National Council for Geographic Education
The National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance the status and quality of geography teaching and learning. The NCGE was chartered in 1915 as the National Council of Geography Teachers, and adopted its current name in 1956. Its mission over the past century has remained focused on excellence in geography education, at all levels—-through formal and informal education, in primary education, secondary education, community college, and university settings. Its membership totals over 1,200, mostly from the USA, but with a significant and growing international component. Its members include teachers, professors, students, managers, policymakers, administrators, and others who support geographic education. These members work in schools, community colleges, universities, nonprofit organizations, local, state, tribal, national, and international government agencies, and in private industry.
The NCGE promotes and supports geography education, enhances the preparation of geography education with respect to knowledge of content, techniques, and learning processes, facilitates communication and professional development among teachers of geography, encourages and supports research on geography education, develops, publishes, and promotes the use of exemplary curricular resources and other learning materials, recognizes exceptional instructors of geography, and collaborates with other organizations that have similar goals.
During the 1960s, NCGE member and professor William Pattison published an article about the Four Traditions of Geography that helped define the discipline: 1) Spatial tradition, 2) Area studies tradition, 3) Man-land tradition, and 4) Earth science tradition. These became a method for organizing the study of geography. During the 1980s, the NCGE identified and promoted the framework "Five Themes of Geography," as a way of organizing the teaching and learning of sound geography content. These included movement, region, human-environment interaction, location, and place. The letters "MR HeLP" is a helpful way to remember these as an acronym: Movement, Region, Human-Environment Interaction, Location, and Place.
The NCGE partnered with the National Geographic Society, the Association of American Geographers, and the American Geographical Society during the 1990s to create the national content standards for geography, entitled "Geography for Life" (1994). The content standards what students at specific educational levels should know and be expected to do by grades 4, 8, and 12. The National Standards in Geography are organized into 18 standards under 6 "essential elements." They represent the essentials and fundamental ideas of geography. The 6 essential elements include: (1) The world in spatial terms, (2) Places and regions, (3) Physical systems, (4) Human systems, (5) Environment and society, and (6) The uses of geography. The goal of a sound standards-based geography education is a geographically informed person who sees meaning in the arrangement of things across the Earth's surface; who appreciates the relationships between people, places, and environments; who uses geographic skills; and who applies geographic perspectives to life situations.
The NCGE played a key role in revising and updating the national standards during the period 2008 to 2011, culminating in the publication of the updated geography standards in September 2012. The revised edition features restructured content and a new format. Revised content captures the growth and importance of geospatial technologies and spatial thinking in geography over the last 18 years. Each standard is presented through four components: an introductory essay; knowledge statements; performance statements and examples. Knowledge statements and performance statements are broken down by grade band (grades 4, 8 and 12).
NCGE members created the Geography Map, a body of skills and exemplary activities, as part of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Members of the NCGE also work closely on joint publications, joint participation in conferences, and in research and curriculum development with other organizations, most notably the Geographical Association, the Association of American Geographers, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the North American Association for Environmental Education. The NCGE is also involved with an effort called the "Roadmap" project, funded by National Science Foundation to National Geographic, with a goal to create key documents that define what geographic literacy is and why it is important to education and society.
The NCGE is largely a volunteer-run organization, but does have a small paid dedicated and committed staff. Projects are chosen and completed by those passionate about and experienced in geography education. The Central Office is located in central Washington, DC near the headquarters of the Association of American Geographers in the headquarters of the National Geographic Society.
The NCGE is governed by an Administrative Committee and is guided by an Executive Planning Board. The Executive Planning Board includes committees on curriculum and instruction, external relations, finance, publications and products, and research. In addition, task forces and working groups are set up by members to work on short term projects such as developing remote sensing-based curricular materials, or to increase the breadth and depth of membership. The committee and board are elected by the members. At times, the NCGE has funded an Executive Director position. The NCGE has an elected President, which rotates annually, staffed by a member of the Administrative Committee. Each incoming President has served for several years as Vice President of one of the committees, and following the term as President, is responsible for several tasks as well as participating in the Administrative Committee. This multi-year rotation ensures continuity and commitment and that the long term goals of the organization are met.
