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Teaching Geography Using the City: The Example of Bangkok

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In an attempt to improve geographic literacy around the world and provide educational standards, the National Geographic Society has identified several themes that form the basis of geographic inquiry. These themes were written in 1984 by the Joint Committee on Geographic Education of the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) and the Association of American Geographers (AAG). They provide focus and direction for the study of the earth’s landscape, and are defined as follows:

LOCATION—the position of a site based on lines of longitude and latitude or some other reference system, the characteristics of that site, and where it is in relation to other places.

PLACE—properties of a site that provide meaning, identity, and character that help to distinguish it from other places. Places are usually identified and described by their physical and/or human characteristics. Location and place are often discussed in the same context by first identifying the location and then describing its characteristics.

HUMAN/ENVIRONMENT INTERACTION—studying the effects that occur when people interact with their surroundings.

MOVEMENT—this is the interaction of people, places, things, and ideas that come from beyond one’s immediate location.

REGION—an area defined by the interaction between places on the earth’s surface for unifying physical or human/cultural characteristics.

The city can be an excellent example for teaching geography, as each of the above themes is easily conveyed. Among the cities of Asia, Bangkok provides some notable illustrations. From its initial establishment and its selection as a seat of monarchy, to its present-day growth and domination of the urban system, geography’s themes provide a framework for interpreting and understanding the present-day city. This framework can be easily adapted to teaching about the geography of cities throughout the world.