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What a Student Should Know and Do


Geography studies the relationships between people, places, and environments by mapping information about them into a spatial context.

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

Geography Standard 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective

1. The characteristics, functions, and applications of maps, globes, aerial and other photographs, satellite-produced images, and models

2. How to make and use maps, globes, graphs, charts, models, and databases to analyze spatial distributions and patterns

3. The relative advantages and disadvantages of using maps, globes, aerial and other photographs, satellite-produced images, and models to solve geographic problems

Therefore, the student is able to:

A. Describe the essential characteristics and functions of maps and geographic representations, tools, and technologies, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Describe the purposes and distinguishing characteristics of selected map projections and globes, aerial photographs, and satellite-produced images
  2. Explain map essentials (e.g., scale, directional indicators, symbols)
  3. Explain the characteristics and purposes of geographic databases (e.g., databases containing census data, land-use data, topographic information)

B. Develop and use different kinds of maps, globes, graphs, charts, databases, and models, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Use data and a variety of symbols and colors to create thematic maps and graphs of various aspects of the student’s local community, state, country, and the world (e.g., patterns of population, disease, economic features, rainfall, vegetation)
  2. Use data to develop maps and flowcharts showing major patterns of movement of people and commodities (e.g., international trade in petroleum, wheat, cacao)
  3. Construct a model depicting Earth-Sun relationships and use it to explain such concepts as Earth’s axis, seasons, rotation, revolution, and principal lines of latitude and longitude

C. Evaluate the relative merits of maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies in terms of their value in solving geographic problems, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Choose the most appropriate maps and graphics in an atlas to answer specific questions about geographic issues (e.g., topography and transportation routes)
  2. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using a map or a cartogram to illustrate a data set (e.g., data on population distribution, language-use patterns, energy consumption at different times of year)
  3. Evaluate the merits of using specific map projections for specific purposes (e.g., use of the Mercator projection for navigation and the Robinson projection for depicting area distributions)

D. Use geographic tools and technologies to pose and answer questions about spatial distributions and patterns on Earth, as exemplified by being able to

  1. Develop criteria to draw regional service boundaries on maps (e.g., assign students to schools in a rapidly growing suburban area)
  2. Use maps to understand patterns of movement in space and time (e.g., mapping hurricane tracks over several seasons; mapping the spread of influenza throughout the world)
  3. Use maps to make and justify decisions about the best location for facilities (e.g., a place to build a restaurant, locate a recycling center, or select and develop a factory site)

Geography Standard 2: How to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context

1. The distribution of major physical and human features at different scales (local to global)

2. How to translate mental maps into appropriate graphics to display geographic information and answer geographic questions

3. How perception influences people’s mental maps and attitudes about places

Therefore, the student is able to:

A. Identify the locations of certain physical and human features and events on maps and globes and answer related geographic questions, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Identify the locations of culture hearths (e.g., Mesopotamia, Huang Ho, the Yucatan Peninsula, the Nile Valley)
  2. Identify the largest urban areas in the United States now and in the past
  3. Mark major ocean currents, wind patterns, landforms, and climate regions on a map

B. Use mental maps to answer geographic questions, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Describe how current events relate to their physical and human geographic contexts
  2. Draw sketch maps of different regions and compare them with atlas maps to determine the accuracy of place location and knowledge (e.g., political maps of Canada, the United States, and Europe)
  3. Use mental maps of place location to list the countries through which a person would travel between two points (e.g., Paris to Moscow, Cairo to Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro to Lima)

C. Draw sketch maps from memory and analyze them, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Translate a mental map into sketch form to illustrate relative location of, size of, and distances between places (e.g., major urban centers in the United States)
  2. Prepare a sketch map of the student’s local community to demonstrate knowledge of the transportation infrastructure that links the community with other places (e.g., approximate locations of major highways, rivers, airports, railroads)
  3. Draw a world map from memory and explain why some countries are included (and others not), why some countries are too large (and others too small)

D. Analyze ways in which people’s mental maps reflect an individual’s attitudes toward places, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Identify and compare the different criteria that people use for rating places (e.g., environmental amenities, economic opportunity, crime rate)
  2. Analyze sketch maps produced by different people on the basis of their mental maps and draw inferences about the factors (e.g., culture, education, age, sex, occupation, experience) that influence those people’s perceptions of places
  3. Compare passages from fiction to reach conclusions about the human perception of places (e.g., Las Vegas as exciting, Paris as romantic, Calcutta as densely settled)

Geography Standard 3: How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth’s surface

1. How to use the elements of space to describe spatial patterns

2. How to use spatial concepts to explain spatial structure

3. How spatial processes shape patterns of spatial organization

4. How to model spatial organization

Therefore, the student is able to:

A. Analyze and explain distributions of physical and human phenomena with respect to spatial patterns, arrangements, and associations, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Analyze distribution maps to discover phenomena (e.g., resources, terrain, climate, water, cultural hearths) that are related to the distribution of people
  2. Use dot distribution maps to determine the patterns of agricultural production (e.g., wheat, hogs, potatoes, soybeans) in the United States and the world and relate these patterns to such physical phenomena as climate, topography, and soil
  3. Analyze the distribution of urban places to determine how they are linked together, with particular emphasis on links between places of different sizes (e.g., commuter flows between central cities, surrounding suburbs, and small towns)

B. Analyze and explain patterns of land use in urban, suburban, and rural areas using terms such as distance, accessibility, and connections, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Map urban land use and compare dominant land-use patterns (e.g., finance versus retail, light industry versus residential) in city centers and peripheral areas
  2. Use telephone books and maps to identify and compare land uses that are frequently near each other and others that are frequently far apart (e.g., hotels and restaurants, schools or churches and bars)
  3. Describe and analyze the spatial arrangement of urban land-use patterns (e.g., commercial, residential, industrial) in the student’s local community or in a nearby community

C. Explain the different ways in which places are connected and how these connections demonstrate interdependence and accessibility, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Compile a table summarizing links between places and draw conclusions regarding distance, accessibility, and frequency of interaction (e.g., where classmates were born and now live, where sports teams travel to play)
  2. Develop time lines, maps, and graphs to determine how changing transportation and communication technology has affected relationships between places
  3. Develop a list of places in the world that Americans depend on for imported resources and manufactured goods (e.g., petroleum from Southwest Asia, copper from South America, diamonds from South Africa) and explain such dependence

D. Describe the patterns and processes of migration and diffusion, as exemplified by being able to:

  1. Trace the spread of language, religion, and customs from one culture to another (e.g., Chinese restaurants to San Francisco, the German language to the Midwest in the nineteenth century, Islam to New York City in the twentieth century)
  2. Diagram the spatial spread of a contagious disease through a population (e.g., the spread of cholera in England in the mid-nineteenth century, AIDS in Asia in the 1990’s)
  3. Trace global migration patterns of plants and animals, as well as the diffusion of culture traits from points of origin to destination, and draw general conclusions about the speed and direction of such movements

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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