Once collected, the geographic information should be organized and displayed in ways that assist with analysis and interpretation. Data need to be arranged systematically. Different types of data may be separated and classified in visual, graphic forms: paper and computer-generated maps, various geospatial images (e.g., photographs, aerial photos, remotely sensed images), graphs, cross sections, climographs, diagrams, tables, and cartograms. Written information from documents or interviews may be organized into pertinent quotes or tabular form. Geographic information may also be organized in a GIS. These approaches allow students a wide range of options in displaying and organizing information.

Computer-based technologies and the Internet enhance not only students’ access to geographic information but also the ability to organize it. Students may need guidance in selecting appropriate applications for organizing and displaying geographic information. There is an increasing number of free, web-based, mobile device, or desktop client applications that may be used for educational projects and instruction.

There are many ways to organize geographic information. Maps play a central role in geographic inquiry, but there are other ways to translate data into visual forms, such as graphs of all kinds, tables, spreadsheets, and time lines. Such visual aids are especially useful when accompanied by clear oral or written summaries. Creativity and skill are needed to arrange geographic information effectively. Decisions about design, color, graphics, scale, and clarity are important in developing the kinds of maps, graphs, charts, and other visualizations that best represent the data.

Geography has been called “the art of the mappable.” Making maps should be a common activity for all students. They should read (decode) maps to collect information and analyze geographic patterns and make (encode) maps to organize information. Making maps may mean using sketch maps to make a point in an essay or record field observations, using symbols to map data showing the location of world resources, or producing a county-level map of income by state using a GIS. Students may also use Internet-based mapping resources to develop their own maps.

For students, making maps should become as common and natural as writing a paragraph. They should be skilled in interpreting and creating map symbols, finding locations on maps using various reference systems, orienting maps, finding directions, and using scales to determine distance. Using these map skills helps students think critically about the purposes and uses of maps.

Being able to organize geographic information enables students to engage in doing geography by applying methods to organize geographic and geospatial information so that it can be displayed to facilitate analysis and effectively communicate geographic information.

4th Grade

The student knows and understands:

Organizing Geographic Information

1. The different forms for displaying geographic information

Therefore, the student:

A. Constructs digital and paper maps, graphs, tables, and charts to display geographic information, as exemplified by

  • Constructing a map using points to represent the locations of student-collected data.
  • Constructing a graph to display the changes in student enrollment at the school.
  • Constructing a data table with represented values and a map to display the values represented by colors (e.g., list of schools in the community with more than 100, 200, and 300 students; different types of businesses in the community; number of each, low-, medium-, and high-population states).

8th Grade

The student knows and understands:

Organizing Geographic Information

1. The advantages and disadvantages of the different forms for displaying geographic information

Therefore, the student:

A. Describes and constructs appropriate forms of visualizations to represent different types of geographic data, as exemplified by

  • Constructing a choropleth map representing demographic values and explaining why this type of map is an effective way to display this type of data.
  • Describing and explaining how isopleth lines effectively represent increasing or decreasing values between locations (e.g., rainfall amounts, elevation, growing-season zones).
  • Describing and constructing both point and polygon maps to represent different types of geographic data.

B. Explains the advantages of using different forms of geographic representations for data, as exemplified by

  • Explaining why a GIS-generated map might be the best type of map to display the overlap or relational aspects of multiple data sets.
  • Explaining why one map projection may be more appropriate to use than other projections (e.g., amount of distortion, degree of accuracy in represented shapes of continents, focus on a hemisphere or pole).
  • Explaining the advantages of using graphs or maps for different types of data at different scales (e.g., climographs to represent climate data, population pyramids to represent population data, US national maps to represent state-level data, state maps to represent ZIP-code-level data).

12th Grade

The student knows and understands:

Organizing Geographic Information

1. The selection and design of appropriate forms for organizing and displaying geographic information

Therefore, the student:

A. Evaluates the alternatives for organizing and displaying geographic information, as exemplified by

  • Constructing different types of graphs representing data that describes a place (e.g., population changes, levels of personal income per state, population pyramids).
  • Evaluating the use of a GIS to display and organize geographic information (e.g., Would additional data layers be helpful? Are there important relationships among data layers used? Is an appropriate scale selected to display the data?).
  • Evaluating the appropriateness of using a digital globe to display point data or area data (e.g., ZIP codes, counties, states).

Created By

Geography Education National Implementation Project Geography Education National Implementation Project