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Social Studies Curriculum Social Studies - World Geography
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Course Introduction

Geography is the study of physical and human characteristics of the Earth’s people, places, and environments. Students will develop geographic thinking skills by studying the “why of where” as they examine the interactions, interconnections, and implications of forces shaping our world today. They will apply geographic knowledge and geo-literacy skills to identify, locate, interpret, analyze, and evaluate geographic patterns and processes. These standards emphasize both human geography and physical geography, and students will explore the interconnections between the two.

Civic Preparation
One of the fundamental purposes for public schools is the preparation of young people for participation in America’s democratic republic. The progress of our communities, state, nation, and world rests upon the preparation of young people to understand the interconnections and interactions between their local, national, and global communities in order to make reasoned and far-reaching decisions. The study of geography supports students in understanding how human and natural systems interact and connect places to each other. Geographically informed students can better participate in their communities and the world in a responsible, informed and civically minded way. The skills and habits of mind that students develop as they study the world through geography will nurture their sense of citizenry, as well as civic and global awareness.

To that end, throughout this course, students should have ample opportunities to:

  • Apply spatial analysis and reasoning to identify, examine, and rationalize a variety of issues facing local, national, and global communities today.
  • Consider various perspectives, including political, historical, economic, cultural, and environmental aspects to analyze and explain current events.
  • Develop and demonstrate the values that sustain America’s democratic republic, including open-mindedness, engagement, honesty, problem-solving, responsibility, diligence, resilience, empathy, self-control, and cooperation.

Foundational Geographic Skills
The study of world geography begins with asking geographic questions. Students of geography use information gleaned from geographic texts such as maps, statistics, geospatial technology, media, and other geographic information to answer those questions. Geography students use evidence to make inferences about the interconnections and interactions between people and places. They also use spatial thinking to identify patterns and processes occurring at various scales. The following standards promote foundational skills and dispositions vital to the discipline of geography. These skills and dispositions are reinforced in subsequent strands as students engage with specific geographic content and inquiry.

Students will have ample opportunities, throughout the course, to:

  • Conduct geographic investigations at various scales, including local, national, and global. They will formulate geographic questions, acquire information, select and organize relevant data, analyze patterns in the data, and arrive at evidence-based conclusions.
  • Apply map-reading skills to analyze features, purposes, and uses of various types of maps, including mental maps.
  • Use and create maps, graphs, and other types of data sets to show patterns and processes influencing our world.
  • Use existing and emerging technologies, such as GIS and other geospatial technologies, whenever possible and appropriate.
  • Compare the implications of interactions and interconnections between various people and places at various scales.
  • Use evidence to analyze and explain the spatial organization of people, places, and environments and how they have changed over time.

A Note on the Organization of the Utah Standards in All Core Areas
The Geography core standards are organized into strands, which represent significant areas of learning within content areas. Depending on the core area, these strands may be designated by time periods, thematic principles, modes of practice, or other organizing principles.

Within each strand are standards. A standard is an articulation of the demonstrated proficiency to be obtained. A standard represents an essential element of the learning that is expected. While some standards within a strand may be more comprehensive than others, all standards are essential for mastery.


Core Standards of the Course


The earth’s physical environment varies greatly from place to place. The interactions between physical systems and human systems create opportunities and challenges for people and places. The implications of these interactions affect both physical systems and human systems.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

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WG Standard 1.1:
Students will describe the significant forces that influence the physical environment, such as plate tectonics, erosion, climate, and natural disasters, and explain how the effects of physical processes vary across regions of the world.

WG Standard 1.2:
Students will identify patterns evident in the geographic distribution of ecosystems and biomes and explain how humans interact with them.

WG Standard 1.3:
Students will cite evidence of how the distribution of natural resources affects physical and human systems.

WG Standard 1.4:
Students will use geographic reasoning to propose actions that mitigate or solve issues, such as natural disasters, pollution, climate change, and habitat loss.


