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Geographic Facility

Earth scientists are constantly putting events and processes into the context of geography. If a large earthquake occurs, we want to know where at the same time we want to know how big - the geographic location gives critical context for assessing if that earthquake is expected (Japan) or unusual (Oklahoma). When students bring us rocks to identify or photographs of features, our first question is probably, "Where did this come from?"

Geography is inherently tied to spatial thinking, but it includes the element of familiarity with the planet. We expect our students to know where major subduction zones and mountain ranges are, where deep ocean currents rise to the surface, where atmospheric circulation cells rise and descend, and maps are a critical component of our teaching. We also often expect students to become intimately familiar with a particular place through field work.

Common challenges and misconceptions

Learning outcomes and assessment for geographic facility

Learning outcomes for geographic facility may be focused on local, regional, or global contexts. Consider incorporating resources such as Google Earth and GIS software to allow students the opportunity to manipulate data in a geographic context. Learning outcomes that addresses this habit of mind might be something like:

Resources for teaching about geographic facility

Big ideas, essential principles, and fundamental concepts about geographic facility in the geoscience literacies

  • Earth Science Big Idea 7. Humans depend on Earth for resources.
    • Fundamental concept 7.1. Earth is our home; its resources mold civilizations, drive human exploration, and inspire human endeavors ...
    • Fundamental concept 7.2. Geology affects the distribution and development of human populations.
    • Fundamental concept 7.4. Resources are distributed unevenly around the planet.
  • Climate Literacy Essential Principle 4. Climate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes.
    • Fundamental concept A. Climate is determined by the long-term pattern of temperature and precipitation averages and extremes at a location. Climate descriptions can refer to areas that are local, regional, or global in extent. ...
  • Atmospheric Science Essential Principle 4. Earth's atmosphere changes over time and space, giving rise to weather and climate.
    • Fundamental concept 4.1. Weather is the state of Earth's atmosphere at a particular place and time. ...
    • Fundamental concept 4.3. Both weather and climate vary by region based on latitude, altitude, land use, proximity to physical features such as the ocean and mountains, and ocean currents.
  • Ocean Science Essential Principle 1. The Earth has one big ocean with many features.
    • Fundamental concept a. ... There is one ocean with many ocean basins...
    • Fundamental concept b. ... Earth's highest peaks, deepest valleys, and flattest vast plains are all in the ocean.

Selected references


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