5 Themes of Geography


5 Themes of Geography

Created by

Cheryl Phillips


1 : a science that deals with the description, distribution, and interaction of the diverse physical, biological, and cultural features of the earth's surface

Source-Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary



Geography is the study of the earth and everything on it.






• By clicking on this site, you can visit the

National Geographic Society 5 Themes of

Geography web page. After reviewing the web page, click the back arrow on your browser to come back here.

• NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY http://www.nationalgeographic.com/resource s/ngo/education/themes.html

Mr. Help

Mr. Help is a mnemonic device that can be used to help remember what the 5 Themes of Geography are. Simply put, take the first letter of each Theme to create the word Mr. Help. They are:

• M ovement

• R egion

H umanE nvironment – (Interaction)

L ocation

P lace



People interact with other people, places, and things almost every day of their lives. They travel from one place to another; they communicate with each other; and they rely upon products, information, and ideas that come from beyond their immediate environment.

The theme of MOVEMENT deals with where resources are located, who needs them, and how they are transported over the earth’s surface. MOVEMENT helps us understand how we are connected with, and dependent upon, other regions, cultures, and people in the world.

Genetics Provides Evidence for the Movement of Bird Flu Viruses from Asia to North America through the tracking of Migratory


Mr. Ken-ichi Tokita (right), and other cooperators from the University of Tokyo work with USGS scientists to attach satellite transmitters to the backs of northern pintails on wintering areas of northern Honshu,

Japan. Transmitters are used to evaluate the ducks' movements, migration, and areas of overlap with North American northern pintails.

Photograph courtesy of USGS


REGIONS are areas on the earth’s surface that are defined by certain unifying characteristics.

These characteristics may be physical, (for example, mountainous, desert or swampy...), human

(ethnicities), or cultural (religion, traditions, clothing...).

In addition to studying the unifying characteristics of a region, geographers study how a REGION changes over times. Using the theme of REGIONS, geographers divide the world into manageable units for study .



Regions can be defined by a number of characteristics including area, language, political divisions, religions, and vegetation (for example, grassland, marshland, desert, rain forest).

Just because two regions may have water, it does not make them the same.

They are similar because they are both bodies of water, but keep in mind, their climates are much different, and both are used for different resources.




This is the study of how human beings interact with their surroundings.

Throughout history, people have adapted to their surroundings by using the available resources 'carve out' their lifestyle.

Native Americans are a perfect example of how they utilized their surrounding to establish who they were.


Human-Environmental Interaction

For every human act there can be a negative impact upon the environment, whether it's clear-cutting to put up a shopping mall, or perhaps the pollution that may come from a paper factory. We need to consider the impact environmental changes will have on a place and people who live there.


The two critical questions geographers ask when studying


How do people affect the environment?

How does the environment affect people?

Let's go back to the Ducks. They live on a lake, the lake is beautiful so people build a resort around the lake . This is an example of how the environment affects the people. Ducks, people and the lake are all in harmony with each other.


Here is another example of how people affect the environment and the environment affects the people. This is not so harmonious. In the mountains of West Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, coal mining is the driving economic force of that region, But at what cost to the environment?



The theme of LOCATION is the basis of our study of geography.

LOCATION answers the question, "Where is it?"

There are two different types of location that we will study:




If you ask someone, "Where is Marshall Elementary School?"

Chances are they'd say, "It's in Manassas, Virginia, right off of

Hoadly road. This is Relative Location. Most people wouldn't say,

"It's Lat: 38 45 00 N and Long: 077 28 00 W."

RELATIVE LOCATION: It is also important to know how one place is related to other places—in other words, to know that place’s relative location. Relative location deals with the interaction that occurs between and among places. It refers to the many ways—by land, by water even by technology—that places are connected.

You may ask, "Where is Myrtle Beach?" and most likely, people will give you a Relative Location as an answer.

"It's in South Carolina, about 97 miles north of Charleston."


ABSOLUTE LOCATION: Every point on Earth has a specific location that is determined by an imaginary grid of lines called latitude and longitude.

Lines of latitude measure distances north and south of the line called the Equator. The lines of latitude are found going horizontal across a map from left to right.

(notice the lines of latitude are horizontal)

Lines of longitude measure distances east and west of the line called the Prime Meridian. The lines of longitude are found vertically on a map going up and down.

(notice the lines of longitude are vertical)


Relative to Absolute locations can be seen like the nesting dolls...you can go from relative to exact degree of longitude and latitude on a map to saying...Manassas,

Virginia, that's on Planet Earth , North American

Continent , United States, Virginia , Manassas , down

Hoadly road , off of Kahns to the exact place on Earth the school is located, 38 ° 40.865'N, 77 ° 25.206'W.

(Absolute Location).



All PLACES have characteristics that give them meaning and character and distinguish them from other places on earth.

Geographers describe PLACES by their physical and human characteristics.

Physical differences , or characteristics, include things that occur naturally, such as mountains, rivers, type of soil, wildlife, climate etc.

Human differences , or characteristics can be defined by the culture of a place. Language, clothing, architectural styles, political philosophies, routes of transportation, communication networks, and the choices people make for business and livelihood all influence the human characteristics and character of the PLACE.



This is an old moonshine flume located in the Blue Ridge

Mountains of

Virginia. They say a picture is worth a thousands words...this picture tells volumes about the human characteristic of this place.



Here is an examples of a physical characteristics.

This is Smith

Mountain Lake in Virginia.