Geography Awareness Week: Focus on Teaching

Monday, November 12, 2012 - 4:11pm

This week, November 11–17, is Geography Awareness Week. Founded by presidential proclamation almost 25 years ago, this annual public awareness program organized by National Geographic Education encourages citizens young and old to think and learn about the interconnectedness of our world.

This year’s theme is “Geography: Declare Your Interdependence!” This theme explores the idea that individuals are connected to the rest of the world, through the decisions we make on a daily basis. The Department of Geography at Penn State is celebrating Geography Awareness Week by focusing on how we teach geography, highlighting a few of our teachers and the spring 2013 general education courses that exemplify this theme of interconnectedness.
We'll add one mini profile each day
. These courses are now open for registration.




Marching for economic justice. 
Photo by C. Fowler.








Fowler argues for why “where” matters in economic development

Almost all of what we learn about the economy is presented as if geography doesn't matter for economic outcomes. But in GEOG 126, new faculty member Chris Fowler will make a compelling argument for why "where" matters.

Fowler’s work focuses on economic development at scales ranging from urban neighborhoods to global supply chains. “This course is an introduction to all of the building blocks we need to understand why places see different economic outcomes,” he says.

In the course, students can expect to explore questions such as:

• Why does the economy grow in some places but not others?

• Why do we have persistent poverty?

• Why do more and more people live in cities?

• How do companies compete across the globe?”

“My hope is that students gain an understanding of how our economy is fundamentally designed to produce uneven outcomes in space and what that means for our society.” 



smithwick AK

Erica Smithwick

in Denali National

Park, Alaska.









Smithwick brings together sustainability and storytelling

Most of us are familiar with the breathtaking natural vistas that national parks offer. But Erica Smithwick  sees national parks as something even more valuable: a framework for exploring global sustainability and conservation. In her new course GEOG 97A, Smithwick, an ecologist, asks, “What is the changing role of conservation in society?”

“We will be exploring parks and protected areas as parts of complex socio-ecological landscapes.  There is no sugar-coating the issue; it is not a binary choice between conservation OR society.  Rather, we will explore the gray area— how do you protect and preserve the biota of earth while also providing resources for human livelihoods?  I don't think there is a ‘correct’ answer to this question in an era of profound pressure on ecosystems and the human condition.  How is it possible to make better decisions in this context?” she says.

In the course, students will explore historical, contemporary, and future parkscapes through video stories. Then, students will choose parks that are meaningful to them and develop their own video stories.

“It is very exciting to have the opportunity to explore global science and society issues that are focused specifically on the rich, exciting, and profoundly humbling topic of conservation and I hope students are deeply inspired by the challenges of contemporary conservation issues” Smithwick says, adding, “By taking this course, students will be exposed to the multiple perspectives that only a geography course can offer!”