Nov. 15-21 has been proclaimed by St. Joseph's mayor Bill McMurray as Geography Awareness Week.
Since 1987, National Geographic and the Missouri Geographic Alliance have worked together to promote Geography Awareness Week throughout the state of Missouri. More than 100,000 Americans participate in Geography Awareness Week each year with the focus of spreading understanding and appreciation of what all geography does and how essential it is to.
Dr. Dawn Drake is an associate professor of geography at Missouri Western and explained that the week has gone on annually since 1987. Drake explained the importance of geography week.
“It started with National Geographic as a way to promote the fact that geography is taught in schools but many people don't realize it's important,” Drake said. "It became a week to sort of celebrate all the ways that geography is taught in the schools to encourage more teaching of geography in schools, and also to show communities to show all the ways that they interact with geography on a day to day basis.”
In addition to geography week, Nov. 18 is recognized this year as Geographical Information System day. Drake went on to explain what all goes into GIS day and why it's important to recognize.
“Today, we, when we say system we're typically talking about the software and the hardware that allow us to analyze geographic data and display it in map format,” Drake said. “My students would take GIS, not only learn how to use the software but they also get the background, so that they understand what type of analysis they're doing and how to ask those research questions and to think about that and how to gather the data they need.”
Every year National Geographic and the Missouri Geographic Alliance also focus the week on a specific theme. This year's theme is geo-literacy —the understanding and application of geographic concepts and reasoning. The goal is to recognize the vital role that geography plays in many of the world's current challenges, including climate change, global trade, race issues and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brian Salsberry is the president of the geography club and found his love of geography through his many travels with his family. Salsberry explained how geography has been so important especially in recent years.
“The world is becoming increasingly interconnected. But too many students I think lack the understanding of both worlds and local geography, and I think having a better understanding just makes people more well rounded,” Salsberry said. One example I can give you is how geographers have been really instrumental, with the current COVID situation. As far as mapping the spread and the contact tracing that goes along with that. And I think promoting geography within a week coincides with what's going on.”
The geography club in the past has held many different events to celebrate the week but due to COVID-19 restrictions instead held a Twitter chat with the American Association of Geographers to discuss geo literacy and its importance.