Teaching and Learning in the Early Years

By David Whitebread | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 17

‘If the world is round, how come the piece I’m standing on is flat?’

EARLY YEARS GEOGRAPHY

Dianne Conway and Pam Pointon

What is geography? Why teach geography?

These are questions asked by many early years educators who are not geography specialists. Comments such as Tm hopeless with maps!’ or ‘What can I do? There are no hills or mountains round here, ’ are heard by those responsible for ensuring geography is taught in our schools. So, what is geography?

Geography explores the relationship between the earth and its peoples. It studies the location of the physical and human features of the earth and the processes, systems and inter-relationships that create and influence them. The character of places, the subjects central focus, derives from the interaction of people and environments.

(Curriculum Council for Wales, 1991)

That geography is such a wide-ranging subject which attempts to make connections between the earth sciences and the social sciences is its strength (which other subject tries to connect the human and natural worlds to the same extent?)—but also its difficulty in commonsense understanding. How many people, if asked to explain what geography is, would refer to Trivial Pursuits knowledge of countries and their capital cities, naming of capes and bays, listing of major rivers and mountain ranges? Locational knowledge is obviously an important element of geography but if it is merely factual recall then the potential contribution is sadly diminished.

The current, more sophisticated approach includes a much broader view of

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