Five themes of geography

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Human-Environment Interaction

The five themes of geography is an educational tool for teaching geography. Adopted in 1984 by the Association of American Geographers, the five themes were published in the NCGE/AAG publication Guidelines for Geographic Education, Elementary, and Secondary Schools. Most American geography and social studies classrooms have adopted the five themes in teaching practices.[1]


The five-theme organizational approach was superseded by the American Constitution Group, a set of eighteen standards promulgated in 1994. However, the five themes continue to be used as an educational approach in many educational outlets.[1]

Five Themes:[2]


Location can be described in two different ways:

  • Absolute location, a location as described by its latitude and longitude on the Earth. For example, the coordinates of Albany, New York are 42.6525° N, 73.7572° W.
  • Relative location, a location as described by where it is compared to something else. For example, Albany, New York is roughly 150 miles north of New York City.


The theme of place includes physical and human characteristics of a place.

Human-environment interaction[edit]

This theme describes how people interact with the environment, and how the environment responds, with three key concepts:[3]

  • Dependency: Humans depend on the environment
  • Adaptation: Humans adapt to the environment
  • Modification: Humans modify the environment


Movement is the travel of people, goods, and ideas from one location to another, or political events. Examples of movement include the United States' westward expansion, the Information Revolution, and immigration. New devices such as the airplane and the Internet allow physical and ideological goods to be transferred long distances in short time intervals. A person's travel from place to place, and the actions they perform there, are also considered movement.


Regions are areas with distinctive characteristics: human characteristics, such as demographics or politics, and physical characteristics, such as climate and vegetation. The United States is a political region because it shares one governmental system.


  1. ^ a b Ganzel, Karen. "Geography Lesson Plans Using Google Earth". Lesson Planet. Retrieved April 29, 2010. 
  2. ^ Rosenberg, Matt. "The Five Themes of Geography". Retrieved November 16, 2013. 
  3. ^ "The Five Themes of Geography" (PDF). Retrieved 2 June 2015.