“Geography is for life in every sense of that expression: lifelong, life-sustaining, and life-enhancing.”

National Geographic Standards
Photograph courtesy Bridgewater State University/Ashley Costa

“The world facing the high school graduates of 2025 will be even more crowded than the world of today. The physical environment will be even more threatened. The global economy will be even more competitive and interconnected.

Understanding and responding to the challenges and opportunities of the world in the twenty-first century will require many skills; the capacities to think and communicate mathematically and scientifically will remain at a premium. Geographic literacy will also be necessary for reasons of enhancing economic competitiveness, preserving quality of life, sustaining the environment, and ensuring national security. As individuals and as members of society, humans face decisions on where to live, what to build where, how and where to travel, how to conserve energy, how to wisely manage scarce resources, and how to cooperate or compete with others.

Making all of these decisions, personal and collective, requires a geographically informed person—someone who sees meaning in the arrangement of things on Earth’s surface, who sees relations between people, places, and environments, who uses geographic skills, and who applies spatial and ecological perspectives to life situations. Geographic skills enable a person to understand the connections between patterns of rivers and the physical processes that create them, between patterns of cities and the human processes that create them, and between what happens in the places in which we live and what happens in places throughout the world, near and far.

The goal of the National Geography Standards is to enable students to become geographically informed through knowledge and mastery of three things: (1) factual knowledge; (2) mental maps and tools; (3) and ways of thinking.”

Geography For Life: National Geography Standards, Second Edition

Standard Description Essential Element
1 How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information The World in Spatial Terms
2 How to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context The World in Spatial Terms
3 How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface The World in Spatial Terms
4 The physical and human characteristics of places Places and Regions
5 That people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity Places and Regions
6 How culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions Places and Regions
7 The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface Physical Systems
8 The characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems and biomes on Earth's surface  Physical Systems
9 The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface Human Systems
10 The characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics Human Systems
11 The patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface Human Systems
12 The processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement Human Systems
13 How the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth's surface Human Systems
14 How human actions modify the physical environment Environment and Society
15 How physical systems affect human systems Environment and Society
16 The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources Environment and Society
17 How to apply geography to interpret the past The Uses of Geography
18 How to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future. The Uses of Geography

Created By

Geography Education National Implementation Project Geography Education National Implementation Project