What Are the 5 Themes of Geography

When teaching the 5 themes of geography, you'll want to explain how each theme relates to everyday life for your students. Children need to understand how a topic applies practically or they lose interest. Incorporate these practical applications into your geography curriculum as you explain the five facets of geography.

When teaching geography, you'll always want to cover the following themes:

  1. Location: The location of a geographic subject is both absolute and relative. Show how the absolute location is represented on a map. Explain how latitude and longitude allows us to map a location in a way that is precise and always reliable. Then show how location can be represented in relative terms, like this mountain is located in this mountain range, next to this mountain and down the road from this river. By showing maps of varying detail, you can show how location can be represented in general and specific terms.
  2. Place: When you teach place, you show how a geographic location has unique identifying qualities. A mountain peak is a specific height with unique rises and dips in the landscape. It has specific vegetation growing on it and is home to specific animals, some of which might not be found elsewhere. Place is defined in very specific terms, with precise details unique to that one place, not general terms that might describe a lot of different areas. If you choose your home as the geographic place to be studied, it will contain your house, your yard, your toys and your family. Place focuses on the unique characteristics of one locale.
  3. Human-Environment Interaction: Kids want to learn about how human beings interact with specific geographic features. Is the soil conducive to growing corn or raising cattle? Can people farm the soil sucessfully? Do people survive off the crops grown here, or do they have to get food from elsewhere? Is the climate comfortable or difficult to survive? What specific features in this locale are positive for human beings? What specific features present challenges for people? How have human beings adapted to live there? Are humans able to survive here? This theme is a favorite for many children.
  4. Movement: How did people get here? How do they travel and get around now? Was this area always inhabited, or have people settled here only recently? Movement describes how people get around or ended up in a location. It can also describe the reasons why people might leave a region, such as crop failures, hurricane damage or a volcano.
  5. Region: Geographic locations are grouped together to form regions with shared, unifying characteristics. Explain how this grouping simplifies the study of many geographic locations. No one has time to study every square inch of our world, so geographic areas are described as part of a region. General descriptions of the region are then recorded. For example, someone who lives on the plains of South Dakota will be described as living in a flat, dry land with high winds and low undergrowth, yet you may find an odd mountain peak or a plot of land that varies from the generalization. Show how generalization simplifies studying geography but can cost us precious details.
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