Where’s the Geography in it?

As teachers, we are always looking for two things: how to start the year off and how to connect the everyday to our subject. Here’s an activity I have my students complete at the beginning of the year. It’s a ‘what did you do on your summer vacation?’ type of exercise but contained, connected and relevant.

This summer, my daughter and I spent the day canoeing the Tay Canal, near Perth, Ontario; part of the historic and geo-politically motivated Rideau Canal (also a World Heritage Site). We were at the family cottage on Lower Rideau Lake and decided to canoe to Perth for lunch, then back again. A great day out.

My students have applied this to just about every possible activity imaginable from going shopping to attending an major league sports game (Blue Jays, Tiger-Cats, Bills . . .) to scuba diving, rock climbing, biking, cottage get, camping, Canada’s Wonderland, Alaska Cruise and staying with grandparents. In the true nature of Geography, it works for anything in the world!

Where’s the Geography in it?

I have students complete this in their Geo Process Journal, mostly as notes that can then be turned into discussion with table/elbow partners.

Or, it can be all discussion.

Or, have them show the place on Google Maps and describe/discuss.

Or… the possibilities are endless. You sure don’t need to have students complete all the questions either, but notice how there are connections to the Five Themes of Geography and the definition of Geography I prefer to use: What is Geography?

  1. List three cool activities you did this summer.
  2. For ONE of those activities, answer: Where’s the Geography in it?
    1. Begin with Location:Where did the activity take place? (Actual Location; Relative Location)
    2. Description: What kind of a place is it? (urban? rural? urban-rural fringe?wilderness?)
      • Physical: What trees/vegetation were around? What rock? Soil? Water features?
        • How did these impact/influence your activity?
      • Human: Were there other people there? Many? Too many?
        • How old were the other people there? All young? All old? A mixture?
      • Environment: What was the weather like?
        • How did the weather influence your choice of activity or what you did?
    3. Why is it there?What features of the physical and/or human landscape influenced the location of this activity?
      • What features in the surrounding landscape impact or are impacted by this activity?
    4. Movement: How did you get to your activity? How did you know where to go?
    5. Connections:
      • How is this activity connected to other activities or places or features? (Sports franchises in a league? Retail franchises in a mall/high street/retail strip? On a river/highway/metro stop? Part of a system of national/provincial parks/CAs?)
      • How does this activity factor into the local economy? (direct/indirect employment, revenue)
    6. Why did you choose to do this activity? Entertainment? Recreation? Family Event? Tourism?

Try it. Adapt it. Any feedback you have or other ways of using this – let me know by adding a comment below. Good luck on your first day!

Where’s the Geography in it?
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