Where’s Ohio? What’s the highest point in the United States? What is the only state with an active diamond mine? What’s the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States? What’s a Cajun? How did the teddy bear get its name? (Answers below.)
Geography is not just about places and spaces. Not by a long shot. It’s also about the richness of the physical and human tapestry: culture, economics, elections, the environment, peoples, resources, and so much more. This diversity of topics is reflected in the more than 60 specialty or affinity groups of the more than 10,000-member Association of American Geographers.
Although geography is such a central subject in American (and international) education, studies have shown that it and the broader subject of social studies are both among the least favorite subjects for students. Because students often find social studies boring, it “does not inspire students to learn,” wrote Joan Shaughnessy and Thomas Haladyna in a 1985 paper. In the last 25+ years, there have been numerous efforts to enhance geographic literacy and make social studies more engaging through both traditional methods and by integrating technology into the educational process. But these efforts have produced few results.