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Why Geography Should Make a Comeback in K-12

Geography used to be a subject that was taught throughout the nation but somewhere along the line it got put on the back burner. Now, in California, educators are finding ways to bring the subject back and their methods may be of interest to parents and teachers beyond the West Coast.

“In the latest national geographic poll of geographic knowledge, American 18- to 24-year-olds place almost last, second only to Mexico,” according to a KALW report by Hana Baba.

“Most of the world’s industrialized nations require world geography throughout middle and high school. But, here in the US, kids just take generic ‘social studies.’ Geography IS just another elective.”

According to Baba, this is all changing as lawmakers are combing their forces with educators and geographers to explain why the subject is important for the next generation of Americans and others to come. For instance, the U.S. is among one of the world's leading global players with a plentiful amount of jobs that require geographical skills like understanding maps and knowing the different countries all over the world. Jobs like geographic information systems specialists are not only in demand according to Baba, these positions can pay well.  

“A number of major US universities shut down their geography programs after the 1960s, though some are coming back,” said Baba.

“As for K-12, every state has some geography content standards, but only about 19 require them in middle school, and only six in high school. California is not one of them.”

To explore this further, Baba ventured out to Mission Hills Middle School in Union City to meet with Lata Nigam, a teacher who is working to bring geography back to the classroom in conjunction with following the curriculum provided.

“She grew up in India, and says, geography was a subject that was taught at every grade level, from 6 through 12,” said Baba.

“She found it strange that it wasn’t taught in the us. So she decided to start teaching it herself - not just teaching geography, but also bringing the National Geographic Bee to the school.

The Bee works the same way as you would expect a spelling bee to work except the words are replaced with geography questions. Nigam as well as other educators mentioned in the report agree that geography is a necessary subject in today’s K-12 curriculum. Nigam also told Baba that she thinks it should be a part of the STEM push as well.

“Learning about mountains, you know, valleys even learning about glacial topography, space, how the roads are made, statistics planning, earthquakes, volcanoes, topography, planets - I don't know why they don't think of it as a science because it is a science!” said Nigam.

Read the full story and comment below.

Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor

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