Teaching Geographical Concepts and Skills in Primary Social Studies, pp. 2 of 13

  • Geography helps students make sense of their own experiences in the world, that is, to develop their everyday geographies. Everyday geographies refer to the knowledge bases students build up over time through their interactions with a variety of landscapes on a daily basis (Catling & Willy, 2009).
  • It develops students’ awareness of other people and their cultures, and places and environments in the wider world.
  • It engages students in geographical inquiry about the spatial matters and issues about the world they live in by using a variety of approaches and tools such as maps and photographs.
  • It fosters an attitude in students that values the Earth as their home and helps them understand the importance of sustainable living. 
  • It develops students to be thoughtful and responsible global citizens who are conscious of the impacts of their decisions and actions on their own lives and others and on places far and near.

Key Geographical Concepts

In the primary social studies curriculum, the key geographical concepts included are place, space, environment and human-environment interaction (MOE, 2012).

Place, Space, Environment and Human-Environment Interaction

A place has physical and/or human features that make it unique from other places and gives it a distinctive identity. Through our experiences with places, whether direct or indirect, we develop images or perceptions of places, cultivate a sense of place and a connection (or a disconnection) with places that we are familiar with, read or hear about. Hence, places exist as both real and perceived entities and people’s ideas and feelings about the same places can differ from person to person (Catling & Willy, 2009).

As places are physical entities, they occupy space. Space refers to the area on the Earth’s surface and is concerned with the distributions of features, the resultant patterns created and their effects on people and the environment, and the processes that contribute towards such distributions (Catling & Willy, 2009). As spaces can vary in size, we can say that places differ in scale, that is, places can be at a local, national, regional or global scale.

The concept of environment refers to “the circumstances or conditions that surround one” (Attfield, 2003 cited in Holden, 2008, p 26). It is the sum total of the conditions within which an organism lives (Whittow, 1984, p 171). In a nutshell, it means the “surroundings”. Generally, a natural environment refers to the surroundings which is formed naturally. It has naturally occurring features such as natural vegetation, soil, weather and climate, drainage features and landforms. Some examples include the forest and desert. The human environment, on the other hand, refers to the surroundings that is created or influenced by people and their activities. In such an environment, man-made features can be found. Some examples would be coastal settlements and farmland.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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