I recently heard the term geo-literacy, and guessed that it had something to do with understand the world and how it works. Daniel C. Edelson, PhD is the VP for Education and executive director of the National Geographic Education Foundation, and has written numerous articles about geoliteracy and he lists three components:
- Understanding human and natural systems
- Geographic reasoning
- Systematic decision-making
Geo-literacy is not only knowledge of geography, though that is certainly a part of it. A geo-literate individual comprehends the relationship between human (political, cultural, and economic) systems and their interactions with and impact on our environment (water, plant, and animal ecosystems). A geo-literate student understands that our world is interconnected, and decisions we make have long-lasting effects near and far. Teachers wishing to improve geo-literacy must provide real opportunities to practice critical thinking, come to conclusions, and then evaluate the outcome of the decisions from different perspectives.
Many of these exercises in geo-literacy are aimed at middle school, high school, and university students…. but can we start younger? What can the younger kids learn that will provide a foundation for these more complex lessons that come later in their education? Here are some age-appropriate lessons to increase geo-literacy in primary school students:
- Explore different homes around the world and guess why the types of home fit their environment
- Discover why certain cultures celebrate certain holidays, and what is important to them
- Investigate different habitats and biomes, such as the rainforest; look at tangible ways kids can prevent their destruction
- Surround kids with geography: study maps, create maps, follow maps, play with maps. The more you develop their spatial intelligence when they’re younger, the more kids will understand their place in this world.
- Learn about the water cycle and the conserving and managing our freshwater resources
- Research your child’s favorite animal, turning it into a global lesson about protecting their habitat and food sources; what decisions can we make that will affect the outcome of this animal?
Do you have more ideas about increasing geo-literacy in our younger children? How can we teach them how our world works, how we are interconnected, and how to make knowledgeable decisions? Leave us your ideas and favorite lessons in the comments section.
What is Geo-Literacy? Here is National Geographic Education‘s definition:
Here is what National Geographic Education says about the importance of Geo-Literacy: