National Geography Awareness Week is November 13-19 and was created by National Geographic to raise awareness about how we all rely on geographical information on a daily basis, and to get the public excited about all things geography!
The week-long event known as GeoWeek was also created to highlight the lack of geography education in the American education system. Many students do not understand basics about geography, cannot name places around the globe, and do not recognize their roles as global citizens. National Geographic views this as a “dangerous deficiency in American education.”
GeoWeek was established by a presidential proclamation over 25 years ago, and is organized annually by NatGeo’s Education Programs (NGEP), and supported by institutions and corporations worldwide. Over 100,000 students, families and community members participated in 2015. The initiative reminds all citizens about the “significance of place” and the relationships between environment and the people that live there.
As an educator, you can use lessons, games and classroom challenges to focus on geography or your school can host an event. This is a great week to schedule meetings with lawmakers and business leaders to understand their perspectives on geography. If you’re lucky enough to live near a city, state or national park, use this week to take students on a field trip to learn spatial thinking through maps, a great and useful skill that will help students develop simultaneously with their curricula in geography, Earth sciences and environmental sciences.
The perceived decreased in the importance of teaching social sciences that has occurred over the last decade means that geography is no longer widely taught in American schools, and if it is taught, there is too much importance placed on teaching dates and events. The United States is in last place worldwide regarding quality and quantity in every facet of geography education.
By sponsoring GeoWeek, National Geographic hopes to raise awareness about this educational morass in hopes of turning the trend around. The material emphasizes human-environment systems and geographic reasoning. They use the week to promote much-needed educational policies on geographic literacy, better state standards, and federal funding for teacher training.