Why Trekking the Planet Focused on Geography

In early 2011 when we began planning Trekking the Planet, we decided we wanted to travel with a purpose. Doing something involving children was an initial thought for both of us. The 4 1/2 month, around-the-world journey we took with our daughters in 2003-2004 was a motivating factor, as we saw first-hand the affect travel had on them, as well as the classmates at their school. We also both have a passion for working with kids and have volunteered to work with non-profit children’s groups in the past.

Geography Survey Results

It was about this time that we came upon some surveys about American knowledge of geography and were somewhat surprised by the results. Back in February 2011 we wrote a story about these surveys. A National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literacy Study that surveyed young Americans showed:

  • Nearly three-quarters incorrectly named English as the most widely spoken native language in the world.
  • Forty-seven percent could not find the Indian subcontinent on a map of Asia.
  • 20% of young Americans think Sudan is in Asia. It’s one of the largest countries in Africa.
  • Half of young Americans can’t find New York on a map.

To learn more, click the CCN story.

Geography Definitions

Astonished by these survey results, we wanted to learn exactly what geography is and why it is important. In researching this we came across several interesting sources. Among these were two definitions of geography.

The first, from the UK Royal Geographical Society, states that:

Geography is unique in bridging the social sciences (human geography) with the natural sciences (physical geography). Human geography concerns the understanding of the dynamics of cultures, societies and economies, and physical geography concerns the understanding of the dynamics of physical landscapes and the environment.”

In another definition, Keith M. Bell, Associate Professor of Geography at Vol State Community College (Tennessee), writes:

Geography should stand alone on the scientific pedestal, joined only with its one educational equal, the study of the human spirit in English language and literature. Geography is queen of the sciences, parent to chemistry, geology, physics and biology, parent also to history and economics.”

Geography Videos and Articles

With these definitions in hand, we searched for other information about geography.
We came across a three minute video, created by Google Earth, that provides some insight into what geography is and its relevance today through the eyes of students. In March 2011, we published a link to the video. Watch it below.

SEE ALSO: National Geographic GeoBee: What You Can Do with Geography [Video]

We also discovered an article by recent geography graduate student Christina Salas. Called Making the Case for Geography in our Schools: A Commentary on the State of Geographic Education, it reviews the lack of geography education in schools, especially at the secondary level. Christina views geography as multi-dimensional, taking into account subjects, such as economics and sociology, into an integrated view of the world. Click below to access our post, published in March 2011, to view additional quotes and read Christina’s full article.

SEE ALSO: Making the Case for Geography in our Schools – One Viewpoint


These sources all contributed to the decision to use our Trekking the Planet journey to bring geography to life for students and help them to discover the cultural and natural significance of the world.

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