Closing out our GAW spatial media conversations, we speak with Jeff Thurston of Vector1Media.
We are back with day four of the Geography Standards which brings us to the humans. Element 4: Human Systems contains 5 standards on its own, which makes sense since the standards are focused on K-12 education, which includes Geography in Social Studies. This generally covers history, political and economic geography, and other humanities content. Here are the 5 standards of Element 4.
9) The Characteristics, Distribution, and Migration of Human Population on Earth’s Surface
10) The Characteristics, Distribution, and Complexity of Earth’s Cultural Mosaics
11) The Patterns and Networks of Economic Interdependence on Earth’s Surface
12) The Processes, Patterns, and Functions of Human Settlement
13) How the Forces of Cooperation and Conflict Among People Influence the Division and Control of Earth’s Surface
Quite a bit to go through in just one column so I am just going to touch on them briefly (and hopefully finish by the time we land in Chicago). Standard 9 is fairly broad and actually encompasses aspects of each of the other 4 standards in this element, especially with its focus on characteristics, distribution and migration of human populations. These processes play crucial roles in determining the cultural, social, economic and political make up of our world, where as Standard 10 begins to narrow it down a bit with a focus on cultures. How cultures are formed, the impact they have on how we live and interact, and the relationships between cultures are often thought of as the focus of Anthropology, but the spatial patterns and impacts of cultures are more important aspects of understanding our human species and are squarely within the realm of Geography.
One of my standard answers for â€œwhat is Geographyâ€ is to talk about it as a series of connections that go beyond location to show larger relationships that include spatial patterns of human and physical systems. Standard 11 focuses on those relationships as networks of economic interdependence. While this network has always been important, the trend towards globalization has brought it to the fore as we no longer have the weeks or months that it used to take to exchange goods over long distances. Instead we live in a world where information is exchanged in seconds and materials can make it around the world in a day or possibly even less.
Standards 12 and 13 are often interrelated. Standard 12â€™s focus on human settlement considers how and why people put down roots in places. Standard 13 looks at the interactions between groups that determine how the world is divided, primarily politically, but also culturally and economically. Where people settle often defines the boundaries and interactions between groups. While often these interactions lead to cooperation and positive benefits, in some cases, disputes arise due to conflicts in various beliefs.
This was definitely a dash through these 5 standards, but they truly do lay the basis for a lot of what is taught in middle schools and high schools in Social Studies classes in the US.
Today is a travel day so Day 4 of the Geography standards will be Thursday, but I did want to point out the efforts of various organizations such as the AAG who are calling on their membership and others to support recognition of Geography as No Child Left Behind is before congress for reauthorization. To learn more head over to the AAG website.
Day three, time to get physical with the next two standards which fall under Element 3, Physical Geography. This element covers quite a bit – everything from climatology to geomorphology is fair game for Physical Geography. While only two US Geography standards are specifically Physical Geography, these are essential parts of Geography and we shouldnâ€™t underestimate Physical Geography’s importance to our understanding of the world.
7 ) The Physical Processes That Shape the Patterns of Earth’s Surface
8 ) The Characteristics and Spatial Distribution of Ecosystems on Earth’s Surface
The Earth is a dynamic environment which is made up of a number of elements. National Geographic’s Xpeditions page lies out four categories:
“those operating in the atmosphere (i.e., climate and meteorology), those operating in the lithosphere (e.g., plate tectonics, erosion, and soil formation), those operating in the hydrosphere (e.g., the circulation of the oceans and the hydrologic cycle), and those operating in the biosphere (e.g., plant and animal communities and ecosystems).”
It is important to understand the interactions between these categories in order to appreciate their impact on the world around us. Examples of the more extreme end of these impacts include earthquakes which originate in the lithosphere, hurricanes and typhoons which are tied to both the atmosphere and the hydrosphere, and wild fires which come out the biosphere. Other examples have a less ominous aspect such as having an idea of what areas are the best for skiers, knowing where not to build a house (stay out of the flood plains), and even knowing what areas are best for growing strawberries. As GI Joe said, â€œknowing is half the battleâ€ and by knowing about the physical processes that impact the Earth and the people that inhabit its surface, we can better understand the world we live in and even help make it better.