The movement and distribution of people is influenced by many factors, including environmental, cultural, economic, and geopolitical forces. These migration trends alter geographic conditions. Geographers use data to understand population distribution and migration by looking at population characteristics, push and pull factors, and numerous other variables. Analyzing this data offers an opportunity to examine complex and challenging real-world issues.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

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WG Standard 2.1:
Students will evaluate the impact of population distribution patterns at various scales by analyzing and comparing demographic characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity, and population density using maps, population pyramids, and other geographic data.

WG Standard 2.2:
Students will explain push and pull factors causing voluntary and involuntary migration and the consequences created by the movement of people.

WG Standard 2.3:
Students will investigate the effects of significant patterns of human movement that shape urban and rural environments over time, such as mass urbanization, immigration, and the movement of refugees.

WG Strand 3: CULTURE

Culture is the total sum of human expression. A culture’s purpose, as well as how and where cultures originate, diffuse, and change, are all topics worth studying. Students will explore religion, language, ethnicity and other cultural characteristics by looking at patterns and processes. As students explore what people care about and care for, they can learn not only about other cultures but also about the unique attributes of their own culture.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

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WG Standard 3.1:
Students will identify and describe the essential defining characteristics and functions of culture.

WG Standard 3.2:
Students will explain how the physical environment influences and is influenced by culture.

WG Standard 3.3:
Students will identify how culture influences sense of place, point of view and perspective, and the relative value placed upon people and places.

WG Standard 3.4:
Students will identify the causes, methods, and effects for the diffusionand distribution of cultural characteristics among different places and regions.

WG Standard 3.5:
Students will explain how the basic tenets of world religions affect the daily lives of people.

WG Standard 3.6:
Students will cite examples of how globalization creates challenges and opportunities for different cultures.

WG Standard 3.7:
Students will demonstrate an understanding of their own culture’s connection to geography.


People organize themselves into distinctive groups. Geographers examine how the interactions between these groups influence the division and control of the earth’s surface. Political systems have profound influences on the lives of people, including their access to resources, economic opportunities, and basic rights.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

WG Standard 4.1:
Students will explain why and how people organize into a range of political structures at different scales.

WG Standard 4.2:
Students will describe and explain the role physical and human characteristics play in establishing political boundaries.

WG Standard 4.3:
Students will explain how cooperation and conflict have many causes, such as differing ideas regarding boundaries, resource control, and land use, as well as ethnic, tribal, and national identities.


Humans have created complex and varied economic systems. These systems, whether based on free markets or other structures, have various levels of development, infrastructure, and divisions of labor. Economic systems are influenced by their unique landscapes and resources, and their locations influence patterns of interconnections with other economic systems. Geographers can use the insights they learn about economic development to identify patterns or propose solutions to complex issues.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

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WG Standard 5.1:
Students will explain the essential attributes of a developed economy and the patterns of development that differentiate less-developed from more-developed places.

WG Standard 5.2:
Students will describe and compare the function and distribution of economic activities in primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors.

WG Standard 5.3:
Students will explain key economic concepts and their implications for the production, exchange, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

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WG Standard 5.4:
Students will cite examples of various levels of economic interdependence between nations and peoples.

WG Standard 5.5:
Students will describe the costs, benefits, and sustainability of development in terms of poverty rates, standards of living, the impact on indigenous people, environmental changes, gender equality, and access to education.

UEN logo - in partnership with Utah State Board of Education (USBE) and Utah System of Higher Education (USHE).  Send questions or comments to USBE Specialist - Robert Austin and see the Social Studies website. For general questions about Utah's Core Standards contact the Director - Jennifer Throndsen.

These materials have been produced by and for the teachers of the State of Utah. Copies of these materials may be freely reproduced for teacher and classroom use. When distributing these materials, credit should be given to Utah State Board of Education. These materials may not be published, in whole or part, or in any other format, without the written permission of the Utah State Board of Education, 250 East 500 South, PO Box 144200, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-4200.