NATIONAL GEOGRAPHY STANDARDS represent the consensus of the geography education community around what students should KNOW and be ABLE to DO by the time they graduate from the 12th grade.

The first ever National Geography Standards, “Geography for Life”, were published in 1994 and revised in 2012.  Every state has adopted geography curriculum standards based on “GEOGRAPHY for LIFE”.

The 18 geographic knowledge standards are grouped by 6 Essential Elements:

  1. The World in SPATIAL Terms
  2. PLACES and REGIONS
  3. PHYSICAL Systems
  4. HUMAN Systems
  5. ENVIRONMENT and Society
  6. The USES of Geography

Essential Element I.  The WORLD in SPATIAL TERMS

  • Standard 1.  How to use MAPS and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report INFORMATION from a spatial perspective. (WHERE things are)
  • Standard 2.  How to use mental MAPS to ORGANIZE INFORMATION about PEOPLE, PLACES, and ENVIRONMENT in a spatial context.
  • Standard 3.  How to analyze the spatial ORGANIZATION of PEOPLE, PLACES, and ENVIRONMENTS on Earth’s surface.

Essential Element II.  PLACES AND REGIONS

  • Standard 4.  The PHYSICAL and HUMAN characteristics of PLACES
  • Standard 5.  That people CREATE REGIONS to interpret Earth’s complexity.
  • Standard 6.  How culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of PLACES and REGIONS

Essential Element III.  PHYSICAL SYSTEMS

  • Standard 7.  The PHYSICAL PROCESSES that shape the PATTERNS of Earth’s surface.
  • Standard 8.  The characteristics and spatial distribution of ECOSYSTEMS 

Essential Element IV.  HUMAN SYSTEMS

  • Standard 9.  The characteristics, distribution, and MIGRATIONS of HUMAN POPULATION on Earth’s surface.
  • Standard 10.  The characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth’s CULTURAL MOSAICS
  • Standard 11.  The PATTERNS and NETWROKS of ECONOMIC INTERDEPENDENCE on Earth’s surface.
  • Standard 12.  The PROCESSES, PATTTERNS, and FUNCTIONS of HUMAN SETTLEMENT
  • Standard 13.  How the forces of COOPERATION and CONFLICT among people influence the division and control of EARTH’s SURFACE
  • Standard 14.  How human actions modify the physical environment.

Essential Element V.  ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY

  • Standard 15.  How PHYSICAL systems affect HUMAN systems.
  • Standard 16.  The CHANGES that occur in the meaning, USE, DISTRIBUTION, and importance of RESOURCES

Essential Element VI.  THE USES OF GEOGRAPHY

  • Standard 17.  How to apply geography to INTERPRET the PAST
  • Standard 18.  How to apply geography to interpret the PRESENT and plan for the FUTURE