Standard 8 looks at specific types of physical regions on the the Earth’s surface. Ecosystems are diverse assemblages of plants and animals that share an environment. These assemblages evolve from a distinct mixture of climate, terrain, soils, etc… and are relatively stable unless impacted by a significant external force such as drought or fires. Human effects on ecosystems can also be far-reaching and it is important for students to understand the reciprocal nature of the human/environment interaction. While we have often discussed the importance of sustainability in terms of the impact of human actions on resources that we need, but sustainability is just as important to maintaining the balance within existing ecosystems.
While Physical Geography may not often get the attention that Human Geography or GIS do, it is still an essential component in the discipline of Geography as a whole, and it is important that we promote it as well.
Does anyone know of any Geography related charities? The only response I received the first time I asked was GIS:Yes which can’t be the only one out there. Do we have any organizations, charities, or foundations that are our there to help spread the word about Geography and spatial thinking? I will offer up another couple like Service at Sea and the National Geographic Society. Please post comments with any other Geography related charities that you can think of.
Over on the Google Earth educators site there is a GE tour of Asia in honor of the 2007 Geography Awareness Week topic. If you get a few minutes free you should head over and download the KMZ and take the virtual tour.
So, today I wanted to talk about the second element in the The US Geography Standards, Places and Regions (If you’d like to take a look at them yourself, The Standards were printed in 1994 under the title Geography for Life by Roger Downs). Place continues to be a central theme in Geography, and regional geography has been a focus of geographic studies since the early part of the twentieth century. Within the theme of Places and Regions, there are three standards:
4) The Physical and Human Characteristics of Places
5) That People Create Regions to Interpret Earthâ€™s Complexity
6) How Culture and Experience Influence Peopleâ€™s Perceptions of Places and Regions
As we have talked about before on the podcast, place can be defined as a location that has some meaning and/or relevance to a person (people), but it is really much more than that. Standard 4 seeks to ensure that students understand the importance of place and how place impacts them through interaction or change. The make up of a place is just as important, with both physical and human elements key in understanding a place. Whether the place of interest is a house, a state, or even a planet, this multiscalar concept is part of our identity and worldview, and helps us make decisions and interpretations about the spaces we live in every day.
While place is often seen in terms of local and individual scales, the concept of region is generally used a identify an area (Standard 5). The definitions of regions are often subjective and may vary based on who is defining it. The area included in a region is usually distinct in some way such as ecological regions (desert, forest, grassland…), but can also be a social creation (MSAs, counties, ethnic regions). Thus, regions can be dynamic and are open for interpretation which sometimes make them challenging as units of study, however the notion of regions provide useful ways to abstract information about the world around to make it more usable and regions offer a structure to do just that. They allow us to compartmentalize spatial information in ways that allow us to analyze and understand more readily than considering an area as its component parts.
Standard 6, is much closer to home for me, as its goal is to show how cultural experiences influence perceptions. As an human geographer (who also has a degree in Anthropology) I seek the cultural impact in everything that I research, but I also try to consider how things might have a completely different meaning from a different cultural perspective. However, while culture has a very broad impact on how we look at the world around us, our personal experience also play a crucial role in how we understand the world. As each person has a different set of experiences, some that may overlap with others but many more that do not, we will often take different meanings and ideas away from an event. These differences in perception, both cultural and experiential, are what creates similarities and differences between people and groups. Understanding these similarities and differences can help us to face many of the challenges that arise in a global culture that may lead to strife and war.
A combination of the spatial concepts of Element 1 and human perception of space as outlined in Element 2 are the base that is built upon by the next four elements of the Geography Standards. Be sure to check back tomorrow for Element 3: Physical Systems.