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What Are the Five Themes of Geography

A theme is a central idea. Geography has five central themes: human geography, environmental geography, physical geography, human geographic patterns, and spatial patterns. Knowing the five themes will make it easier to comprehend other geographical topics. The Association of American Geographers and the National Council for Geographic Education defined the geography themes in their 2006 theme statement, "Geography in the 21st-Century Classroom".

Physical geography theme

The physical geography theme studies the physical aspects of earth, and it analyzes the environment and the various processes that cause physical changes to occur. Physical processes include weather patterns, climate change, erosion, mountain building, earthquakes, soil formation, and groundwater development. The physical theme is about how people adapt to their surroundings. It involves understanding what natural processes physically affect each part of the world's population and how humans affect their surroundings through human activities such as urbanization.

Human geography theme

The human geography theme studies differences in human geographic behavior. It explains how people live, age, and interact based on the people's physical environment. The human geography theme considers essential ideas related to abstract concepts such as culture, race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, political boundaries, and migration patterns. It motivates teaching about how humans affect their social environments. The geography theme helps explain the complexity of the world by looking at both natural and human-made environments.

Environmental geography theme

The environmental geography theme studies the physical environment of the earth. It focuses on how humans impact the environment through land use, pollution, and climate change. The theme considers what people do to adapt to their environments. It involves assessing how people use and manage natural resources in different geographic regions and ecosystems to understand how they affect our planet's ability to produce food and absorb carbon dioxide. The environmental geography theme focuses on assessing global warming patterns and their effects on human survival and how people impact the environment by adding to the planet's pollution.

Human geographic patterns theme

The human geographic patterns theme looks at human geographic tendencies. It focuses on how humans shape their environments based on their social customs, experiences, and beliefs. The theme looks at how people create communities. A community can be an entire city or just a small group of people living close. It involves assessing how people use and maintain land and water to grow food and raise livestock. The emphasis of the human geographic patterns theme is to demonstrate how people adapt and interact in their physical environment.

Spatial patterns theme

The spatial pattern theme involves studying the physical environment around humans and understanding the processes that create patterns in this space. It involves understanding how people occupy space, where they settle down, and what they do to accommodate their needs. The spatial pattern theme is about how people create environments for themselves. It involves assessing how humans build homes, schools, factories, communications towers, roads, power plants, and airports based on their local environment.


The 5 Themes of Geography provides a framework that is essential in explaining the world's physical geography. This framework is not limited to one region of the world as five themes are applicable worldwide. As such, geography students will better understand the environment and human geographic patterns around the globe.


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