Teaching the Five Themes of Geography
As many of my long-time readers know, I spent time as a K-12 social studies teacher and as a professor of social studies education. During this time, one of my favorite things to teach was the five themes of geography. The five themes of geography are location, place, human-environment interaction, movement, and region.
These themes were developed in 1984 by the National Council for Geographic Education and the Association of American Geographers to organize and facilitate the instruction of geography in K-12. While they have been replaced by the National Geography Standards, I still think they provide an excellent way to promote the teaching of geography. If I were still teaching social studies, I would use both. Since come of you may not be familiar with the five themes of geography, let’s discuss them.
A brief discussion of each the five themes of geography
Location – Location pertains to a place or position. The instruction of geography usually begins with location. Location can be two kinds: absolute location and relative location. Absolute location is defined using its exact address (latitude or longitude). Relative location describes where a place is in relation to other locations.
Place – Place pertains to the physical and human attributes or characteristics of a location. This concept allows us to compare and contrast two places on Earth. The “place” theme of geography illustrates clear image of a place in the minds of the learners.
Human-Environment Interaction – In terms of the species that inhabit the earth, no other species has left more of an indelible mark than humans. The way that we have adapted to the earth has allowed us to reign supreme over the environment and other animals. In a sense, we have modified the earth to meet our own goals and needs. The human-environment interaction theme examines all how we have done and continue to do this.
Movement – As humans, we move people, goods, and ideas across the planet at will. The theme of movement examines this and is one of the most essential parts of geographical exploration. It deals with the examination of immigration, emigration, populations, and distribution in the regions and countries of the world.
Region – Any area on earth that is comprised of places with a unifying attribute is called a region. This theme of geography can be further broken down into formal regions, such metropolitan cities, districts, provinces, countries, and continents; functional regions which are usually comprised of a central point with defined boundaries; vernacular regions or places in the world that share common characteristics.
Why do students need to learn the five themes of geography?
K-12 students need to learn the five themes of geography to understand how people and places interact and connect in the world. With this information, 1. Students can express their location in relation to other locations; 2. Describe the characteristics of their environment and others; 3. Become better stewards of the earth by understanding how human beings impact their environment in negative and positive ways; 4. Understand how we move people, goods, and ideas across the planet; and 5. The various types of regions that exist in the world. The five themes can be taught not only in social studies but also in subjects such as law, economics, psychology, etc.
How should you teach the five themes of geography?
Recently, I ran across a video discussing the five themes of geography and quickly realized that it would be an excellent way for someone to learn them. Also, teachers who view the video can find some excellent tips and strategies for teaching the five themes of geography to their students. You can find the video posted below. Let us know what you think. As always, leave your thoughts in the comment section below.