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Geography played a major role in the history of Greece. An overview of the Five Themes of Geography is presented here which helps break down the different aspects of understanding where we live.

Geography is more than memorizing names and places. Geographers organize space in much the same way that historians organize time. To help organize space, geographers are concerned with asking three important questions about things in the world:

  • Where is it?
  • Why is it there?
  • What are the consequences of it being there?

The five themes of geography help answer these questions:

  • Location: Where is it located?
  • Place: What is it like there?
  • Human/Environment Interaction: What is the relationship between humans and their environment?
  • Movement: How and why are places connected with one another?
  • Regions: How and why is one area similar to another?

Location: Position on Earth's Surface

Absolute and Relative location are two ways of describing the positions and distribution of people and places on the earth's surface.

Absolute Location answers the question: Where is it exactly?
Absolute location is nothing more than a dot on a map or globe.
Exact Location discussion points:

  • Select a city at random and find the exact coordinates on the globe or a map
  • Pick to coordinates at random and find where they intersect on a map
  • Find the exact location of your hometown on a map.

Relative Location discussion points:

  • Describe the city you previously selected in terms of its relative location - near a mountain range or body of water, etc.
  • Describe the place you located at random in terms of its relative location to its surroundings
  • Describe your hometown in terms of its relative location to the next closest town.
  • Discuss how the location of your town has changed in importance, for example as a tourist site or an economically advantageous place to locate a business, or as societies' attitudes have changed, etc.

Place: Physical and Human Characteristics

The theme of place addresses this question: What is it like there? This theme considers the characteristics that make one place different from all other places on earth. Geographers describe a place by two kinds of characteristics: physical and human.

Physical Characteristics of a place make up its natural environment and are derived from geological, hydrological, atmospheric, and biological processes. They include landforms, bodies of water, climate, soils, natural vegetation, and animal life.

Human Characteristics of a place come from human ideas and actions. They include bridges, houses, and parks. Human characteristics of place also include land use, density of population, language patterns, religion, architecture, and political systems.

Physical Characteristics: describes where you live physically

  • How and why are areas different?
  • Specific distinguishing characteristics that make an area different like landforms, water ways, natural resources, climate, etc.
  • Human Characteristics: describes things like neighborhoods, industries, and houses
  • How have people changed an area and what conditions do those people life in?
  • Specific infrastructural characteristics like roads, canals and utilities, and specific social/political/economics conditions people have created for themselves.

Discussion points:

  • How would you describe where you live physically? Is your place flat or hilly, hot or cold, wet or dry? What natural resources are found there?
  • What are some of the human characteristics that describe your place? For example, what type of homes are there? Are patterns of land-use different from those in other parts of the country? What types of industry are found, and how might they be different from industries in other parts of the country?

Human/Environment Interaction: Shaping the Landscape

The physical and human characteristics of a place provide keys to understanding the interrelationships between people and their environments. This geographic theme addresses this question: What is the relationship between humans and the environment? Three concepts underlie human/environment relationships:

  • Humans depend on the environment: The natural environment is made up of living things and nonliving things. Humans depend on the natural environment for their basic needs: food, shelter, and clothing
  • Humans modify the environment: People modify the natural environment to meet their needs. For example, they build dams, plow and irrigate fields, and dig mines. They build houses, schools, and shopping center on land with natural resources that they harvest or manufacture into products.
  • Humans adapt to the environment: Humans have settled in virtually every corner of the world by successfully adapting to various natural settings. For example, people who live in the northeastern United States use heating units to keep their homes warm in winter. The ways people choose to adapt to their settings reflect their economic, political, ethnic, and technological abilities. Studying geography furthers appreciation of our natural environment and of our cultural differences.

Discussion Points:

  • In preparing to go to school today, what types of human/environmental interactions did you experience, like using water to brush your teeth or walking across a bridge over a stream.
  • Can you site some natural resources that may have been exploited, like the deforestation of the timberlands?
  • Do you notice any changes in the landscape and in animal habitats? Are there changes in the air, water, and soil?

Movement: Humans Interacting on the Earth

The theme "movement" addresses this question:

  • How and why are places connected with one another?
  • Relationships between people in different places are shaped by constant movement of people, ideas, materials and physical systems such as wind, fire, tornado, flood, etc.
  • Our world is in constant motion, constantly changing. Like blood flowing through our bodies, movement brings life to a place.

Discussion points:

  • What examples of movement of people, goods, or ideas do you see in your area?
  • Has immigration or migration had an impact on your area? When and why did it happen?
  • What are the transportation routes in your area? How have they evolved and why?

Regions: How They Form and Change

A region is a basic unit of geographic study. It is defined as an area that has unifying characteristics. Regions are distinguished by their similarity and differences. Most regions are significantly different from adjoining areas.

Some regions are distinguished by physical characteristics. Physical characteristics include landforms, climate, soil, and natural vegetation. For example, the peaks and valleys of the Rocky Mountains form a physical region.

Some regions are distinguished by human characteristics. These may include economic, social, political, and cultural characteristics. The highly urbanized Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. can be considered a human region. Other regions are combinations of physical and human characteristics, for example, the South, Scandinavia, and the Midwest.

Boundaries between regions can be vague. Regions are generally thought of as large areas, such as the Corn Belt in the Midwestern United States or sub-Saharan Africa. A region can be as small as a classroom learning center, a neighborhood, an industrial park, or a recreational area.

Discussion points:

  • How many different regions can you identify within your area?
  • How many larger regions does your area belong to?

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