'A high quality geography education should inspire in pupils a curiosity and fascination about the world that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.'
What is Geography?
Geography is the science of the Earth’s surface, its atmosphere and its features. It informs us about our planet and the world we live in. We learn about different places, the continents and countries as well as the oceans, rivers, deserts or mountains on our planet. Its features are things like continents, seas, rivers and mountains. Its inhabitants are all the people and animals that live on it. Very simply, geography is about understanding the world by: comparing locations; investigating; researching different sources; writing and talking about places; asking and answering questions.
Geography draws on its vast range of vocabulary to identify and name places, the features within them and the human and physical processes at work there. Such core knowledge provides the building blocks of deeper explanation and understanding; providing entry points to geographical conversations about the world.
Geography is more than just core knowledge. Places are dynamic and often space is perceived, used and contested by people in many different ways. Geography seeks to understand how different views, values and perspectives influence and affect places and environments at different scales. It helps explain why places are changing, how they are interconnected and why patterns of inequality exist at both local and global scales.
Geography deals with the 'here and 'now' of real life and as such, is a vital 'living' subject that contributes to and enhances the wider curriculum. Although geography can be taught alone, it also offers meaningful contexts for cross - curricular work.
What does geography study?
What do we do when we study geography? We explore and learn about two main issues: places and people. There are two branches of geography, called ‘physical geography’ and ‘human geography’.
We will look at facts about natural environments and landforms and will discuss how people live in different parts of the world, we will learn about different languages and cultures, different traditions and challenges and learn about what makes our planet liveable.
Thus, in geography we will also learn about the effects that pollution, natural disasters, wars and conflict have on the people around the world and we will learn how to protect our environment so we can help to preserve the earth for future generations.
Physical geography examines the nature and environment and with it, natural hazards and their effects for example what happens when a volcano erupts or where and why does flooding occur.
Human geography studies the effects of our activities on the planet and what living in our environments on the lives and activities of the people means, such as why people move from villages into towns or even migrate from country to country or what it happens when we exploit the earth’s resources or why we experience the effects of global warming.
Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
It may seem strange to think about your 3 or 4 year old child as a geographer. However, the years from birth to age five provide a first opportunity to see how your child interacts with their environment — and how the environment influences them. The early learning goals at EYFS aim to guide your child onto make sense of their physical world and their community by exploring, observing, and finding out about people, places, technology and the environment.
Key Stage 1
In Years 1 and 2, your child will be asked to begin to develop a geographical vocabulary by learning about where they live, as well as one other small area of the United Kingdom and a small area in a contrasting non-European country. They will learn about weather patterns in the United Kingdom and hot and cold areas of the world. They will use ICT, world maps, atlases and globes, simple compass directions, aerial photographs and plans, as well as simple fieldwork and observational skills. Schools have flexibility to choose the areas they teach and there is considerable variation between schools in their approaches.
Key Stage 2
In Years 3 to 6, the geography curriculum retains some flexibility, and builds and expands on previous knowledge. There are three focus areas:
• Locational knowledge
• Place knowledge
• Human and physical geography
Locational knowledge examines latitude, longitude and time zones. Your child will use maps to focus on Europe, North and South America, concentrating on regions, key physical / human characteristics, countries, and major cities. They will also work on locating the counties and cities of the United Kingdom, and start to explore their human and physical characteristics.
Children also examine geographical similarities and differences by comparing the geography of a region of the United Kingdom with a region in a European country, and with a region in either North or South America. This is part of the place knowledge aspect of the curriculum.
For human and physical geography, your child will be taught to describe and understand key aspects of geography, for example: climate zones, rivers, mountains, volcanoes, earthquakes, the water cycle, types of settlement, economic activity and the distribution of natural resources.
How can I support my child with geography?
The curriculum content may appear daunting, but don’t panic — you are already an accomplished geographer! Your daily life constantly provides you with rich geographical experiences, information and understanding. You think and act geographically, often without realising it. It comes naturally … as you navigate your way around your home and neighbourhood; as you make sense of local and world news; as you respond to the weather forecast, as you decide on a holiday location and how to get there.
When out and about in your local area, you can help your child geographically by chatting about local physical features, attractions and activities. You might even like to develop this idea by asking them to provide a tourist guide for their local area for visiting relatives.
On a journey, you can share the road map or map phone app with your son or daughter so they can follow the route while you talk about where you are going. Alternatively, ask them to draw a map of their journey to school or the local shop, including any natural or man-made features along the way.
Holidays are an ideal opportunity to compare the location with their home area — you might ask your child to talk through five similarities and differences, for example. Holidays also provide an opportunity for a museum visit or a trip to a tourist attraction.
Closer to home, use anything at your disposal! Magazines, TV, films and even some computer games can provide your child with a view of distant places. They enable your child to be transported instantly to another place. Prompt their thinking with questions, such as: What might the weather be like in this place? Why might the road have been built where it is? The list of questions is endless and will lead to all sorts of discussions which will really help to develop curiosity about, and understanding of, the world.
Further support and useful websites:
The BBC Bitesize websites link to videos, games and information a wide range of geographical knowledge:
• Key Stage 1
• Key Stage 2
The Royal Geographical Society has also published a wealth of resources to help teachers and parents: