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Department of Special Education

The Six Essential Elements of Geography

There are Eighteen National Geography Standards and they are organized into the following Six Essential Elements for Geography:

1.  The world in spatial terms

The purpose of the first essential element of geography is to study the relationships between people, places, and environments by mapping information about them into a spatial context.

2.  Places and regions

The purpose of the second essential element of geography is to show how identities and lives of individuals and peoples are rooted in particular places and in those human constructs called regions

3.  Physical systems

The purpose of the third essential element of geography is to identify how physical processes shape the Earth’s surface and how they interact with plant and animal life to create, sustain, and modify ecosystems.

4.  Human systems

The purpose of the fourth essential element of geography is to show how people are central to geography in that human activities help shape the Earth’s surface, human settlements and structures.

5.  Environment and society

The purpose of the fifth essential element of geography is to show how the the physical environment is modified by human activities, largely as a consequence of the ways in which human societies value and use Earth’s natural resources.

6.  The uses of geography

The purpose of the sixth essential element of geography is to show how the knowledge of geography enables people to develop an understanding of the relationships between people, places, and environments over time -- that is, of Earth as it was, is, and might be.

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