Selling Geography

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Dynamic Geography: Marketing the Subject

The teaching of geography in elementary and secondary school systems has moved beyond the more traditional “capes and bays” approach to a greater exploration of how global, cultural, economic and environmental issues shape our daily lives, and in turn, how our human actions impact the sustainability of our planet. Through this exploration, educators strive to develop geographically literate students and to provide these same students with an awareness of opportunities for further geography-related education and/or employment. However, recent curricula changes in Ontario, across Canada, as well as the United States and the United Kingdom, do not reflect the cognitive importance of this discipline as geographic topics are often blended with other subjects under the heading “social studies,” while the few existing geography-specific courses are usually deemed as an “elective.” This trend gives rise to a key question of how to impart the value of geographic education on administrators, parents, and most important, students.

The first step is to clarify the question “what is geography?” The Monograph, an O.A.G.E.E. (Ontario Association for Geographic and Environmental Education) quarterly publication states that students are expected to use their “geographic knowledge, skills and values to participate and contribute in a meaningful way to society on local, national, and global scales.” The National Geographic Society’s 1994 publication, Geography for Life: National Geography Standards K-12, often referred to as the cornerstone of Canadian and American Geographic education, defines geography as “an integrated discipline that brings together the physical and human dimensions of the world in the study of people, places and the environment.” These standards, or guideposts for curriculum development, are based on six main geographic elements: the world in spatial terms, places and regions, physical systems, human systems, environment and society, and the uses of geography.

Next, as geographic educators, we need to recognize and strengthen the pivotal role that we play in the promotion and effective delivery of geographic curriculum. Dynamic Geography: Marketing the Subject is one tool that educators and departments of geography should not be without! This resource provides us with a valuable step-by-step guide that is filled with ready-to-use lesson ideas, concrete suggestions on how to promote geography to students, parents and the school community, and the importance of fostering partnerships with fellow educators, community members, and professional organizations. Randy Wilkie concludes Dynamic Geography: Marketing the Subject with a comprehensive checklist that educators can use to reflect and enhance their daily teaching practices and to plan future strategies to promote the value of geographic education within the larger school community.

It is imperative that as educators we strive to ensure the development and delivery of strong geographic curriculum and engaging activities to foster student success and enrolment in geography courses. The need to reinstate the value of geography in the mainstream of the educational system has never been more important than it is today, so that our leaders of tomorrow are well-equipped with a compendium of geographic skills to make informed decisions about the myriad of issues across our global landscape.

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