters from the melting snow of Mount Hermon, located directly to the north, with an elevation of 14,000 feet above sea level.

Teachers need to assist learners to perceive knowledge as being related and connections need to be made. …