Human Geography Course Overview

Note before reading: I attempted to cite as much of the work as possible. I am not the only who is doing this work nor did I start these educational practices. While I compiled the resources in this document, I want to give credit to those who have done the work before me and from those who I learned from. It is their work and credit needs to be given to those who did it. If anyone reading this feels something is wrong or needs a different citation, please let me know. In this course, students will do the same as they learn. I want to model the expectation I ask my students to live up to.

A class focused on learning.

Schools are institutions of learning; therefore, the primary function of them should be to create conditions for students to not only learn but to develop as learners. This course will be based on the foundation of conditions under which people learn best. People learn best when they direct their own learning, ask their questions¹, curate their learning for accessibility, set their goals and monitor progress, be allowed to make mistakes, be allowed to reshape their world view, collaborate, want to learn more, and advocate for their needs. bell hooks describes schools not as a 

“paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility, we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”²

 This class will embrace that possibility. 

The purpose of the course. 

The purpose of Human Geography is to examine how humans develop, control, and use power, placemaking, and identity in the context of a given environment.  This course analyzes these constructs through various contexts and scales. At the same time, the analysis is through each students’ own understanding in order to help create the world they want to live in. 

Human Geography also engages in civics. Civics is not “narrowly defined as voting, paying taxes, and knowing how the government works.”³ As Dr. Betting Love, professor at the University of Georgia and an award-winning educational researcher4, states, civics additionally means mattering.  Mattering is the desire to matter to ourselves, community, country, and planet. The approach to this course will center around intersectionality that will “lead (students) to a better sense of their full selves.5 Once students know who they are and matter to themselves, community, country, and globe, they will “take the office of citizen.6 They will identify problems they will to learn more about and ultimately attempt to solve them.  Once students know themselves, they can more deeply connect to and evaluate how humans develop, control, and use power, placemaking, and identity in the context of a given environment in order to solve problems of “intersectional social justice.7

Overview of the course

The director of the Oregon Writing Project and educator of over thirty years, Linda Christensen reminds us that “our curricular choices demonstrate who we believe, events, and what beliefs about society we promote.8 Therefore, the choices we make in this classroom are a reflection of who we are and striving to be.  

With the foundations of how people learn best and the overall purpose of human geography in mind, this course will “engage students in social problems solving by enabling them to think about which problems are worth solving, according to whom, to what ends, and in whose favor.9 As this course examines how humans develop, control and use power, placemaking, and identity, students will recontextualize their understanding through various contexts and ultimately identify and try to solve problems they see fit to solving. 

Essential Questions

To spark interest, keep a continuity throughout the course, and keep students focused on what is important to them, the following essential question will be used:

To what extent can we do whatever we want to the Earth and its people?

What world can create?

What is the world I live in?

How can I reimagine the world?

How do I create the world I want to live in?

Students will pursue answers to this question knowing that one truth or one answer does not exist. In the pursuit of answers to the question, students will naturally get at the purpose of the course. Additionally, the question serves as the basis for every resource explored.  To help break down the essential question in more tangible comprehensible parts, the course will further dive into identity, power, and placemaking. 

Identity: How do I identify myself? What is the identity of my physical community? What is the identity of my virtual community? How does my identity and the identity of my communities change how I interact with my local physical community? How do others identify me in these communities? How does that change how they interact with me? Who is excluded and included? What do I see as problematic and what do I wish to change?

Power: What is power? How is power created and maintained in my community? What are the rules in the community? How am I reflected in those rules and those in charge? What do I see as problematic and what do I wish to change?

Placemaking: “Why do we live where we live?10 How is the community “inclusive, collaborative, transformative, sociable?”  What is the impact on the environment of how and where people live? What do I see as problematic and what do I wish to change?


Each week students will analyze data, read, and write to further understand the world around them to continually answer the questions in the overview section in order to identify and solve a problem they see worthy. In order to do that, students will approach each source and piece of information by “the rejection of objectivity and neutrality.11 Students will look at the history and context of each document to examine the purpose, point of view, and limitations.

