Geography Awareness Week is a weeklong event geared towards getting people more involved in the geographical world around them. Geography Awareness Week was begun 25 years ago in 1989 by a Presidential proclamation and has been organized by the National Geographic Education Programs committee ever since. Held in the third week of November, the event focuses on the interconnectivity of humans and the natural environment, to each other, and to the greater world we live in.
Geography Awareness Week also connects students, community members, teachers, and others to members of the government and organizations who are working towards geographical awareness and getting people actively involved in the world they live in. Understanding how people relate to each other and the physical Earth is something that National Geographic felt was missing in modern American youth, and thus fought to establish Geography Awareness Week to help bridge the gap between who we are and where we live.
The National Geographic Education Programs, or NGEP, attracts approximately 100,000 Americans around the country during Geography Awareness Week to participate in group activities, lectures, games, challenges, learning opportunities and more. They aim to educate individuals of all age ranges and life experiences about the responsibilities of taking care of our environment and becoming truly global citizens along the way.
Anyone can get involved with Geography Awareness Week during the third week of November or throughout the year, as supplies and information about the event are available whenever you need them. There are special resources geared towards students, teachers, parents, community organizers and organizations as well as other interested people. Each year there has been a general theme of Geography Awareness Week but facts, figures and information during the event covers all aspects of the area of study. There’s a lot to choose from, after all!
GIS Day occurs during Geography Awareness Week on the Wednesday of the third week in November (learn more about GIS Day). This day was incorporated into the event as the importance of Geographic Information Systems has continued to increase across many different aspects of the field of geography. This information system is used to educate interested learners about geography as well as the interconnectivity of humans, animals, plant species, and ecology.
Geography Awareness Week is all too aware of the lack of education regarding geography in many American schools. Geography is often left behind along with the arts and humanities subjects as schools increasingly focus on math and ‘hard’ sciences. However, geography remains very important not only for students, but for everyone. Understanding how humans relate to animals and the environment will keep our planet safe; not learning about these relationships will only serve to harm the already fragile Earth we live on.
The goal of Geography Awareness Week is to spread the word about geography and make resources for the teaching of this field easier for parents, students and educators to access. During the week there have often been special lectures and sessions geared towards instructing teachers how best to teach their geography classes and how to make their continued importance known to the administration of their schools and districts. Groups have also been able to meet with local policy makers to discuss the importance of these classes in local schools and have been able to make some big steps in protecting the environment and teaching of geography in schools and communities.
Additionally, anyone is equipped to host a Geography Awareness Week event. Events have been sponsored by schools, government offices, organizations, and more, and held in a variety of places such as public parks, community centers, and state capitols. See if there is an event already near you by contacting your local National Geographic Network of Geography Education Alliances and, if there isn’t, consider doing what you can to host this year’s Geography Awareness Week in your city (links below to resources).
The things that have been accomplished through Geography Awareness Week and the partnerships of the National Geographic Education Programs are nothing without the people who create local events and those who attend them. The people who are involved on the ground year after year to learn about geography and spread the information to others they know are the real sources of inspiration, and the real reason why Geography Awareness Week has continued to be a success for 25 years.
National Geographic. Education. Geography Awareness Week. 2014. Web 27 October 2014. http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/programs/geographyawarenessweek/?ar_a=1
National Geographic. Education. Geography Awareness Week. 2014. Web 27 October 2014. http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/topics/geography-awareness-week/?ar_a=1
Education World. Geography Awareness Week. 29 October 2013. Web 27 October 2014. http://www.educationworld.com/a_special/geography_aware_98.shtml