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Bringing the Geography of Oregon into the Classroom
Bringing the Geography of Oregon into the Classroom

For many people, geography is what you see on a map. It’s true that maps are one of the primary tools of geographers, but there’s more to geography than representations of a region’s features. Geography is the study of the world we inhabit, its landscapes, people, places and environments.

The study of geography begins in childhood, in our homes and neighborhoods and expands into our communities, states, regions, and beyond as we gain experience. Geography connects us to the world and helps us understand the place we live, the people around us and the events that shape history. These are some of the ways that geography plays an important role in the education of elementary and middle school. But as school budgets have been cut, resources increasingly allocated to instruction in mathematics, writing, reading and testing focused in those areas, children are spending less time learning about geography and social sciences in general.

Oregon has geography standards at every grade level, but does not require a stand-alone course in geography; instead, the state requires the topic of “Oregon” be taught to children in several grade levels. While the lack of a course requirement in geography is unfortunate, it provides teachers from across the spectrum of educational disciplines the opportunity to incorporate Oregon geography into their lesson plans. With the Student Atlas of Oregon elementary and middle school teachers state-wide have a tool to help students connect the lessons they learn in the classroom to places they’ve been and experiences they’ve had.


The Student Atlas of Oregon was developed by the Center for Geography Education in Oregon (C-GEO), working with a group of teachers well versed in Oregon’s geography education standards, in collaboration with PSU students and faculty from the Center for Spatial Analysis and Research. The atlas was made possible by a grant from the Gray Family Foundation. The hard copy of the atlas, which is printed in both English and Spanish, contains 48 pages of maps intended to help teachers increase their student’s geographic literacy while enriching other course material. The online versions of both atlases contain an additional 40 maps each.


The Student Atlas of Oregon is both a tool to increase students’ geographic literacy and a repository of information about Oregon’s climate, topography, population, forests and vegetation, rivers, dams and watersheds, the Oregon Trail, Lewis & Clark Expedition and much more. With its Spanish language edition and a separate glossary of geographic terminology in 11 languages, the Student Atlas of Oregon is also an excellent tool for teachers with diverse student populations. And in order to help teachers incorporate the study of Oregon’s geography into their lesson plans and make the best use of the Student Atlas of Oregon, the C-GEO at PSU offers resources for teachers as well as model lessons for use in the classroom.


As an educational tool to help students connect the lessons they learn in the classroom to the state, their communities, and their homes, the Student Atlas of Oregon is unique in its form. Unlike many atlases designed for children, the Student Atlas of Oregon takes into account the perspectives elementary and middle school children bring to learning. It focuses on local and regional information pertinent to a wide range of subjects and disciplines and provides information in a clear and concise way. To date, well over two thousand copies of the Student Atlas of Oregon have found their way into classrooms and libraries across Oregon. Educators can order a copy of the atlas in English and Spanish and a copy of the 11 language glossary of geographic terminology at C-GEO’s website: where educators can also access the online versions of the atlases and glossary for free.

Authored by Nancee Hunter
Posted March 16, 2018