Pop quiz: is there anyone who could name three explorers living today?
Great explorers of history can easily be remembered from our studies in school: Marco Polo, Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Drake…
These days, so many people are of the belief that geography is just not important to learn anymore.
After all, is the world’s every crevice not already mapped, for any student to look up on Google Maps at our own leisure? We don't need lessons from teachers about using Google Maps.
It must be one for the old musty academics, geography, what use does the modern person have for such pursuits?
Why learn about cartography when any map I could need is probably already in my pocket, at my fingertips?
But those naysayers have it wrong! Studies in geography are more vital than ever today! Students and teachers must go further in their lessons.
Sure, we know all about continents, countries and their cities and towns, but how can we go deeper, and understand how the earth changes over time, if nobody is there to observe these changes?
Wait? Continents change?
This is exactly the type of gaps in knowledge we seek to absolve.
Superprof has set out to dispel these backward notions about the encompassing discipline of geography.
Today we put you on the path to discovery: of this world and its social systems, of careers that are waiting for the person with passion and knowledge in this field, and how to tackle the world of geography head-on and embrace all there is to learn.
Why Study Geography in VCE?
Astonishingly, geography is not a key part of the school curriculum anymore in many Western countries.
As much as we teach our primary school learners about geography when it comes to secondary school the effort to impart geographical knowledge worryingly drops off.
Fewer lessons about maps, geographic history, natural resource conservation, and ways we can explore these continents we live on are occurring in the classroom between students and teachers.
Subjects that get studied in the final years of learning have more chance of leading people into those fields when it comes to tertiary education and careers.
It’s not atypical for a young student to change their mind about their direction in life.
So, while younger students may show an affinity for geographical studies, that passion could wane as they are exposed to other areas of study at school. It’s a shame that once that fire has been ignited, it is not be stoked by an education system that puts its focus in other areas.
This older age is also an age that students come to realise, perhaps through increased participation in adult conversation or perhaps through sheer budding awareness of their place in the world, that there are roles and responsibilities we all have toward conservation.
Just as these young scholars develop the intellectual capacity to embrace and explore their physical environment on a deeper intellectual level, their formal education in the subject is simply… stopped.
Picture the plethora of jobs currently filled by people who have attained geography degrees: climatologists, oceanographers, geographic information systems specialists and those trained in urban geography.
With fewer students interested in picking up where they left off in early high school and studying geography, who is going to be working these jobs in the future?
It certainly is hard to make plans to give yourself to the social need and national interest of all countries which is geographic studies.
Another reason to extend geography education throughout secondary school is to understand how random events can have effects on different places across the world.
Fortunately, we are not forced to endure cataclysmic weather or dramatic natural disasters such as the recent Mount Etna eruption, these events still affect us and the rest of the world in many ways, the global economy being one part of that.
This is not a national call to overhaul public schools and rearrange the teaching agenda, but a discourse on why our secondary school students should endeavour to continue their geographic and environmental studies, ultimately selecting geography as one of their VCE subjects.
Perhaps a skilled tutor with a passion for this subject, is just what it takes to help maintain interest.
Get A Geography Tutor
Less than a century ago, a typical geography curriculum consisted of learning continents, countries, capitals of each country, major mountain ranges and major bodies of water.
The test was: can you point this out on a map. If you could, you passed. That was it. The extent of your geographic skills was very limited.
Back then, rote memorisation was the preferred way of teaching and little opportunity was afforded to the students that wanted to delve further into the concepts that fascinated them.
That is why parents hired tutors!
When you break it down, geography is an extremely diverse group of sciences, including:
- environmental geography: studies the relationship between people and their environments
- economic geography: the distribution and spatial organisation of economic activity around the world
- climatology: the study of climate and its effect on the world
- cultural geography: the study of cultural standards and artifacts in relation to the spaces those cultures occupy
- social geography: the relationship between social phenomena and the environment in which they occur
- urban studies: the study of life in an urban environment
- biogeography is the study of biological communities within their ecosystems
- applied geography: the relationship between humans and the natural environment
What we can see from this list is that a geography tutor is not going to be a one size fits all proposition!
So, as you look around for a tutor, you should take some key points into consideration.
Does your prospective tutor know how to prepare you for the exam?
Exams can change depending on each year and what current issues are around. Make sure you choose a tutor who is familiar with the most current version of the geography exam so that they know which topics to cover and in how much depth.
This is true whether you are a year 9 student, year 12, or studying for university exams.
Does this tutor have time for you?
Is this tutor you’re looking at prepared to meet with you and help you only when they have spare time, or are you guaranteed lessons and activities at least once a week, maybe more when a test draws closer, to help you get the skills to get the best grade.
You want a tutor that is going to make themselves available to you and work with you, not just cramming you in when it suits their schedule, even if they are the best source of knowledge around. Pick teachers with the right skills but also the right resources.
How and where does your tutor like to teach?
In this age, online tutoring is more common than ever as the internet proves a valuable teaching resource. This has brought tutoring prices down and that may play into your hands if you want a real specialist teaching you what they know.
