November 13

Geography Concepts We Take for Granted


We don’t often realize we are using geography daily in our everyday lives!  Daily, without knowing, we often use the common sense of geography! As teachers, it’s useful to share these things with our students, helping to give them a sense of place.

kids in the classroom

Where are we located in the world?

We live our lives by where things by knowing where places are located!

We go to familiar places daily, often by different routes. These places are so well-known we do not even think about it!

When we need to find a nearby place we have not visited before — a specialty store, garage or a new dog groomer! — we need to use our sense of location to help us get there.

Even when exiting an unfamiliar building we set our geography minds to work. Do we turn right or left to reach our car?


Seeing places with our “Inner GPS”

Do you have to go to a place that is less familiar, you seek out your “Inner GPS” to imagine set its location and how to reach it in the easiest way.

If you want to avoid traffic, or add an errand to your itinerary, your inner sense of geography will ponder the best way to get there.

When envisioning a vacation in a faraway place, what is the most likely route to take us there?


Knowing distances between places!

Experience rewards us with a built-in sense of distance.  When we ride on a bike path, we often know how far we have gone based on knowing familiar landmarks!


If you have to take your kids to a nearby venue for a sports practice, you might be able to tell automatically how far away it is.  How far is a less well-know location from our job? —we can guess, based on knowing locations nearby.


Knowing distance will often tell us how long it will take us to get there. But sometimes we have no idea how to calculate distance or time.  Imagine driving your freshman daughter to her new dormitory at college in a new state. You might have a rough idea of how far away it is, based on similar trips, even in different directions. But certain…?


What is near what?

We often learn locations based on other places.  “Where is that new donut shop?” you ask.   A friend might answer like this: “It is near the Asian noodle place we went to last week”.

Even distant places are discerned this way! We know many of the large national parks in the USA are near the Rocky Mountains.

Knowing a length of major highway, we can envision where things are located based on having seen signage.


Re-setting our built-in skills for new situations!

Getting a new job or buying a new house in a new location requires us to re-set,  or add-on, to all our built-in geography skills.

We need to function well in new situations, so we become more alert to our surroundings! Learning new locations, how to get to new place in a new locale, all require geography skills.

If we go to a fun concert, sensing we’d like to return to the venue, we fix in our minds where this place is, so we can revisit with greater ease.


Ways to encourage our students to develop geographic skills!

Ask something simple of your students. For instance, by noticing where the sun rises and sets at their home, can they tell what direction their house faces?

compass rose


When they answer — maybe the next day! —let this question inspire thoughts of LOCATION and PLACE.   Where is the school located in relation to direction, or to other buildings, and in what part of their community? How do they describe where these things are?

Ask what do your students do when they have to go somewhere new? How do they describe to their parents where their classroom, the gym, or a school sports event is located?  Based on where they are now, what would they need to know if they had to go to a new school?

Introducing these concepts in your class can help your students gain a sense of place! And start that “Inner GPS” working!




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