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  • 0:04 What is Geography?
  • 0:49 The Five Themes
  • 2:52 Lesson Summary
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What Are The Five Themes of Geography?

Lesson Transcript
David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

After watching this video, you will be able to explain what geography is and describe the five key themes that make up geography. A short quiz will follow. Updated: 03/29/2019

What Is Geography?

Geography is the study of the physical features of the earth, including how humans affect the earth and are affected by it. Geography deals with physical aspects of the earth: the composition, the layers of the earth, the atmosphere, the plants and animals, mountains, rivers, and other landforms. But it also analyzes how humans have affected those physical features and how the arrangement of those features has affected humans. Why do humans settle where they do? How do humans impact the environment? How do the physical landscapes create human conflict? All of these things are covered by geography.

Since geography is such a large subject, with so many topics, it makes sense to split it into key themes. Today, we're going to briefly discuss the five main themes of geography.

The Five Themes

There are five main themes of geography: location, place, human-environment interaction, movement, and region. Collectively, these five themes encompass the whole of the subject of geography.

Location is kind of like the first step in understanding an aspect of the earth and involves providing a reference to describe where a particular place is on the earth. This could be an absolute location, where a location is based on a definitive reference that rarely changes, such as latitude or longitude, or an address. Or it could be a relative location, where a place is described relative to its environment or its connection to other places.

Place is a description of the physical and human characteristics of the location being studied. This could involve describing the mountains, valleys, rivers, beaches, and the living organisms that inhabit it. It also includes human features, like land-use, infrastructure, and communications.

Human-environment interaction is the study of how humans affect the environment and how the environment affects humans. Humans can have positive impacts on the environment or negative ones. And we can even disagree about whether an impact is positive or negative. Human geography is a complex and varied topic in itself.

Movement involves describing and discussing the effects of anything that moves across the earth. Very often, this is related to humans: movement of humans themselves, goods, services, immigration, and so-forth. The migration of animals can also play a part, especially when looking at changes in a landscape over long periods of time.

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Additional Activities

Prompts About the Five Themes of Geography:

Paragraph Prompt 1:

Write a paragraph that defines geography and explains what can be analyzed when geography is studied.

Example: The way humans use the land around them is one aspect of the study of geography.

Paragraph Prompt 2:

In one paragraph, explain the geographical theme of region and ways it can be classified.

Example: Continents are one element of region.

Graphic Organizer Prompt:

Make a poster, chart, or some other type of graphic organizer that depicts the meanings of location, absolute location, and relative location.

Example: Absolute location can be based on longitude and latitude.

List Prompt:

Make a list of at least five elements of the geographical theme of place. You can refer to the lesson, but try to recall as many from memory as you can.

Example: Rivers.

Presentation Prompt:

Create a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation that describes the geographical themes of human-environment interaction and movement. Your presentation should have at least one example of a positive impact of human interaction with the environment and one negative one. When considering movement, make sure your presentation explains all of the different types of things that can move, such as trade goods and animals migrating.

Example: An example of a negative impact of human-environment interaction could be trash piling up in landfills.

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