Conversely, opting for a tutor that can come to your house or meet up with you may cost a little more. This is to cover travel expenses and time spent getting to the meet-up. It may be worth it for the interactive experience students get from this form of teaching.
Would you consider a tutor from an agency?
Fees may be more when it comes to using an agency because the company usually takes a cut of the charge. The upside is, you have someone who has proven themselves already and is most likely to be doing their absolute best, as your feedback can affect how much more work they receive.
The takeaway here is that even though the focus in secondary education has shifted away from geography, it is still possible to satiate your thirst for knowledge about earth systems or principles of sustainability during the time you are at school. You just need to utilize every resource to help you plan your further studies and have more fun with geographic lessons and activities.
Online Geography Resources
As you look around for the answer to your ongoing geography learning dilemma, you may be relieved to know that there are resources online to aid you and to top-up on what you have managed to learn in school.
Outlets exist to help you gain more knowledge as well.
Consider MOOCs: Massive Online Open Courses. These courses comprise about six weeks of learning, but you are free to study as fast or as slow as you’d like.
In signing up for any MOOC, you are looking at about three hours per week worth of study. You also have this material on hand to review and study as much as you like.
MOOCs generally have no requirements, so you don’t need to have achieved any qualifications or units prior to enrolling. Even though most of these courses are sponsored by unis and research institutes, you don’t have to be an alumnus to participate.
There are many open online courses pertaining to geography. Some focus on physical features such as land and oceans while others take a look at urban development. Many of these courses discuss climate change.
If you are looking for materials to review, using a website such as Quizlet geography may be helpful.
Quizlet is a learning tool that incorporates fun interactive features such as flashcards, quizzes and games to give a full subject review experience to the user.
Quizlet is mostly tailored to an American audience, covering their senior high school geography curriculum. However, the overall knowledge from this interactive resource is going to be useful and enjoyable to digest for anyone with an interest in geography. It's a fun way to get new lessons and expand on your geographic studies.
Basic use of the service is free for interactive studies, with the website offering more learning sets, materials and resources for a cost.
One of the most rewarding aspects of learning geography is the improved spatial awareness it can give you in the world.
Through learning more about geography, you are essentially plotting a 3D map in your mind where you can visualise your movements like a GPS would display them.
As you navigate your surroundings, be they an urban landscape, or a hilly countryside, perhap you could indulge in listening to a few geography podcasts to continue your quest for knowledge.
The linked resources are completely free and they should prove invaluable when it comes to covering all your geographical bases.
If you’re the type of person that loves the idea of study but really needs someone to crack the whip and get you on the right track, consider an online tutor, as mentioned above.
You will find in your research that most tutors do not work for free…But! Many Superprof tutors offer to teach you for one hour, for free, when you have your first lesson.
Most Superprof tutors offer their first hour at no charge so that you can meet each other and see if you are compatible when it comes to teaching and learning.
There is a lot to gain reaching out to teachers with experience teaching this subject, and not much to lose with free lessons.
With luck, your tutor is going to help you with your studies in a fun, interactive way that draws on all their resources. If it turns out you'd like to try other teachers, who may have other activities or resources that are better suited to your plans and your curriculum, at least you got your trial lesson free.
To see if this could work for you, read more about the cost of geography tutoring at-home or online.
Where Can A Geography Degree Take You?
Before we delve into this, let’s go back to the question we asked at the beginning, the one about the three explorers living today.
- Bear Grylls, adventurer and Scout leader who keeps pushing his boundaries, often for charity
- Ranulph Fiennes is the Guinness Book of Records’ greatest living explorer (1984); he’s not done yet!
- Robert Ballard, the discoverer of the Titanic and other shipwrecks, is a leader in ocean exploration.
Here are so other incredible adventurers you should know about!
Let's have a look at what kind of exploration a geography degree can get you involved in.
If you are conscious of environmental change and feel driven by the need to find solutions to some of the most important challenges facing humanity today, becoming a geographer and learning about sustainability and the environment is a fantastic place to begin.
As an undergrad, your coursework will consist of introductory material surrounding things like geospatial analysis, urban and cultural geography and lessons about ecosystems and geopolitics.
Research projects may come your way, and you could end up doing some fieldwork and analysing your findings.
As you move the degree the chance to specialise in topics of most interest will arise. As a graduate, you can focus either on physical or human geography.
Consider the adventure this education will provide! And consider the immeasurable opportunities this education can prepare you for…
People like you will be educated and equipped to be at the forefront of preserving this precious earth so that generations to come can enjoy it and live without worry.
You will one to break new ground in how we use and sustain natural resources. You will be right there as more and more ingenious ways are discovered for people to live in urban environments.
If oceanography is your passion, you may be one of the first explorers into the deep dark Mariana Trench (provided they invent the right submarines for you to use once you graduate). It really is the stuff of dreams.
Many students are not aware of what a degree in geography means for their future. Don’t believe that there is nothing new to explore.
In some cases, we don’t even know what we haven’t explored yet!
Our understanding of the earth, biodiversity and climate is a constantly evolving set of ideas.
So go ahead. Break open what already exists or discover something completely new in the open, ever-changing, fascinating world of geography.