As students approach each source, they will answer the questions “Whose knowledge is important? Whose story is being told? Whose voice is being heard? And whose isn’t?12 As they approach each source they will “work in tandem with (their) own knowledge”13 to answer their questions. Combining each student’s individual prior knowledge and experiences and looking at each piece of information with its history and context enables them to become critical thinkers and ultimately think for themselves. 

With the beliefs about how people learn best as students explore the world and find problems worth solving, Frances E. Jensen Md professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology cites “what we know now is that no two human brains are wired exactly the same, and experience shapes us all differently.” This approach to each piece of information allows for each student to direct their own learning, ask their questions, curate their learning for accessibility, set their goals and monitor progress, be allowed to make mistakes, be allowed to reshape their world view, collaborate, want to learn more, and advocate for their needs. 

Wayne Au is an assistant professor in the department of secondary education at California State University Fullerton and he is a Rethinking Schools editor states “knowledge is multifaceted and simply reading tough books does not mean that students are engaged in understanding the complexities of any particular historical episode or time period.” Students will be challenging themselves through a rigorous approach in every aspect of this class that enables them to continually learn for their entire lifetime.

Becoming Learners

The ultimate goal of these questions, skills, and context, is to develop students as learners.  A learner has agency and control over the ability to gain new skills and new understandings of the world in order to adapt to the ever-changing nature of it. According to Stephen Sawchuk, “Futurists increasingly predict a rapidly changing workplace in which employees will be required to update their learning frequently, and on short notice. Employers, they say, will want flexible, adaptable workers who can pick up new content and technologies quickly and efficiently.” With this in mind, students will gain the necessary skills they need now, and become a learner to adapt to the skills they will need in the future.  In this course, the students are learners. 

Learners are curious about the world around them and use that curiosity to drive their own learning. They know how to set goals and curate the resources they need and the evidence they have evaluated to take civic responsibility. They know how to communicate what they believe and use their curated knowledge to impact the world around them.  


As with everything in this course, the learner is at the center.  The course is set up to provide genuine learning opportunities for all. It is responsive and nimble enough to adjust to the needs and interests of all users.14 As Gloria Ladson-Billings who was former Kellner Family Distinguished Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.Students, states that this approach will help all students grow academically, gain sociopolitical consciousness, and cultural competence.15

This course will make “infrequent use of standardized tasks, marks, and grades, all of which theoretically allow individuals comparisons.16  Instead we will make “use of intensive individualized private feedback to students as the preferred method of evaluation.” Scales and rubrics serve the teacher in deciding a grade, not helping the students learn and grow (p. 32). Furthermore, they oversimplify reading, writing and analyzing which reduces growth to a numerical score (p. X and 5). This course focuses, as Cornelius Minor states, on the learner, the learning process, and the growth of each student which isn’t identical for each student. And they’re a thorn in the side of Critical Pedagogy. Jesse Stommel, a Digital Learning Fellow and Senior Lecturer of Digital Studies at University of Mary Washington, cites that this process brings humanity back into the classroom

Students will be required to complete the journal assignments each week. In addition to the journal assignments, students will identify a problem and work towards the solution. Throughout the semester students will complete a learning portfolio that allows for “complex expressions of student learning, growth, and development.17 Throughout the semester, the students will keep a portfolio which will serve as a reflection on their growth academically, their learning from the project, and documentation for their curated materials. Each student will meet with the teacher regularly to share their story of learning to finalize the end of semester(p. 46) grade.  The final product for first semester is the creation of a “Field Trip of the Future.” The final product second semester is the creation of an action plan and implementation of said action plan in an attempt to solve a challenge society faces. 

There are five dispositions that have four different components each.  As this is an Earned Honors credit, students must demonstrate at least level 2 skills in each category each semester. The grading scale is 1= 65% 2= 75% 3=85% 4= 95%. 

Here are the dispositions that students will document to display their current ability levels:


Development of an Argument 


SS.IS.7 Students will be able to articulate explanations and arguments to a targeted audience in diverse settings. 


Students can formulate clear claims that provoke interest and require a defense or justification.


Students can formulate a claim that addresses a specific audience.


Students can contextualize the claim within its larger setting.


Students can incorporate their own voice and identity into the broader introduction of a claim.