The NCGE holds an annual conference in the summer or fall, called the National Conference on Geography Education. The conference offers hands-on workshops in new teaching methods, technologies, and resources, as well as research papers, networking opportunities, and field trips. Field trips include local and regional places of geographic and historical significance, which may include forts, wetlands, coasts, campuses, historical districts, lakes, mountains, and rainforests. They may also include a service learning project that benefits the community in which the conference is held. An exhibit hall is staffed by government, industry, nonprofit, and academic organizations and offers the latest in books, journals, projects, curriculum, software, hardware, and more to support geography teaching. The conference also hosts a poster session showcasing exemplary geography projects by educators and students. Over 600 attendees typically participate in the annual conferences.
The conference rotates its location each year in North America and has been held in the following locations over the past 16 years: 1995: San Antonio. 1996: Santa Barbara. 1997: Orlando, Florida. 1998: Indianapolis. 1999: Boston. 2000: Chicago. 2001: Vancouver, British Columbia. 2002: Philadelphia. 2003: Salt Lake City. 2004: Kansas City. 2005: Birmingham, Alabama. 2006: Lake Tahoe, Nevada-California. 2007: Oklahoma City. 2008: Dearborn, Michigan. 2009: San Juan, Puerto Rico. 2010: Savannah. 2011: Portland, Oregon. 2012: San Marcos, Texas. The 2013 conference will be held in Denver, Colorado. The 2014 conference will be held in Memphis, Tennessee. The 2015 conference will commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the NCGE, and will be held in the city in which the NCGE was founded: Washington DC.
The NCGE also holds a webinar series that is open to all and free to members. Topics include teaching with web-based Geographic Information Systems, teaching about the Erie Canal using digital maps, imagery, and geographic inquiry, place-based learning, field work techniques, methods of teaching Advanced Placement Human Geography (APHG), and more. These webinars are conducted by the experts in the respective topics and offer live training as well as the ability to watch the webinar recordings that have been archived. Sign up for these webinars via the NCGE at http://www.ncge.org.
The NCGE as an organization actively partners with other organizations, including the Association of American Geographers, The National Council for the Social Studies, and other organizations. Its members are active in the National Science Teachers Association, the North American Association for Environmental Education, the Geographical Association, and in other organizations. Many of its members are also active with the education program of the National Geographic Society and with the National Science Foundation. Some members are active in working with the U.S. Congress on bills and policy that strengthen geography education at all levels, most notably the "Teaching Geography Is Fundamental (TGIF)" Act.
The NCGE's newsletter is entitled "Perspective" and is published six times each year. Its contents include geography education news, events, opportunities, and resources.
The NCGE's journals include "Journal of Geography" and "The Geography Teacher." The Journal has been published for nearly a century, beginning with a different name, while The Geography Teacher began in 2000. The Journal of Geography focuses on research in geography education. It is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal designed for educators, offering the best in teaching and research advancements in geographic education. JOG publishes research on innovative approaches to teaching and learning, classroom tested lesson ideas, curriculum, book reviews, and more.
The Geography Teacher's focus is on illustrating how geography can be taught in the classroom, through short articles, lesson plans, teaching tips, and news especially relevant for today’s primary, secondary, and pre-service teachers.
Taylor and Francis is the publisher of these journals.
Bednarz, Sarah W. 2000. Geography Education Research in the Journal of Geography 1988-1997. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education 9(2): 128-140.
Dougherty, Percy H. 1984. National Council for Geographic Education. The Professional Geographer 36(2): 242.
LeVasseur, Michal L. 1999. Students' knowledge of geography and geography careers. Journal of Geography 98(6): 265-271.
Nellis, M. Duane. 1995. Geography for life: Today's innovations are tomorrow's traditions. Journal of Geography 94(1): 302-304.
National Council for Geographic Education