We already know, Geography is one of the complex scientific discipline, and with its interdisciplinary approach, it encourages studying in an unconventional manner. Therefore, learning geography is creative and can inspire interest about the world that involves a curiosity about nature. However, a learning experience does not necessarily have to be rooted in a traditional way of learning based on books; it can be learnt through various different pedagogical approaches.
Up until the early part of the 20th century, geography held a valuable place in education. It was an expectation for all educated citizens in America to learn geography. Geography was specifically taught as one of the four core subjects: reading, writing, arithmetic and geography. T. However, as we head to 21st century, it is becoming challenging for geography teachers. They are looking for the methods on how to teach the subject effectively in the twenty-first century while remaining true to its rich heritage and embracing emerging and exciting tools and perspectives. Teaching geography effectively in the twenty-first century requires a teacher to find the right tools and resources to teach as we are in ever-changing era where new opportunities are developing along with new technologies, making the learning process difficult.
Herein, through this article, let us learn why geography is important and what are the various tools and applications for the modern-days classrooms.
Why study Geography?
Creates Awareness of Place
Studying geography creates an awareness of a place. Had our founding fathers not identified places, we would have not known about the places on earth. We would not have known the different cities, countries, continents, sea etc.
Most importantly, understanding geography helps make sense of current and historical events, whether of economic, political, or social importance. Individuals become better critical thinkers knowing this information. It pervades just about every aspect of our lives!
Develop Non-Fiction Reading Skills
Studying geography is one of the best ways to develops non-fiction reading skills. It uses complex visual representations such as maps, pictures, charts, and graphs that must be interpreted depending on the purpose. However, students’ must-have higher orders thinking skills to analyze and synthesize information. It also develops a working knowledge of how to read and process non-fiction text features since those features are woven throughout all aspects of the content. Besides these, geography builds important vocabulary and background knowledge about a country and world too.
Develop Spatial Awareness
Studying geography help develops better spatial awareness. Learning map sense and globe-reading skills is essential yet these activities are virtually gone from education today. But by studying geography and mapping skills, students can foster the development of spatial awareness and also create the link to understanding the effectiveness of key spatial geographic systems such as GPS.
Create a Global Community
Last but not the least, geography helps build a global community. Those who know geography better understand the interdependence of our world and how we are connected through location, place, movement, region, and human-environment interactions. Also, as we develop our understanding of the important themes of geography, we also help build awareness for cultural diversity–how and why people live the way they do. Students need to understand this information in our global society.
Top Applications and Resources for Teaching Geography:
Google Maps is one of the real game changer for teachers. Teachers can use Google Maps to help students – to build tours, measure distances, look at directions and compare different kinds of maps. Therefore, teachers make use of the fantastic possibilities available on Google Maps.
The Ordnance Survey website is based in the UK, but it contains some brilliant kid-friendly activities that encourage students to learn more about geography. On Ordnance survey students can practice map skills, play geography-related games, and use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to learn more about their world. And it’s all presented in a bright, friendly and colorful way.
Google Lit Trips is an incredible blend of literature with geography. This interactive application allows students to map out the journey that the protagonists take in a book they read. From The Grapes of Wrath to The Odyssey to more students can follow in the footsteps of the people in the stories, looking at the environments and places that they visited.
Geo Challenge is a fun and challenging geography quiz game with a variety of beautiful graphics and animation to test your geography knowledge of the world. It comes with 4 mini-quizzes to test a student’s knowledge by asking them to answers the questions divided in 4 different categories: country flags, country borders, major cities of the world and famous landmarks around the world.
‘Maps of our world’ –best suited for people of all ages is a game based learning application and a valuable reference tool for those looking to expand their Geography knowledge. It offers comprehensive physical maps with features like rivers, mountains and deserts of the world and plain political maps where countries are shown by clear and distinct lines. In addition, it presents some interesting facts like the number of countries in the world, the total population and the area of the globe in km squared.
- Planet Geo - educational games to learn geography for kids & teenagers
Planet Geo - geography App is an educational game and information app designed for kids and teenagers that tests students’ knowledge of many countries, cities, and UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, in eight different languages. Planet Geo has 6 different interactive games:
- Geo book icon - general information about all countries including population, capitals, flag, national anthem and their position on a global map.
- New York to Paris icon - it test their knowledge on capitals and cities of the world.
- Maps in a box icon –with three different difficulty levels this tests the students knowledge of which countries fit into certain regions such as Africa, Oceania, Europe etc.
- Flag icon - this tests the students’ knowledge by asking to match flags to countries.
- Jigsaw icon – here a student’s ability to place certain countries within a map is tested. There are two levels of difficulty here.
- Landmark icon - this part of the app test student’s ability to match UNESCO's world heritage sites with their place and region.
- Geo Bee Challenge
Geo Bee Challenge by National Geographic is an app for kids age 9 to 13. Kids can use it as an assessment tool to test their knowledge of world geography and identify location on a world map by answering multiple-choice questions, tapping locations on a world map and identifying and locating landmarks like the Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, and Eiffel Tower. These questions are mostly geographical but sometimes political or historical. However, some of the tests could be really challenging for the students and even for geographers.
Tools to Support Geography Learning:
- Learn Through Music:
Music is a go-to for children to memorize things easily. You can use Geography Songs to make students learn countries, bodies of water, and continents. Also, ask them to listen to composers who were born in the different countries or music or dance forms that is native to the geographical areas.
- Focus on Artists :
Allow your students to learn about artists native to the country they are studying or special art styles that are based in a geographical region.
- Create Continent Boxes:
Ask students to inculcate the behavior of collecting hands-on materials based on countries or continents in boxes. Like some paper cuttings/objects or specific materials resembling a country - flags of different countries, their animals and landmark figures. It is indeed a fun activity and will make them learn different geographical information effortlessly.
- Eat and Cook a Special Meal Together
Although cooking is a life skill for kids to learn, but it can be a memorable way to make kids learn about a country. Depending on the country you are teaching, pick a recipe or create a meal that would be native to that country (for instance- Pasta, an Italian dish.) It will also help them understand the cultures of different countries.
- Put a Puzzle Together
While you are reading aloud or keeping fidgeting kids busy, pull out a puzzle and work on it together. GeoPuzzles is an interesting app to have kids learn on. Rather than being regular shaped puzzle pieces, each piece is shaped like the countries within that continent.
- Make Lego Creations
It’s not uncommon to have legos at home, almost every kids love legos. Incorporating them into geography learning is a best option. Legos can be used to fill out blank outline maps, build famous landmarks or making a class interactive by letting kids depict historical scene, which at times can be the most hilarious historical scenes with LEGOs.
Did we miss out any? If yes, let us know in the comment section.