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Video:Five Themes of Geography

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The five themes of geography lay the foundation for this particular field of study. Brush up on the facts and get to know more about the study of geography.See Transcript

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Transcript:Five Themes of Geography

What is Geography?

Geography is an overwhelmingly vast field of study covering everything from the global landscape to the air we breathe to how people interact with the world around them.  While a career in geography usually examines only a small subset of the overall topic, it is important that people understand some of the basic principles that are found throughout the field.

The Five Themes of Geography

In 1984, the National Council for Geographic Education along with the Association of American Geographers developed the five themes of geography as a way to teach the ideas behind geography to grade school students.  The subject was broken down into location, place, human-environment interaction, movement, and region.

Location discusses the position of objects, and encompasses both relative and absolute location.  Relative location describes one objects location in relation to another object – such as California is West of Nevada.  Absolute location gives precise coordinates, determined by lines of latitude and longitude, such as the Statue of Liberty is at 69° W and 47° N

Place is used to describe the physical and human characteristics of a location.  The physical characteristics of a location include any natural formations, such as mountains and lakes, as well as the flora and fauna present.  Human characteristics pertain to man made structures as well as population and cultural descriptions of the area.

Human-Environment Interaction studies the ways humans impact the environment around them.  From altering the landscape with things such as bridges or shopping centers to the effect of pollution, there are three concepts that are shaping this relationship:

  • Humans depend on the environment
  • Humans modify the environment
  • Humans adapt to the environment

Movement pertains to the travel of people, good, and ideas throughout a particular location or throughout the world.  It can be the study of migration as well as the spread of fads.

Region is a way of dividing the world into distinct areas through unifying characteristics.  These areas can be determined by natural characteristics or political lines and fall into one of the following categories; formal, functional, or vernacular. 

  • Formal regions are designated by official boundaries – like states and countries
  • Functional regions are determined by their connections – like the delivery area of a pizza place
  • Vernacular regions are perceived regions with no formal boundaries – like “the south”

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