Use of Evidence 


SS.G.2 Students will be able to use self-collected or pre-existing data sets to generate spatial patterns at multiple scales that can be used to conduct analysis, to take civic action, and to revise or strengthen claims


Students can isolate relevant evidence from a source in order to defend their claim.


Students can isolate relevant evidence drawn upon arguments from multiple types of sources to support their claim.


Students can explain the significance of the evidence and articulate the specific ways in which the evidence supports the claim.


Students can synthesize evidence from multiple sources in order to strengthen the validity of their claim.

Evaluating and Sourcing Evidence 


SS.IS.4 Students will be able to gather and evaluate information from multiple sources while considering the origin, credibility, point of view, authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of the sources.


Students can identify the audience, purpose, tone, limitation, or point of a document. 


Students can explain how a document influences the understanding of the topic.


Students incorporate a document’s biases and limitations to defend their claim.  


Students can incorporate multiple sources that have the same position on a subject, yet each comes from a different perspective based on their background, interests, and expertise

Taking Action: Civic Engagement 

(Semester 2)


SS.IS.1 Students will be able to engage in critical analysis of political information and will gain knowledge on the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic and address essential questions that reflect an enduring issue in the field


SS.H.7 Analyze the role which individuals, groups, and institutions play in people’s struggle for safety, freedom, equality, and justice.


Students can identify and distinguish the rights, roles, powers, and responsibilities of individuals and institutions in the political and their role in people’s struggle for safety, freedom, equality, and justice.


Students can develop a way to challenge societal concerns to address a variety of public issues.


Students can publish a plan with ways to potentially solve the challenges society faces.


Students can present a published plan that contains actionable steps that potentially solve the challenges society faces to people of power in order to make change. 


Inference and Evaluation on the Political Process (Semester 1)


SS.CV.3 Analyze the impact of constitutions, laws, and agreements on the maintenance of order, justice, equality, and liberty.


SS.CV.7 Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes and related consequences.


SS.G.4 Evaluate how political and economic decisions have influenced cultural and environmental characteristics of various places and regions. 


Students can identify intended and unintended outcomes and related consequences of current institutions or policies.


Students can identify how economic activities and political decisions impact spatial patterns within and among urban, suburban, and rural regions.


Students can explain the significance of the issues and the direct and indirect impact on the Earth and its people. 


Students can evaluate how economic activities and political decisions impact spatial patterns within local, regional, and global perspectives.


  1.  Dewey, John. Experience And Education. New York: Macmillan, 1938.
  2. hooks, bell. (1994). Teaching to Transgress. New York: Routledge.
  3. LOVE, B. (2020). WE WANT TO DO MORE THAN SURVIVE: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. S.l.: BEACON. (p. 7)
  5. LOVE, B. (2020). WE WANT TO DO MORE THAN SURVIVE: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. S.l.: BEACON. (p. 7)
  6. LOVE, B. (2020). WE WANT TO DO MORE THAN SURVIVE: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. S.l.: BEACON. (p. 19)
  8. Watson, Dyan, et al. Teaching for Black Lives. Rethinking Schools, 2018. (p. 323)
  9. Parker, W. (2001). Toward enlightened political engagement. In W.B. Stanley (Ed), Critical issues in social studies research (pp. 97-118). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Press)
  10. Watson, Dyan, et al. Teaching for Black Lives. Rethinking Schools, 2018. (p. 175)
  11. Watson, Dyan, et al. (Howard, Tyone) Teaching for Black Lives. Rethinking Schools, 2018. (p. 28)
  12. (Christensen, 2011; Janks, 2014; Ladson-Billings, 2018; Leland & Harste, 2005)
  13. LOVE, B. (2020). WE WANT TO DO MORE THAN SURVIVE: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. S.l.: BEACON. (p. 19)
  14. Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014) Universal design for learning: Theory and practice, Wakefield MA: CAST P. 68
  15. Ladson-Billings, Gloria Harvard Educational Review; Spring 2014; 84, 1; ProQuest pg. 74
  16. Cohen, E. G. (1982). A multi-ability approach to the integrated classroom. Journal of Literacy Research, 14 (4), 439-460.
  17. Watson, Dyan, et al. Teaching for Black Lives. Rethinking Schools, 2018. (p. 248)