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The National Geography Standards

The National Geography StandardsEighteen Standards the Geographically Informed Person Knows and Understands

The first ever national geography standards, Geography for Life, were published in 1994 and are being voluntarily adopted around the country. These geography standards are benchmarks against which the content of geography courses can be measured. Standards will affect the education of all children in the United States, and they should be part of the program of instruction of schools in your community. Copies of Geography for Life are available for purchase from the NCGE store.

The Geography Standards Framework consists of two levels. At the first level, the subject matter of geography is divided into six essential elements. By essential we mean that each piece is central and necessary; we must look at the world in this way. By element we mean that each piece is a building block for the whole. At the second level, each essential element contains a number of geography standards, and each geography standard contains a set of related ideas and approaches to the subject matter of geography.

The World in Spatial Terms

1. How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information.

2. How to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments.

3. How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface.

Places and Regions

4. The physical and human characteristics of places.

5. That people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.

6. How culture and experience influence people's perception of places and regions.

Physical Systems7. The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface.

8. The characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth's surface.

Human Systems9. The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface.

10. The characteristics, distributions, and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics.

11. The patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface.

12. The process, patterns, and functions of human settlement.

13. How forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth's surface.

Environment and Society14. How human actions modify the physical environment.

15. How physical systems affect human systems.

16. The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources.

The Uses of Geography17. How to apply geography to interpret the past.

18. To apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future.

Source: National Council for Geographic Education

Citation: National Geography Standards, Geography Education Standards Project. 1994. Geography for Life: The National Geography Standards. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society Committee on Research and Exploration.

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