Canadian Geographic Education


Canadian Geography Learning Framework

Photo: Tanya Kirnishni/Canadian Geographic

What is the Canadian Geography Learning Framework?

At present, geography curricula in Canada differ across the provinces and territories. A single, comprehensive, and up-to-date learning framework is therefore necessary, such that Canadian educators have the information and resources they need to design enriched lessons that cover all the things that make Canada unique. Canadian Geographic Education (Can Geo Education), a standing committee of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and the national voice for geographic education in Canada, has designed the Canadian Geography Framework for this purpose.

The specific goals of the Framework are to:

  • Help educators identify the essential geographic concepts, thinking practices and skills fundamental to the development of geographically literate citizens
  • Complement the existing provincial and territorial curricula by expanding the core geographic teachings within these documents
  • Enhance the breadth and depth of geographic education across the nation
  • Establish specific benchmarks and competencies by grade cohort for what is taught in the name of geography

The Framework consists of five key components:

1. The Geographically Informed Citizen

Geography is an important aspect of citizenship education and provides a relevant context for the values and attitudes that are fundamental to the development of an informed, active, and engaged global citizen.

A geographically informed citizen will:

  • recognize that all living things depend on healthy ecosystems
  • recognize that sustainability is both an individual and collective responsibility
  • foster responsible stewardship by developing an appreciation and respect for both natural and built environments
  • investigate ways in how stewardship contributes to sustainability
  • participate critically and act creatively to determine more sustainable ways of living
  • acknowledge worldviews that value diversity and social justice are essential for achieving sustainability
  • apply problem solving to geographic issues for the common good
  • apply geospatial skills in order to participate in democratic processes

2. Geographic Inquiry

An important aspect of the Framework is to help educators encourage students to ask questions – to inquire – and to slowly develop over time the ability to apply all of the steps of the Framework when and where appropriate. Once educators are familiar with the concept of a geographically informed citizen, they can provide guidance to students on how to become geographically informed citizens using the Geographic Inquiry Model. This model represents a process that students will use time and again to investigate the world around them, react to and understand events, deal with every day and extraordinary issues, solve problems, develop plans of action, make decisions, and reach supportable conclusions about their environment.

The Geographic Inquiry Model includes the following 6 stages:

  1. Ask geographic questions
  2. Acquire geographic resources
  3. Interpret and analyze
  4. Evaluate and draw conclusions
  5. Communicate
  6. Reflect and respond

3. Geospatial Skills

The following geospatial skills can be learned at all grade levels and can be taught at any stage in the inquiry process:

A. Foundational Elements
  • Location
  • Direction
  • Scale
B. Spatial Representations
  • Map Elements
  • Perspectives
  • Types of maps
  • Projection
  • Geospatial Imagery
  • Graphs
  • Visualisations
C. Technologies
  • Virtual Globes/Digital Earth
  • Geographic Information Systems
D. Fieldwork
  • Observe
  • Collect data
  • Analyze and organize

4. Concepts of Geographic Thinking

There are four core concepts at the heart of geography that must be taught to students in order to prepare them to think geographically. These four concepts are: spatial significance, patterns and trends, interrelationships, and geographic perspectives. As students learn, develop and nourish their geographical skills, these concepts will naturally be adopted, and students will begin to move away from simply learning the facts to actually applying geographic knowledge.

5. Competencies by Grade Cohort

In order for students to be spatially literate, geographically informed citizens, it is important to start implementing the Geographic Inquiry Model from the beginning of their education until graduation.

Implementing the appropriate geospatial skills at the right level is key as students gather, organize and analyze data and information using the Geographic Inquiry Model.

For more information about the framework click here.

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