How Life Experience Constructs Geographical Knowledge

So, I took a world geography quiz yesterday. I’ll start by saying that I have a pretty good knowledge of the Americas. Unfortunately, at least under pressure, my knowledge of other countries dissipates greatly. I won’t blame anyone for my lack of knowledge – I did have access to a book as a child that detailed many

As I took the quiz over and over again – eventually I’ll get them all – I realized just how much my geographical knowledge was formed by what I had read in the news and through books. I wish I could say that history class had an impact on my knowledge, but I can’t. I think most of what I know of the world comes from a few sources.

  1. Books – I’ve read a number of books, but most of my knowledge of Africa is derived from Richard Preston’s Hot Zone, which I read multiple times as a young teenager. So, yes, I know about Sudan, The Republic of Congo, and other countries that have been touched by the Ebola virus.
  2. Contact with people from different countries – When I was just a young sapling, studying at the local community college, I met quite a few people from different parts of the world – Ethiopia, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Japan, South Korea. It’s so cool to meet people from so many different areas of the world and learn about their traditions and culture.
  3. Teaching – Yes, I taught lower level Spanish courses for 2 years at the undergraduate level. Each semester we gave our students a geography quiz. Although I knew the countries, my ability to actually label the countries greatly increased with this bi-annual exercise.   This is not to say that I didn’t have prior knowledge, just that I strengthened my knowledge through teaching.
  4. The news – It’s pretty difficult to avoid the fact that Israel and Pakistan are constantly arguing with each other. Or that Spain’s rate of employment for citizens aged 20 to 30 is currently 50%. Or that the war against drugs targets Mexico and Colombia. Or that the USA has been in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan in recent years. It’s just unavoidable.
  5. Restaurants – Yes! I love going to Afghan Kabob restaurants, as well as trying just about anything that sounds remotely appetizing. Perhaps this doesn’t have as much to offer in terms of being familiar with geography, but boy do I get my food on!


So, if you want test your knowledge, not of place but of name, here’s a link to the quiz:

 See how many you know!





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