It is hard to come up with a definitive list of places that children should know about at certain ages and stages. The National Curriculum Geography Framework lists some places for children in Key Stages 1 and 2. But each child’s knowledge of places and their location will always be a little random. Their knowledge will depend on who they know, where they have been and the places that you as their teacher select to teach about. To a certain extent this randomness does not matter – what is important is that children have the opportunity to engage with the world as an object of study, as well as a world of experiences. What we mean by this is that all of us experience places. This experience alone does not necessarily help to develop our geographical understanding. It is only when we are helped to make sense of these experiences in relation to some of geography’s big ideas, such as place, location, scale and environment (people and place interactions) that these experiences are useful in terms of developing a person’s capability in geography. Doing this for the children that you teach is your responsibility. Making connections between their experiences and the subject of geography is an essential part of your curriculum making. We would want to encourage you to use the subject to frame, enrich and extend children’s knowledge about the world. When planning always check your lesson against the requirements of the National Curriculum Geography Framework. This will help you to ensure that you are building children’s knowledge in a meaningful way. It will help to reassure you that you are focusing on geography, by thinking carefully about which aspects of the subject to engage the children with at that point in their developing learning maturity. But do not let it limit children’s developing knowledge and understanding.
There are some people who believe that it is possible to develop a definitive list of places that children should know about by a certain age. We feel that this could be potentially restrictive and limiting; it might not include places that are important to certain, indeed many, children and communities. However, it is possible to think about places that almost all children will benefit from knowing and thinking about. Some of these are specified in the Key Stage 1 Geography requirements. These include:
- Teaching about the United Kingdom
- Knowledge about their locality
- Naming and locating the world’s continents and oceans
- Characteristics of the four countries of the United Kingdom (UK)
- Capital cities of the UK
- Location of hot and cold areas of the world in relation to the equator and North and South Poles.
Additionally at Key Stage 2 these include:
- Name and locate countries and cities of the United Kingdom, geographical regions….including hills, mountains, cities, rivers.
- Locate the world’s countries (Here, we interpret this to mean that its vital in geography that when you study a country or location that you engage children in becoming familiar with where in the world it is located, rather than simply memorising the location of the world’s countries in a decontextualised manner.)
- The position and significance of latitude and longitude, Equator, Northern Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere, the Tropics and Cancer and Capricorn, Arctic and Antarctic Circle and time-zones. (A key word for us here is significance – so we would again want to emphasise the context and in relation to time-zones, these would be relevant to a location or topic of enquiry)
- A region or area of the United Kingdom (different from that at Key Stage 1). (We have discussed what might be the difference between a region and an area. These are contested terms. Regions are often defined by either a political connection (e.g. government region) or a physical feature that is shared across a space (e.g. The Lake District is often referred to as a mountain region within England) We would urge you to think about geographical integrity. What is the purpose to your regional / area enquiry? That will help you identify the locations that you wish to explore with the children, and to make explicit how they are connected across an area or within a region. An example of an area could be an area at risk of flooding, for example, an area within the City of York near to the River Ouse.)
- A region or area in a European Country
- A region or area within North or South America. (This may be an area of the world that you have not previously referred to within your geography curriculum and so we have produced a Europe and The Americas guidance pieces and a discussion piece on interpreting The Americas that might support you in this endeavour.)