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What a Student Should Know and Do


Knowledge of geography enables people to develop an understnading of the relationships between people, places, and environments over time -- that is, of Earth as it was, is, and might be.

By the end of the eighth grade, the student knows and understands:

Geography Standard 17: How to apply geography to interpret the past

1. How the spatial organization of a society changes over time

2. How people’s differing perceptions of places, peoples, and resources have affected events and conditions in the past

3. How geographic contexts have influenced events and conditions in the past

Therefore, the student is able to:

A. Describe the ways in which the spatial organization of society changes over time, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Trace the process of urban growth in the United States by mapping the locations of cities over time and noting differences in their site characteristics, situations, and functions
  2. Trace changes in the internal structure, form, and function of urban areas in different regions of the world at different times
  3. Describe and compare population settlement patterns during different periods and in different regions (e.g., medieval Europe versus modern Europe, the colonial South versus colonial North, southeast Australia versus southeastern China)

B. Assess the roles that spatial and environmental perceptions played in past events, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Explain how the attitudes of people in the past affected settlement patterns in the United States (e.g., people’s perceptions of Florida and continuing reappraisal of Alaska as a place to settle)
  2. Use passages from literature and other texts (e.g., letters and newspapers) about nineteenth century America to understand the role of advertisements and promotional literature in the development of perceptions of the western United States
  3. Explain how differing perceptions of local, regional, national, and global resources have stimulated competition for natural resources (e.g,, the conflicts between Native Americans and colonists, between the Inuit and migrants to Alaska since 1950)

C. Analyze the effects of physical and human geographic factors on major historic events, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Relate levels of technology and physical geographic features to the course and outcome of battles and wars (e.g., weather conditions at Valley Forge and the outcome of the American Revolution)
  2. Trace the human and physical conditions that led to the enslavement and forced transport of Africans to North and South America (e.g., the need for cheap labor, the profitability of the triangle trade, the locations of prevailing wind and ocean currents)
  3. Use maps to identify different land-survey systems used in the United States and assess the role they have played in establishing contemporary landscape patterns (e.g., compare the history and landscape of a metes and bounds state such as Georgia with a rectangular land-survey system state such as Iowa)

D. List and describe significant physical features that have influenced historical events, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. List, map, and discuss the locations of several mountain passes that have been significant in military campaigns in world history (e.g., the Khyber Pass, Burma Pass, Brenner Pass)
  2. List, map, and discuss major water crossings that have been significant in U.S. history (e.g., the Delaware River near Trenton, New Jersey; the Tacoma Strait in Washington)
  3. List, map, and discuss major water gaps, springs, and other hydrologic features that have been significant in settlement of the United States (e.g., the Delaware water gap, Cumberland Gap, Ogallala Aquifer, the artesian wells of the Great Plains)

Geography Standard 18: How to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future

1. How the interaction of physical and human systems may shape present and future conditions on Earth

2. How varying points of view on geographic context influence plans for change

3. How to apply the geographic point of view to solve social and environmental problems by making geographically informed decisions

Therefore, the student is able to:

A. Analyze the interaction between physical and human systems to understand possible causes and effects of current conditions on Earth and to speculate on future conditions, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Compare life in a variety of cities in the developing world to assess the relationships involved in economic, political, social, and environmental changes
  2. Prepare a series of graphs and maps on such factors as levels of infant mortality and rural poverty and the availability of hospitals and medical facilities and then describe differences in rural and urban access to health-care, water, and sanitation facilities
  3. Evaluate the geographic impact of using petroleum, coal, nuclear power, and solar power as major energy sources in the twenty-first century

B. Integrate multiple points of view to analyze and evaluate contemporary geographic issues, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Write a skit, play, or dialogue for two people with different points of view on the same geographic issue (e.g., a forester and a conservationist debating the use of a national forest or a man and a woman discussing gender-based divisions of labor in a developing nation)
  2. Role play immigrants to describe how it feels to be in that situation, perceptions of the new nation, and how to adjust to life in an alien environment in order to appreciate the significance of people’s beliefs, attitudes, and values in environmental adaptation
  3. Do research on both the student’s own point of view and other people’s perceptions of a controversial social, economic, political, or environmental issue that has a geographic dimension (e.g., what to do about crime and juvenile delinquency, poverty, air pollution) and then write a report on that subject, which includes on informed judgment as to what solution should be implemented

C. Demonstrate an understanding of the spatial organization of human activities and physical systems and be able to make informed decisions, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Describe what the future spatial organization of Earth might be: if present conditions and patterns of consumption, production, and population growth continue; if humans continue their present consumption patterns but engage in extensive recycling and research on new mining technologies; if the student’s own preferences or predictions could be implemented
  2. Analyze a geographic issue (e.g., building a dam and reservoir, construction to revitalize a downtown area, or development of light-rail mass transit) and then develop sound arguments in favor of recommendations for specific actions on the issue
  3. Develop innovative plans, including specific recommendations illustrated by maps, to improve the quality of environments in large cities (e.g., greenways, transportation corridors, pedestrian walkways, bicycle lanes)


Source: Geography for Life, National Geography Standards 1994. National Geographic Research & Exploration. Chapter 6. Geography Education Standards Project. Developed on behalf of the American Geographical Society, Association of American Geographers, National Council for Geographic Education, National Geographic Society



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