WASHINGTON — YOUNGSTERS looking for their place in the world have a new set of landmarks for learning geography.
Geography standards announced last week were outlined in the 276-page publication ``Geography for Life: National Geography Standards 1994.''
They were developed by the American Geographical Society, the Association of American Geographers, the National Council for Geographic Education, and the National Geographic Society.
The standards are voluntary benchmarks for schools to use in developing courses. They are the third set of standards in a project to develop teaching guidelines for all aspects of education. Math and arts standards were issued earlier, and others remain under development.
``This is truly a watershed day for geography,'' National Geographic Society President Gilbert M. Grosvenor said Thursday in announcing the new standards.
For the first time, Mr. Grosvenor says, ``American students will know exactly what they will need to learn for a world-class education in geography.''
Helping young people to see their place in the world by becoming geographically literate is critical, says Michael Cohen of the Department of Education. National Geographic provided about $1 million for the project along with $830,000 from the Education Department and lesser amounts from other organizations.
Like the medieval portolan charts that guided mariners from headland to headland, the new standards divide geography into several focus areas and set a series of learning landmarks for students finishing grades four, eight, and 12.
Youths finishing fourth grade, for example, would be expected to be able to locate the seven continents and four oceans on a world map, identify some countries and features, and tell a story about life in another country. By the end of the eighth grade, a pupil should be able to describe the land and people of places mentioned in current newscasts, discuss an ethnic group in his or her hometown, and explain a map, graph, or chart in a newspaper or magazine.
And to graduate from high school, a student should be able to name and discuss three local places that have been affected by pollution; use a subway map, a bus schedule, and a city map to plan a trip to a point of interest; and discuss job opportunities or higher education in terms of their geographic features such as climate, land forms, distance from home, and distance in relation to nearby metropolitan areas.