Geography – More Than Just Maps
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When most people hear the word ‘geography’, the first image that may come to mind is… a map. Or maybe a globe. In fact, a quick image search on Google returns lots of pictures of both (maps and globes). In this era of GPS, where our mobile phones now offer us navigation apps such as Waze right at our fingertips, why bother?

Studying geography, however, is much more than just knowing how to find continents on a globe, or the 50 US states on a map. Dictionaries define ‘geography’ as a science that focuses on studying “the lands, the features, the inhabitants, and the phenomena of Earth.” but even that doesn’t do it justice.

Geography can be divided into two branches of study, Human and Physical:

  • Human geography –  the relationship and interaction of people with their environment across time and space, be it on an individual, communal, cultural, and/or economic level.
  • Physical geography –  the Earth’s natural environmental patterns and processes.

Scientists and educators will talk about multiple traditions, themes, or elements that define geography. In general terms, these tend to include an understanding of most, if not all, of the following: “…the world in spatial terms, places and regions, physical systems, human systems, environment and society, and uses of geography.”

Knowledge of geography isn’t just important for professionals or academics in the field. Once students understand the spatial relationships between physical systems, and how humans interact with them, they will have taken a first step towards meeting important challenges, all the more crucial now that we live and interact on an increasingly globalized level.

Geography isn’t simply one of those optional ‘filler’ subjects that can be dropped from an already-crowded educational curriculum. If anything, the study of geography is essential, and ties in directly to key concepts such as critical-thinking, technology, stewardship/citizenship, and life skills that are also found in other disciplines of study.

Top 10 Reasons to Study Geography (via Canadian Geographic)

  • To understand basic physical systems that affect everyday life (e.g. earth-sun relationships, water cycles, wind and ocean currents).
  • To learn the location of places and the physical and cultural characteristics of those places in order to function more effectively in our increasingly interdependent world.
  • To understand the geography of past times and how geography has played important roles in the evolution of people, their ideas, places and environments.
  • To develop a mental map of your community, province or territory, country and the world so that you can understand the “where” of places and events.
  • To explain how the processes of human and physical systems have arranged and sometimes changed the surface of the Earth.
  • To understand the spatial organization of society and see order in what often appears to be random scattering of people and places.
  • To recognize spatial distributions at all scales — local and worldwide — in order to understand the complex connectivity of people and places.
  • To be able to make sensible judgements about matters involving relationships between the physical environment and society.
  • To appreciate Earth as the homeland of humankind and provide insight for wise management decisions about how the planet’s resources should be used.
  • To understand global interdependence and to become a better global citizen.

Jonathan Meola, co-founder and instructor at Open Tent Academy, attended the University of Miami, where he earned his B.A., and returned several years later to earn a graduate certification in Applied Quality Management, while helping to manage executive graduate degree programs for their business and engineering schools.

Professionally, Jonathan has worked as a technical consultant, managing enterprise software implementation projects for companies such as AT&T, Boeing, Discovery, Honda, Nestle, and several Federal agencies across the United States, and also worked on projects in Canada, Israel, and Mexico. He also has developed curricula for corporate training, and led sessions as an instructor on many occasions. Today, he resides with Eva in a small town outside of Jerusalem. Jonathan has three children, all of whom were homeschooled at one time or another. In his spare time, he loves traveling, reading, photography, analyzing politics, NCAA college football (Go Canes!), and cinema.

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