Geography Concepts for Second Graders

Second graders begin to understand their part in the larger world.
... Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

The world comes alive for second graders as they learn that their community and state is a part of the big, wide world. They learn that maps are the key to unlocking mountains of information about the different geographic regions -- why some are warmer and others colder, for example, and what that means to the people who live there. Some teachers introduce their classes to the fun of making flour and water maps, painting them to show the different ideas they've learned.

1 Map Skills

Learning to understand maps is a major part of second grade geography. Students learn to study the map legend, or key, to determine the types of features it identifies. Studying the map scale tells them the size of the area each map represents. Different types of maps are introduced, from world maps and globes to maps of their states and cities. Students often make maps of their own communities, including the streets they live on and where their schools are located. Using a compass rose, they learn which areas are north, south, east and west of others.

2 Identify Major Features

Second graders are quick to learn and point out the locations of the equator, north and south poles and the hemispheres on a globe. Using topographical maps, they learn how features such as mountain ranges, deserts and bodies of water are shown on maps. They can identify the continents and oceans, and begin to learn the names and locations of the world's major mountain ranges and rivers. Through study of state and community maps, they see how man-made landmarks are noted, including airports, railroads, dams and major attractions or points of interest.

3 Focus on North America

Focusing on North America, students learn to identify the United States and Canada, including the locations of Alaska and Hawaii. They know to look for state boundary lines on the map, and learn the names of the states surrounding their own. Typically, they learn to identify the major mountain ranges, the Great Lakes, and the major United States rivers, pointing out that these rivers flow through -- or border on -- many states. Some classes learn the names of all 50 states, though identifying them on a map usually comes later, when their reading and writing skills are more advanced. More time is spent on their own states, their state capitols and major features.

4 Effects of Geography

An important part of second grade geography is learning how the features, location and climate affect an area. Climate, for example, affects how people dress and the activities they undertake. In mountainous regions, residents and tourists come to ski and hike, while areas bordering oceans, lakes and rivers encourage swimming and boating. Some areas are warm or cold most of the year, while others experience the seasons more equally. Students also study the impact of human actions on a geographic area. Man-made lakes and dams can create a water community and tourism. Overuse of an area's resources -- such as mining for ore -- can deplete them and change the activities of people in that area. They may also discuss why people move from one place to another, and locate their families' countries of origin on a world map.

Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.