Geography absorbed into rest of social studies curriculum

Rebekah Harrell

Years ago Sandy High School required freshmen to take a mandatory Geography class that discussed basic things such as state capitals, population, and environmental effects. Not offering the class anymore has affected a lot of students regarding the basic knowledge of our geography.  The question is: is Geography a necessary class?

“In the last 10 years there has been a greater emphasis on reading and writing literacy to some degree at the expense of literacy in geography. It is one of those trade-offs that sometimes have to be made. While that is not ideal, it is less of an impact than it was before such things as Google Maps, GPS, etc,” Boring Middle School Geography teacher Robert Farris said.

Geography is still a skill that most students need to have some basic knowledge of. Knowing where the states are located on a map and the capitals of some states can be very vital information. While it is not a necessity to know a lot much about geography, it is very helpful to have some basic knowledge. With the inventions of Google maps and other GPS devices it is easier to know your current location without the background knowledge.

 The Oregon Department of Education changed their standard for Social Studies, as a result, OTSD changed the required material for the Social Studies department. These changes happened a number of years ago which resulted in SHS removing the required Geography course. Although the class requirements changed, students still have geography incorporated into the other social science courses that SHS offers. 

“I always incorporate Geography into my curriculum. I never taught Geography as a class at SHS, however I noticed the issues with students’ knowledge of the world and locations when SHS stopped offering it as a course. It affected all my courses and content. It added to an already packed AP Course. I do understand the reasoning behind the decision to drop Geography as a class. It all boils down to money and where that money has to go. I don’t have to like the decision though,” social studies teacher Julie Fredrick said.

Students often don’t know the capital of their own state, for example, the capital of Oregon is Salem, but many students may answer Portland. This can make a difference when it comes to locating things geographically in their area. Things that also contribute to students’ confusion is directions in north, south, east, and west. Often students are unaware of which direction these are located however, confusion with this can easily be solved now with a smartphone.

Geography should be incorporated in some way into the social studies classes we already have because basic knowledge of geography is good for everyone.

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