Association of American Geographers
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2018 Powerful Geography Conference

When: November 1-4, 2018

Where: San Jose, Costa Rica



What makes geography “powerful” for teachers, students, and society?

The concept of Powerful Geography has its roots in an international research collaboration known as GeoCapabilities ( This research has attempted to define those elements of geography that have high analytical, interpretive, and explanatory ‘power’, and what this offers both to an individual’s well-being and to society as a whole.


Powerful Geography is concerned with the relationship between geographic knowledge and the challenges, opportunities, and freedoms young people stand to gain in life. A Powerful Geography curriculum based on principles of human development and powerful disciplinary knowledge enables young people to think in specialized and distinctive ways about the myriad social and environmental problems defining modern times. This capability afforded by geography education is an argument for ensuring all students have an opportunity to learn geography in such a way as to achieve personal goals, ambitions, even jobs and careers.

While capacity for geography education varies considerably from country to country, many shared challenges include a pronounced shortage of teachers with geography backgrounds; uneven access to high quality instructional materials and technologies; a lack of research data and evidence-based practices; public perceptions of geography education as offering little more than trivial facts about the world; and a lack of support from government agencies and other important stakeholders.