I often tell my students that geography is a lot about prepositions. Well, one preposition primarily: where. It’s about location … and a lot of other things that come from that one concept.
History, is primarily about when … and a lot of other things that come from that one concept.
Everything happens somewhere, sometime. This is what we call the space-time context of life.
“Current events” is what’s in the news at the present time. This is history now as opposed to the history you study in your textbooks. The textbook history is about past times.
Following current events is a very good way of understanding geography. And history, economics, political science, journalism, etc.
A combination of the newspaper, the internet, your friends, teachers, and parents would really help you make sense of the world around you and what is currently going on.
Why is this useful?
You plan to take up all sorts of careers in your future. No matter what career you choose, learning how to make sense of the world around you will be crucial. The best way to do this is through geography. Geography helps you make many connections among things that may seem unconnected.
Most of you probably go directly to the sports page of the newspaper thinking that is the only interesting part. Well, okay. There, too, you can understand things better when you are able to discern the geography of the sports involved.
- Where are the matches played?
- What kind of challenges to different places pose for the players?
- Where are the players from and how does this affect their playing a particular game?
- Are certain sports dominated by people of certain places?
- How are different sports organized geographically? For example, are there local leagues, that have matches to select teams to play in the district level, state level, zonal level, etc.?
- Which of the games played in India are international sports as opposed to mainly being Indian or local?
- Are some games only local that you play in your neighborhood? For example: are there national level tourneys for gilli-danda? How about for lagori (“7 stones”), hop-scotch, marbles (do kids even play marbles any more in India?), etc.?
The sports section is not the only interesting part of the newspaper. If you start looking at the geography angle to news, you can find other things also interesting. I will give you just two other examples here: politics and diseases.
On 15 October 2014, very important assembly elections were held in Maharashtra and Haryana. Both states showed high voter turn-out (large numbers of people voting). By the time you read this, the results will have been announced. Ask:
- Why were elections held in these two states at this time and not in other states?
- How many people were elected to the Assembly of each state?
- Which constituencies are represented by which party?
Internationally, one of the very big stories currently making news is the spread of ISIS (Islamic State In Syria; sometimes called IS for Islamic State) in many countries of West Asia. (Yes, West Asia for us; it is “Middle East” only for the Europeans and Americans). Some interesting questions to track:
- Where did it start?
- Who are the people involved?
- Which countries are affect by the activities of ISIS and how? (Some are directly affected, others are affected indirectly.)
- What are the responses to this situation by the various countries of the world?
Diseases that spread are called epidemics. Epidemics that spread across national boundaries are called pandemics. There have been several pandemics in world history – bubonic plague, influenza, measles, malaria, HIV, etc.
Ebola is currently making news.
Every day, there are reports of greater number of people infected by this virus and many dying as a result. Now there are reports of Ebola in Europe and the USA. The World Health Organization (WHO) is raising alarms that this is a serious threat to the whole world and is calling on nations to offer a coordinated response to the crisis. Ask:
- What exactly is Ebola?
- What are its symptoms?
- Where did it start?
- Why there?
- When did it start there?
- Where is it spreading now?
- Why is it spreading to those areas?
- How is it spreading to those areas?
- Should we, in India, be concerned about this? Why or why not?
I have only given you a few examples of current events and using them to learn about the role that geography plays in them. (And history, etc. also, of course.)
The questions I have suggested above are geography questions because they ultimately build on that preposition: where.
But it never stops there. You still have to ask the other questions: who, when, what, how, and why.
If you are able to ask geography questions about any phenomenon, you will find both geography and that phenomenon more interesting. It is also vitally important that you develop this skill of exploring the geography of a topic.
Now, go to it! Let me know if you would like me to help. You can leave your comments and messages in the box below this post.
Things you can do:
- Pick one emerging story in today’s newspaper. Using an atlas and a blank map of the world or India or whichever appropriate area, keep track of that story’s progress in geography.
- Currently, Ebola is a huge story. So is the spread of the fighting against ISIS. Every time a new story emerges, the Perry Castañeda online map library provides maps (or links to them). You can prepare a simple essay on the progressing geography of that news item. See if your teachers can help you with this. If not, I will be very happy to help you and your friends do this. This is a great way of learning without worrying about competitions for marks, prizes, etc. Enjoy the learning process. (In a separate post soon, I will explore the geography of Ebola.)
- Identify stories in your own neighborhood and map them in your own hand-drawn map. For example:
- Shops may be closing and replaced by new shops. You can show these on a map, using your imagination and mapping skills.
- May be your area’s roads are being widened. You could show the before, during, and after stages of the work on a map of your locality.
- Take up any of the questions I have raised in the article above and see how you can show them using geography. Maps are only one of the ways. You can also create other ways of expressing the ideas – dance, song, poetry, essays, photo essays, skits, mime (this would be very fun), or even making a dumb charades game out of it!
- Do you have a favorite sports team that plays nationally or internationally? Look at the locations where they have played matches over the past 1 year (or more, if you can find the information) and where they are expected to play over the next season. How about geographically tracking the sports teams of your own school?