Knowing where food comes from, recognizing foreign currency, and finding a southwest location on a map are all valuable life skills that can be conveyed in geography lessons to help prepare students for career- and college-readiness in an increasingly global economy. Yet national geography studies show dismal results on students’ geography knowledge.
In a 2010 national geography assessment of 4th, 8th, and 12th graders, it was found that only one quarter of students performed at or above the proficient level, and only 2% of 4th graders demonstrated superior geography knowledge. (The Nation’s Report Card, Geography 2010) A 2002 survey of 18- to 24-year-olds didn’t show much improvement in geography knowledge with age: “only 17 percent of young adults in the United States could find Afghanistan on a map.” (National Geographic–Roper 2002 Global Geographic Literacy Survey)
Here are some geography activities and lessons to help you boost students’ geography skills, including a focus on food in relation to geography:
- National Geographic has comprehensive teacher resources on all aspects of geography.
- My American Farm lesson helps students research and understand international agriculture (for grades 3–5.)
- Create your own daily geography quiz or a “Geography Fact of the Day” to help students improve geography knowledge. This world atlas site can help you get started in finding every fact you need, from the deepest lakes to the tallest mountains, and more!
- Small-group oral or written reports: Have students research and present findings on food and geography topics such as “school lunches around the world” or “ways to reduce food waste across the globe.”
- Create a menu or make a recipe to learn about another region: Have students research and make a restaurant menu from another country or region, or find recipes and plan a meal from another country. In this printable activity, students can learn about celebrations in Vietnam and how to make sweet rice.
- Create a simple travel brochure that includes a map and geography facts about a location, or plan an around-the-world itinerary that includes stops at 6–10 locations and geography facts about each stop on the tour.
- Make a map of national or international sports teams (e.g., football, baseball, hockey, or soccer). This activity from Daily Geography Practice may help you get started. It includes a map of the U.S. with the locations of 32 National Football League (NFL) teams.
These Evan-Moor social studies resources help students develop geography skills and awareness. Download the free sample unit for each title:
Daily Geography Practice (grades 1–6)
This unit presents activities using a map of the continent of Asia with the five leading rice-growing countries identified (grade 6.)
Beginning Geography (grades K–2)
This world map portrays the seven continents, the four oceans, and one example of animal life per continent.
Take It to Your Seat: Geography Centers (grades K–5)
Students learn about the major continents of our world in this geography center activity (Grades 1-2).
This unit on the culture cuisine of Africa presents information on meals and popular foods in the various regions of the continent: tagine from Morocco, dodo from Nigeria, wat from Ethiopia, chikwange from Congo, bobotie from South Africa, and others.
Theresa Wooler has more than 10 years’ experience in K–6 classrooms as a parent volunteer, has taught high school English, and is currently involved in education through Evan-Moor’s marketing communications team.