National Science Foundation Funds Experts To Develop Road Map To Implement 21st-Century Geographic Education

-June 16, 2011—The National Geographic Society has received a two-year, $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation entitled "Establishing a Road Map for Large-Scale Improvement of K-12 Education in the Geographical Sciences." National Geographic and three national organizations — the Association of American Geographers, the American Geographical Society and the National Council for Geographic Education — will work together in an unprecedented effort to develop a 10-year strategic plan for geographic education in the United States.

The organizations are responding to the growing recognition among educators, business leaders and policy makers that Americans lack critical geographic understanding and reasoning skills that will be required for civic life and careers in the 21st century.

The project brings together the nation's leading thinkers in geography, education and research to create a set of landmark reports focusing on four key issues for improving education: instructional materials for students, education of teachers, assessment and research. The findings are intended to guide K-12 educational reforms that will significantly improve the geographic literacy of U.S. youth over the next decade. The reports will make recommendations about critical priorities for educators, policymakers and funders.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, chairwoman of the Appropriation Subcommittee that funds Commerce, Justice and Science, has been an advocate for this initiative. "An investment in science education is an investment in a smarter, more innovative America," Mikulski said. "Geographic literacy is an important — but often overlooked — part of a complete science education program. I'm pleased NSF has enlisted the help of the National Geographic Society, whose members have reached the world's tallest peaks, explored the ocean's deepest depths and can serve as an inspiration to our children."

The advancement of geographic education has been central to the mission of the National Geographic Society and each of its collaborators since their inceptions. "Education outreach is an important part of National Geographic's mission to inspire people to care about the planet," said John Fahey, National Geographic's chairman and CEO. "Geography is a critical component of a 21st-century education, and the Society is committed to giving parents, educators and students the tools needed to help kids understand their world."

The four partners are looking to use the growing awareness of the "crisis in geo-literacy" to accelerate the pace of their efforts to improve geographic education. "By creating a shared agenda for improving geographic education, we hope to avoid the uncoordinated and competing efforts that often undermine educational reform efforts," said Daniel Edelson, vice president for education at the National Geographic Society and the principal investigator for the Road Map project.

"This project builds on a decades-long collaboration between our organizations," said Douglas Richardson, executive director of the Association of American Geographers. "This collaboration reflects the need for academic and professional geographers to work together with educators and researchers to develop an educational system that will prepare students for the challenges of the modern, globally connected world."

The partners have nominated three blue-ribbon committees of experts in geography, education and research from across the United States to develop the Road Map reports. The Assessment Committee will develop a framework for assessing progress toward geographic literacy from kindergarten through high school. The Professional Development and Instructional Materials Committee will make recommendations about approaches to the design of instructional materials and the education of teachers. The Educational Research Committee will develop an agenda for educational research that will lay out questions about learning, teaching and educational change that must be answered to maintain the effectiveness of geographic education into the future.

The committees will solicit input from experts and the public and will conduct systematic surveys of the relevant research literature. In addition, the project will support a nationwide research study of public perceptions of geography and the importance of geographic education. The Road Map reports and the study results are scheduled for release in June 2012.


The National Geographic Society is one of the world's largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to "increase and diffuse geographic knowledge," the Society's mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 400 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 9,600 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit

The Association of American Geographers (AAG) is a nonprofit scientific, research and educational society founded in 1904. Its 11,000 members from more than 60 countries share interests in the theory, methods and practice of geography (including GIScience, geographic education and geographic technologies). The AAG pursues its mission through its many conferences, scholarly publications, research projects, educational programs, topical specialty groups, and its extensive international network of colleagues and organizational partnerships which encompass professionals working across public, private and academic sectors all around the world. For more information, visit

The American Geographical Society is an organization of professional geographers and other devotees of geography who share a fascination with the subject and a recognition of its importance. Most Fellows of the Society are Americans, but among them have always been a significant number of Fellows from around the world. The Society encourages activities that expand geographical knowledge, and it has a well-earned reputation for presenting and interpreting that knowledge so that it can be understood and used not just by geographers but by others as well — especially policy makers. It is the oldest nationwide geographical organization in the United States. Its priorities and programs have constantly evolved with the times, but the Society's tradition of service to the U.S. government, business community, and nation-at-large has continued unchanged.For more information, visit

Since 1915, the National Council for Geographic Education has worked to enhance the quality, quantity and status of geography teaching and learning, in primary, secondary, university and informal educational settings. It develops and promotes curricular materials and two journals, fosters best practices in pedagogy and geotechnology, connects educators through online communication and through its annual conference, supports research in geographic education, recognizes exceptional supporters and teachers of geography and collaborates with other organizations that have similar goals. For more information and to join the over 1,200 people who are already members, visit

Beth Foster
National Geographic
(202) 857-7543

Published Monday, June 20th, 2011

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