“Geography is all about the living, breathing essence of the world we live in. It explains the past, illuminates the present and prepares us for the future. What could be more important than that?” (Michael Palin, 2007).
Starting from the day you were born, you begin to have a curiosity about the world around you. You start to consider how and why things happen, you become attached to certain places and you become aware of problems around you that need solving. Without knowing, you have already become an important part of the web of global issues that we face today and it may not be obvious at first but you were born a geographer. The skill as educationalists is in capturing these natural skills to enhance ones understanding of the world around us.
Geography is the study of the human and physical characteristics of places, their interconnections and interdependencies. The link between the human and physical interactions of the world is what makes geography so unique, something that creates understanding about the environment around us. Geography is important within education as it involves learners through enquiry, class research, practical activities and field investigations helping students create their perceptions of people and the environments that make up their world. It also encourages students to make and justify value judgments about people and environmental issues based on analysis of information and data. Geographical issues are dynamic and currently we are presented with water shortages, famine, international migration issues, disputes over oil, globalisation, natural disasters and climate change, which our world battles with. This is the geography of today and there has never been such an exciting time to study it.
In 1986 the Geographical Association wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Education at the time, explaining the value of geography as a subject taking on a central place in the education of all young people within Britain. Twenty-seven years on, each of the seven key points stand strong today. The letter from the GA highlighted how geography has huge significance in education acting as glue holding together understanding between a variety of subjects within the curriculum. I believe that geography provides a holistic view to help integrate subjects across the curriculum, allowing learners to make sense of their education. To give a typical example; students are taught how to use graphs in maths, natural hazards in science and evaluation of texts in English, but where else can they tie these skills together to assess the impact on the environment, the economy and society but in geography.
The letter also stressed that geography confronts students with issues that have spiritual, ethical and moral dimensions that provide a sound and balanced foundation for study of controversial topics. Without learning to be able to discuss, debate and make decisions about key issues we are limiting our young people the opportunity to become nurturing and active global citizens. Through developing empathy for other places and people, learners can become part of moulding a better, shared future for the world. Young people are enabled to appreciate cultural diversity, support human rights, social justice and help build peace for a sustainable future in variety of different times and places across the globe.
Results from my mini study about what Students, Staff and my Twitter followers thought about Geography in Education. 1 = not important at all. 5 = essential in education.
To emphasise how geography can contribute to education I conducted a survey with teachers and students at my school as well as publicly on twitter. The results showed that 79% thought that geography was essential to be taught within schools the remaining 21% saw the contribution that geography offered. Students were asked how they thought geography helped with their