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Ports are docking places for ships carrying people and cargo. The United States has ports along the ocean, rivers, and lakes. Ports are critical for local, national, and international trade, as well as immigration, tourism, security, and environmental policy.
 
This infographic, from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, outlines "Key Partners Involved in Critical Port Infrastructure Operations and Oversight." The graphic is an excellent illustration of one aspect of what Daniel Edelson, former vice-president of education programs at the National Geographic Society, calls systems thinking.
 
“Scientists today view the world as a set of interconnected natural and human systems,” Edelson writes. “These systems create, transform, and move resources.”
 
The port infrastructure in this graphic is a human system of exchange—focusing on economics, communication, safety, and security. Absent is a representation of the natural systems of ports—their ecosystems, hydrology, or climate.
 
“To be geo-literate,” Edelson says, “a person must be able to reason about how he or she depends on these different systems and how his or her actions can affect them.”
 
Use the discussion questions in the following tab to help your students better understand their relationship to ports, and how their actions can affect the infrastructure found there.
  1. What organizations do you think have an interest in port infrastructure but are not represented in the graphic?

  2. What are some jobs or careers each “key partner” provides at the port?

  3. Which “key partners” rely on the geographic perspective to operate safely and efficiently?

  4. What natural disasters would impact port infrastructure? How?

  5. How can consumers make an impact on port operations or infrastructure?

cargo
Noun

goods carried by a ship, plane, or other vehicle.

communication
Noun

sharing of information and ideas.

dock
Verb

to bring and secure a ship or boat to a space or facility.

economics
Noun

study of monetary systems, or the creation, buying, and selling of goods and services.

environment
Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

geo-literacy
Noun

the understanding of human and natural systems, geographic reasoning, and systematic decision-making.

immigration
Noun

process of moving to a new country or region with the intention of staying and living there.

infographic
Noun

visual representation of data. Also called information graphic or graphic.

infrastructure
Noun

structures and facilities necessary for the functioning of a society, such as roads.

Noun

place on a body of water where ships can tie up or dock and load and unload cargo.

security
Noun

safety or stability.

tourism
Noun

the industry (including food, hotels, and entertainment) of traveling for pleasure.

trade
Noun

buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.