The National Geography Standards

classroom chalkboard and globe
wragg/E+/Getty Images

The National Geography Standards were published in 1994 to guide geographic education in the United States. The eighteen standards shed light on what the geographically informed person should know and understand. These standards replaced the five themes of geography. The hope is that every student in America would become a geographically informed person through the implementation of these standards in the classroom.

The geographically informed person knows and understands the following:

The World in Spatial Terms

  • How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information.
  • How to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments.
  • How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface.

Places and Regions

  • The physical and human characteristics of places.
  • That people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.
  • How culture and experience influence people's perception of places and regions.

Physical Systems

  • The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface.
  • The characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth's surface.

Human Systems

  • The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface.
  • The characteristics, distributions, and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics.
  • The patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface.
  • The process, patterns, and functions of human settlement.
  • How forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth's surface.

Environment and Society

  • How human actions modify the physical environment.
  • How physical systems affect human systems.
  • The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources.

The Uses of Geography

  • How to apply geography to interpret the past.
  • To apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future.


mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Rosenberg, Matt. "The National Geography Standards." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Rosenberg, Matt. (2023, April 5). The National Geography Standards. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Matt. "The National Geography Standards." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).