When report card time rolls around, very few parents will take more than a passing glance at their child’s geography mark, focusing more instead on foundational subjects like language or math. And yet, it is one of the most engaging and worthwhile subjects kids can learn: geography is interdisciplinary, requires the use of multiple skill sets, not to mention deeply fascinating. Geography is a subject that makes the more abstract skills learned in math and language arts tangible, as it focuses on real-life content and application. What could be more immersive than exploring different maps and cultures around the world? More fascinating than understanding how time works, how weather patterns emerge, or why different climates exist? What could be more useful than learning how economies and industries impact societies?
So what is geography? Geography is a study of the environment, and how humans interact and organize the world. It encompasses a wide range of topics, from weather, land patterns, oceanography, cartography, economies, human populations, and engineering. Geography is deeply connected with the areas of science and history, and has dozens of branches as it extends into post-secondary education. At a young age, a study of geography starts with simple maps and understanding concepts like landforms; as students get older, it may extend into more complex areas like environmental engineering, statistics, and scientific research.
Supporting your child’s study of geography can lead to so many positive outcomes for your child, from helping them develop a stronger sense of environmental stewardship to learning and career pathways. A study of geography will foster your child’s interest in the physical world, and enable them to see the many ways humans and nature interact. Students learn a broad range of important topics like climate change, natural disasters, mapping, pollution, industry, fair trade, poverty and human rights, creating a jumping-off point for your child to discover new interests and passions. Helping your child see the significance of geography can lead them to a career in engineering, environmental policy, academia, meteorology, natural resources, and technology.
Let’s take a closer look at the subject of geography and discuss the best ways you can support your child’s learning in the subject.
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Geography: Real-World Skills
Geography focuses on real-world contexts and skills, which makes it one of the most relevant subjects in school. Through this subject, your child will apply their reading and media literacy skills to research and read information about geographical concepts, write reports, explore digital maps, and interpret infographics. As students get older, they will typically write reports or create media about geographical content. Math skills are also applied and developed in geography as students learn concepts like latitude, longitude, and how to identify coordinates on a map. Data management skills also come into play as students create and interpret graphs on everything from climate to human populations.
The skills your child learns in geography relate directly to the world they live in and can be used almost immediately. Thanks to apps like Google Maps, they can literally explore the planet and navigate maps with the touch of a button; with the right instruction, their geographical knowledge will inform their understanding of the news. Provincial and national parks, or literally any place can be an opportunity to apply geographical thinking. With the right study and support, your child will be able to analyze land formations, industrial zones, the characteristics of urban areas, and even explain the unique features of rivers, lakes, and oceans.
If you haven’t given much thought to your child’s geography learning, there is no better time to start than the present. Here are some of the best ways you can help spark your child’s interest in geography.
The Best Ways to Get your Child Interested in Geography
Explore Your Community
One quick way to make geography real for your child is to explore your local community. While we don’t often think of our surroundings as a place to discover new things, you’ll find interesting things about the land, climate, vegetation, and human population anywhere you go. Do you live in a suburb? Visit the local park and identify what kids of trees grow there, what flowers thrive, the types of insects there are, just to start. Think about the weather where you live: what factors impact the climate? Take a human geography perspective: what kinds of jobs to do people have? What are some commonalities between people in the community? All of these questions are geography based and will help your child to make more sense of the subject. Find ways to engage with your family’s local environment: do a litter clean-up, work in a community garden, throw some wildflower seeds down in a park and see what happens.
If you happen to live near some remarkable geographical features, or provincial parks, take the time to do a day trip. You’ll likely find plenty of literature or information about the natural landforms, flora, and fauna there.
Watch the News
A study of geography also encompasses current events, so make an effort to watch, read, or listen to the news with your child to get them thinking about geographical issues. Consuming the news together can spark conversations about complex topics, like politics, environmental issues, human behaviour, and other regional, local and international events. Take the time to point out the interconnectedness of the world, watch an American news station to compare the differences between reporting in Canada, or dig deeper into an issue of interest with an internet search after. The news changes every day, so the learning will always be new!
Watching the news is easy to sneak into your daily routine: turn on the news at dinner, listen to the radio or a podcast in the car, or pick up a good old fashioned newspaper and browse through. Keeping up with current events can be a habit your child takes into adulthood, so make sure you take the time to show them how to be critical of the media they consume.
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Take a Trip
If it’s possible, spark your child’s interest in geography by taking a trip. Canada alone is filled with beautiful geographical features, from coastal mountains in British Columbia, lakes and boreal forest in Ontario, the Rocky Mountains in Banff, the vast plains and prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and the banks and Atlantic coastlines of the maritimes. Remarkable landforms are unforgettable and will make a powerful impression on your child: do the research beforehand or simply Google at the place you will go to to get some initial information about the place.
Travel can also be a great way to get your child into maps. If you take a road trip, get your child to help navigate with the travel app on a mobile device, or even provide your child with a paper map to follow. On a plane? Turn on the live maps and watch in wonder as you cover thousands of kilometres. When you arrive in your destination, take the time to find local hikes or walks where you can truly experience the land.
Visit a Museum
Museums are troves of information about geography, from ancient civilizations to natural history. Find a museum near you or at a place you will travel to and have fun just wandering around and learning. Museums often have exhibits and presentations created by their staff, so plan a day around events happening in that museum. Does your child love art? Check out artwork from Canadian artists like the Group of Seven who interpreted landscapes in creative ways. Perhaps your child can paint landscapes of their own! Is your child more into science? Visit a science centre for a different take on earth, and learn about climate change, plate tectonics, natural disasters, and different areas of research and learning in science, geography, and engineering.
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Hire a Tutor
A tutor is another easy and convenient way to get your child focused on geography, especially if they are not connecting well with the subject. Finding a tutor with a background or passion for geography can support your child’s learning in a powerful way, explain complex concepts, or help them in their research projects. A geography tutor can also assist in other subjects, such as math, science and language, making it a great solution for other learning challenges.
Another great advantage of a tutor is that they can meet your child near your home, at your home, or online at a time that is convenient for your schedule. Sites like Superprof have listings for tutors near you - check out the Superprof site today!
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