A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Helping Your Child Learn Geography - October 1996


By the year 2000, all students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography, and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our Nation's modern economy.
Section 102, 1994

A lot has happened in the study of geography since 1990 when the Office of Educational Research and Improvement first released Helping Your Child Learn Geography.

With the passage of the GOALS 2000: Educate America Act in 1994, geography was officially recognized as a core curriculum subject in American schools.

Also in 1994, the United States saw the release of standards for teaching geography to students K-12. Developed collaboratively by educators, parents, scientists, and others, the geography standards identify what American children should learn in grades 4, 8, and 12. Many states now use these standards as guidelines for developing their own curricula. Progress has also been made on the closely related matter of measuring what students have learned. In 1994, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) conducted the first full-scale assessment of what America's students know and can do in geography at grades 4, 8, and 12. The first ``Geography Report Card,'' released this spring, confirms that children whose families are involved in and supportive of their studies perform better.

However, the most dramatic changes affecting geography education in the past six years are changes in the world itself. Many countries no longer have the same borders or names as they did in 1990. The Earth continues to become more crowded, the global economy more competitive, precious natural resources more scarce, and the environment more threatened. With instant, inexpensive communications, we are more closely connected than ever before to people all over the world.

In recent years, new immigrants have come to our country in unprecedented numbers. Children of every color and culture, speaking many different languages, fill our classrooms. In some states, student populations are no longer characterized by a single dominant ethnic group, and this will be true of our entire nation by the middle of the next century.

How can geography help us communicate and successfully face the challenges of our time? Geography is the science of space and place on Earth's surface. We human beings are constantly interacting with the Earth--the Earth shapes our lives just we shape the face of the Earth. Studying geography enables us to better see and understand our own home and culture and our relationships to other cultures and environments. Clear vision and understanding form a basis for nearly any kind of communication and constructive action.

So, we are pleased to update and reprint Helping Your Child Learn Geography. From creating treasure maps to helping children find pen pals, the book still offers many simple, fun activities to teach youngsters the fundamentals of geography. We've given the book a new look. We've added a checklist from the standards called "What Does Your Fourth Grader Know?'' And, we've updated the resources, adding materials on the standards, as well as some software and Web sites.

A lot has changed in the study of geography since 1990. But a lot remains the same. Parents are still a child's first and ongoing teachers. When you talk with your children about world events or vacation plans and you turn to an atlas or a map, you teach them a great deal. Not only do you help them learn how to use maps, but over time, you help them form their own mental map of the world. They can then better organize and understand information about other people and events. Or, as the GOALS 2000: Educate America Act states, they can learn to use their minds well.

This learning process can be fun. We hope you and your children will enjoy the games, maps, and suggested activities that follow. While simple and fun, these ideas can be used to help youngsters develop a basic understanding of geography that will aid them in their school studies.

Sharon P. Robinson
Assistant Secretary for Educational Research
and Improvement


[Acknowledgments] [Table of Contents] [Introduction]