5 Practical Ways to Use Geography in the Classroom

Geography is so much more than memorizing the names of countries, continents and oceans.  How can you go beyond the obvious ways to present geography and inspire your students to have a sense of curiosity about the world around them?

By thinking in broader concepts as you teach core subjects and then apply it to current events your students are familiar with.

See this strategy in action using a recent current event: Hurricane Maria.

With Puerto Rico making headlines due to the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Maria, let’s look at integrating geography into broader concepts based on what makes Puerto Rico unique. We offer only a few examples in each category, but the possibilities are literally endless.

Location

Every spot on earth has a specific location, or boundary, or relationship to another larger of more important place.

  1. Puerto Rico is located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, made up of several islands, each having its own latitude and longitudinal location. Math? Science?
  2. Puerto Rico is located between the Caribbean and North American plates of the Earth, which has made the islands susceptible to earthquakes. Science and geology?

Place

Every place on earth is unique, with its own characteristics. Defining these characteristics helps students see how one place is different from another.

  1. Puerto Rico is made up of several islands, each surrounded by water. How is living on an island environmentally different than living in, let’s say, a desert?
  2. The islands have a specific climate called “Tropical Rainforest”, with wet and dry seasons. What would be the range of temperatures?

Human Interaction With the Environment

How do humans in a specific area depend on, adapt to, or modify their natural surroundings? How do these items compare to the USA, or other countries?

  1. Puerto Rico has created nine major ports that make it one of the busiest trade places in the Caribbean.
  2. Puerto Ricans have capitalized on the natural beauty of their islands to make a thriving tourism industry.
  3. Puerto Rico has a relatively low crime rate, which makes living there safer for people.

Movement

Humans move for a variety of reasons—immigration, transport of goods, travel…

In challenging times, weather affects how people move—this is a big issue in Puerto Rico today!

  1. Since Puerto Ricans are legally natural born citizens of the US, they may travel back and forth to the mainland.
  2. Currently, hurricane damage has made movement within the country very difficult: many main roads and part of the infrastructure has been wiped out.

Region

Places are parts of regions, or areas that combine places for political or economic reasons.

  1. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States which grant its citizens certain rights. How does this affect their recovery from a political point of view?
  2. Geographically, it is also a part of the Great Antilles, a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. This entire area is rich with history, and and culture, all due to a merging of native culture and the people who came to live there over time.

Key Takeaway

All of these concepts go along with as well as go beyond maps!   Think about using them when working in your class– insert one of these concepts into your classroom each day and you will be presenting geography to your students in small ways!