Program Mission and History
Too many young Americans are unable to make effective decisions, understand geo-spatial issues, or even recognize their impacts as global citizens. National Geographic created Geography Awareness Week to raise awareness to this dangerous deficiency in American education and excite people about geography as both a discipline and as a part of everyday life.
Each year more than 100,000 Americans actively participate in Geography Awareness Week. Established by presidential proclamation more than 25 years ago, this annual public awareness program encourages citizens young and old to think and learn about the significance of place and how we affect and are affected by it. Each third week of November, students, families and community members focus on the importance of geography by hosting events; using lessons, games, and challenges in the classroom; and often meeting with policymakers and business leaders. Geography Awareness Week is supported by access to materials and resources for teachers, parents, community activists, and all geographically minded global citizens.
Frequently Asked Questions
Geography is the study of places and the relationships between people and their environments. Geographers explore both the physical properties of Earth’s surface and the human societies spread across it. They also examine how human culture interacts with the natural environment and the way locations and places can have an impact on people. Geography seeks to understand where things are found, why they are there, and how they develop and change over time.
Geography Awareness Week is celebrated every third week of November.
In the past, each year had a theme that explored a specific aspect of geography. Moving forward, National Geographic is excited to celebrate all facets of geography during this annual tradition. Participants in Geography Awareness Week should feel free to focus on any or all aspects of geography in lesson plans, events and other activities.
Geography Awareness Week is celebrated by students, educators, families, schools, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and policymakers around the world.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are important tools that have the potential to greatly improve the population’s geo-literacy. Its spatial focus embraces the idea of interconnectedness, and it can be used to solve many of the problems Geography Awareness Week addresses. That is why GIS Day was incorporated into Geography Awareness Week in 1999 and has taken place every Wednesday of the week since. For more information, go to GISday.org.
Unfortunately, geography is neither widely taught nor well-taught in our schools today. Social sciences as a whole have been de-emphasized in schools in the last decade. Within the subject of geography, there is a disproportionate focus on dates, events and individuals, while little to no attention is paid to the functioning of human-environment systems or geographic reasoning. In fact, the United States lags behind the rest of the world in both the quality and quantity of every aspect of geography education.
Geography Awareness Week hopes to not only raise awareness of this deficiency and attempt to reverse the trend in schools but to provide materials to support better geography education in the United States. National Geographic works with teachers and other content experts to develop activities for the classroom, home or community. The activities include games, lessons and experiential projects. Guides and educational materials for these activities are available for free here.
Geography Awareness Week is also an opportunity to bring attention to the need for educational policies that will increase geographic literacy. Over the years, we have used Geography Awareness Week to mount campaigns for state standards in geography and federal funding for teacher education. Geography Awareness Week materials encourage people to become educated about ways they can advocate for improved geographic education in their communities.
Each year, educators and other interested groups organize state-wide, community and school events as part of Geography Awareness Week. Over the years, geography has been celebrated at public forums, festivals, student-run carnivals and teacher-training workshops. Geography Awareness Week events have been held at venues as diverse as National Geographic headquarters, state capitols, mayors’ offices, shopping malls, college campuses, community centers, sports arenas, school auditoriums and classrooms.
Find everything you need to help you host a great event, including planning tools, promotional materials and activities for any age or grade level here.
Yes! Over the course of the program’s more than 25 years, many great projects have been put together. These materials are available here.
Tools for Planning and Promotion
This Geography Awareness Week, gather your friends, family, coworkers, and everyone in between to help you celebrate! Use these downloadable and customizable files during Geography Awareness Week to show your love for geography and/or promote your event.
Event Planning How-to: Instructions from gathering your planning team to sending thank-you cards, with event ideas big and small.
How to Host a Geography Quiz Night: Complete with 100 prepared National Geographic Geography Bee questions!
How to Meet with Local Representatives: A guide for planning a trip to visit local elected officials who should be supporting better geography education.
How to Use Social Media: Tips for how and when to use each platform, and suggestions for what to post.
How to Engage Your Local Media: Get back to basics with our suggestions for leveraging your local print, radio, and television media.
Sample Letter to the Editor: Tell your area papers how important you think geography and geography education are and why with this fill-in-the blank template.
Proclamation: Ask you local leaders to officially proclaim Geography Awareness Week as important to your community/ county/ state, etc. Just make sure to fill in the right blanks!