Geography for Life: The Geography National Standards 1994 present what each American student should know and be able to do in geography by grades 4, 8, and 12. The eighteen standards are organized under six "essential elements." They represent the essentials and fundamental ideas of geography.

The goal of the National Geographic Standards is to help students see meaning in the arrangement of things across the Earth's surface, to help students appreciate  relationships between people, places, and environments, to help students use geographic skills, and to help students apply geographic perspectives to life situations.

The World in Spatial Terms
Geography studies the relationships between people, places and environments by mapping information about them into a spatial context. The geographically informed person knows and understands:

1. How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information.
2. How to use mental maps (a person's internalized picture of a part of Earth's surface) to organize information about people places, and environments.
3. How to analyze the spatial organization of people places, and environments on Earth's surface.

Places and Regions
The identities and lives of individuals and peoples are rooted in particular places and in those human constructs called regions. The geographically informed person knows and understands:

4. The physical and human characteristics of places.
5. That people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.
6. How culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions.

Physical Systems
Physical processes shape Earth's surface and interact with plant and animal life to create, sustain, and modify the ecosystems. The geographically informed person knows and understands:

7. The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface.
8. The characteristics and distribution of ecosystems on Earth's surface.

Human Systems
People are central to geography in that human activities help shape Earth's surface, human settlements and structures are part of Earth's surface, and humans compete for control of Earth's surface. The geographically informed person knows and understands:

9. The characteristics, distribution and migration of human populations.
10. The characteristics, distribution and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics.
11. The patterns and networks of economic interdependence.
12. The processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement.
13. How the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth's surface.

Environment and Society
The physical environment is modified by human activities largely as a consequence of the ways in which human societies value and use Earth's natural resources and human activities are also influenced by Earth's physical features and processes. The geographically informed person knows and understands:

14. How human actions modify the physical environment.
15. How physical systems affect human systems.
16. The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources.

The Uses of Geography
Knowing geography enables people to understand the relationships between people, places, and environments over time. The geographically informed person knows and understands:

17. How to apply geography to interpret the past.
18. How to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future.

To learn more about the National Geography Stndards, see the National Geography Society site to learn about the national standards.