The original Greek word from which we get the word “geography” means “earth writing” or “description of the earth.” Basically, geography studies the world.
A geographer’s most important tool is the map, which is a two-dimensional picture of a place or of the whole world.
In a geography class at school, you might look at a lot of maps and memorize the places on them. You might think that geography is all about remembering the names and locations of places, but that’s not true! Geographers, like detectives, ask questions about what they find. They want to not only know “what” and “where” but also “how” and “why” about places.
Geography helps us better understand things that happen every day. For example, in ancient times, people believed that giant creatures moving under the earth caused earthquakes. Thanks to geography, we now know that the movement of pieces of Earth’s crust and mantle, called tectonic plates, and not underground monsters, is what creates earthquakes.
In addition to studying places and the environment, geography looks at how these things affect people and how people affect them. You can think of geography as one broad field with two main sub-fields: physical geography, which focuses on natural land forms and processes; and human geography, which focuses on how humans interact with the physical geography.
By studying geography, you learn about the interaction between people and the environment and the impact your everyday decisions have on your community. It is a worthwhile study for anyone at all curious about their world.
- Human and Physical Geography: Learn about the two mains area of geography and what key topics each covers.
- Top 10 Reasons to Study Geography: Why should you care about studying geography? From understanding basic physical systems to understanding the world at large, there are plenty of reasons!
- What Geographers Do: You might think of a geographer as someone who studies maps, but these people do much, much more. Learn some of the careers that geographers pursue.
- How Are Maps Made? People who make maps are called cartographers, and they need a variety of tools and technologies to do their job.
- Interactive World Map: Explore the globe with this fun world map, where you can click on any country to learn more about its geography.
- Types of Maps: Learn the difference between a physical map and a political map.
- Ecological Systems: Ecosystems are collections of living things in an area. The world is covered with ecosystems, which range in size from puddles to rain forests. Find out more about ecosystems here.
- Bodies of Water: Earth is about 75% water. Watch this slide show to see what water sources we have.
- Types of Land Forms: Click through this interactive slide show to learn about the different physical features, or land forms, on Earth.
- Cycles of the Earth System: Scroll through the icons to learn about the cycles that balance the climates and processes on Earth.
- Forces of Nature: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Tornadoes, and Hurricanes: Maps, photos, and animations walk you through the science of natural disasters, and you can also create your own.
- Precipitation: Rain, Snow, Sleet, and Hail: It’s raining, it’s pouring: Does anybody know why? This colorful site teaches about the different kinds of precipitation.
- Weather and Climate: Watch this video to learn the difference between weather and climate.
- How Geography Affects Our Cultures: Some researchers study how geography affects culture, called cultural geography. Read about four factors of geography that help shape culture.
- Human Population Growth Through History: Watch a video about population growth through time or explore the map yourself.
- Impact on the Atmosphere: What does the car you drive have to do with the air we breathe? Learn about what makes up the atmosphere and what is harming it.
- Importance and Use of Natural Resources: You use natural resources like plants and fossil fuels every day to eat, travel, and live. This page shows other ways you often use natural resources.
Fun and Games
- Adventures in Learning With Geography: Browse through a collection of hands-on geography activities to help you learn more.
- Kids Geography Games: Choose from a variety of map-matching games to help you remember where all of the states, countries, continents, and oceans are.
- World Geography Games: Find country-specific games here.