The Origins of Geography Terms

The vocabulary we use to describe landforms and landscapes comes from languages around the world. It’s a prevalent example of how we rely upon the traditional ecological knowledge of peoples who know their lands best.

Here are some of the etymologies:

Alpine: From Latin Alpes “The Alps”
Archipelago: From Greek Arkhi Pélagos “chief sea” referring to the Aegean Sea
Atoll: From Dhivehi atholhu “palm of the hand”
Bayou: From Choctaw bayuk “small stream”
Billabong: From Wiradjuri bilabaŋ “watercourse that runs only after rain”
caldera: From Spanish caldera “cooking pot” referring to Las Cañadas caldera in the Canary Islands.
Cay: From Taíno cairi “island”
Cenote: From Yucatec Maya tsʼonot “accessible groundwater”
Drumlin: From Irish droimnín “littlest ridge”
Fjord: From Norwegian fjord “lake-like”
Geyser: From Icelandic Geysir “one who gushes”
Isthmus: From Greek isthmos “neck” referring to the Isthmus of Corinth
Jungle: From Sanskrit jaṅgala “arid”
Lagoon: From Venetian Laguna “lake” referring to the Venetian Lagoon
Mangrove: From Guaraní mangle “twisted tree”
Monadnock: From Abenaki Menonadenak “smooth mountain” referring to Mount Monadnock
Oasis: From Egyptian ouahe “dwelling place”
Savannah: From Taíno sabana “treeless plain”
Steppe: From Russian stepʹ “flat grassy plain”
Taiga: From Yakut tayga “untraversable forest”
Tundra: From Kildin Sami tūndâr “treeless plain”
Volcano: From Sicilian Vulcano, one of the Aeolian Islands

Map by Jordan Engel. As always, the Decolonial Atlas’ original media can be reused under the Decolonial Media License 0.1.

A contemporary Geographic Issue – Level 3

Schooling Sargeant Majors (striped fish, Abudefduf saxatilis) and Spottail Pinfish (Diplodus holbrooki) swarm a discarded shopping cart on the bottom of the Lake Worth Lagoon in Singer Island, FL.

A combination assessment for Level 3 students – this resource activity combines both 3.6 and 3.7. 

Check out the resources here:

Resource booklet

Assessment tasks


Assessment Schedule

These were originally written by Duncan Bond.  Duncan has given us permission today to distribute these to all NZ Geography Teachers.

We would like to thank Sam Fazio-Smith, Curriculum Leader Geography at St Margaret’s College who has provided her updated resources which are attached.

Join us – FoR a korero about the Phase 2 RAS products – THis event has been postponed – sorry

When: Wednesday 18 August – 4.30pm to 6pm

Where: St Cuthbert’s College or on zoom

Purpose: To discuss and ask questions about the proposed standards and changes to the Level 1 programme.

We are looking forward to seeing you there.

Check out the proposed changes here:

India states considering two-child policy and incentives for sterilisation

Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Gujarat have announced draft legislation which would see anyone with more than two children denied benefits and in some cases jobs.

Article from The Guardian just last month on this topic.

Should rivers have the same rights as people?

Around the world, activists are pushing to protect their rivers by giving them legal personhood. Is this just symbolism, or can it drive lasting environmental change? Read this article in the Guardian – it is an excellent resource and offers lots of discussion for your classroom.

Milk and Money

This six part is available for viewing on The True Cost of Dairy in Aotearoa.

News exploring the dairy industry’s impact on the community, economy and environment of Aotearoa, and considering what a sustainable future for the industry could look like.

Might be a great investigation or issue to look at in your classes.

MOck exams fOR 2021

Practice exams are now available for schools to use. They are all uploaded at various links. Makes it all so easy!

Remember these exams were written by busy Geography teachers so it is critical that you check through each of the exams your end before giving to students – maybe even try the exam yourself to make sure that they make sense.

Level 1 mock exams can be found at this link

Level 2 mock exams can be found at this link

Level 3 mock exams can be found at this link

The 2021 scholarship exam can be found at this link

All the exams are presented as Word documents for ease of editing (adding school crests and so on).

Note: If you are having difficulty accessing these exams through your login you might not have paid your subscriptions for 2021. Please contact us if you have any concerns/comments.

Practice EXAMS will be available soon

The AGTA exams are written and will be uploaded here in week 10 of this term! Exciting!

We will have the following assessments available for download:

•       1.1, 1.2, 1.4

•       2.1, 2.3, 2.4

•       3.1, 3.2, 3.4

•       Scholarship

Remember to subscribe/become a member to get access to these examinations and many other handy resources! If you are having issues accessing the website please contact us by using the email address below:

Ngā mihi nui,

AGTA committee

The Power of Geography

Promoting geography in your school for 2022?

This is from the introduction to the book The Power of Geography by Tim Marshall (page viii). Might be useful to use some of this to help with your promotion of Geography – the most relevant and useful subject!

Read the book – it’s super interesting.

The other book by Tim Marshall – Prisoners of Geography is great reading too!

Feedback from PHASE 1 of the RAS

The feedback for Phase One of the Review of the Achievement Standards can be found here. [All subject feedback can be found here]

For each subject, the phase 1 materials included:

  • Learning Matrix
  • Assessment Matrix – indicative standard titles, credit weighting and mode of assessment – ie internal or external
  • Web text under the Teaching Learning and Assessment tabs
  • Course Outlines – between 1 and 3

The feedback identifies areas that need clarification and refinement before the SEG moves into developing the phase 2 materials, which include the Achievement Standards, the internal Assessment Activities, and further detail in the web text under the Teaching Learning and Assessment sections of the website.

What is Mātauranga Māori

Mātauranga Māori is a modern term for the combined knowledge of Polynesian ancestors and the experiences of Māori living in the environment of Aotearoa. The term takes many forms, such as language (te reo), education (mātauranga), traditional environmental knowledge (taonga tuku iho, mātauranga o te taiao), traditional knowledge of cultural practice, such as healing and medicines (rongoā), fishing (hī ika) and cultivation (mahinga kai).

In a traditional sense, mātauranga Māori refers to the knowledge, comprehension or understanding of everything visible or invisible that exists within the universe.

How did mātauranga Māori develop?

Early Māori had a culture based on oral lore. Māori knowledge was passed on in this way from one generation to the next.

Early Māori culture was based on oral lore and had a justice system based on chiefs and tohunga (the knowledge experts). Such experts were chosen from an early age and educated within wānanga (learning institutions) to remember vast amounts of knowledge. The knowledge of the hapū (tribe) and iwi were entrusted to these experts, who would then pass their knowledge on to future experts. The way to memorise such a volume of complex material involved using a whakapapa (genealogical) framework. Whakapapa is used to explain genealogies and taxonomies, to create categories and families of flora and fauna and to describe environmental and life issues. The example below describes the whakapapa of different stones and their grouping:

From chaos sprang Papatūānuku, the Earth mother. Then Papa-matua-te-kore, the parentless, appeared. She mated with Rangi-a-Tamaku. Their firstborn was Putoto, whose sister was Parawhenuamea, the personified form of water. Putoto took his sister, Parawhenuamea, to wife. She gave birth to Rakahore, who mated with Hinekuku, the clay maiden. Hinekuku gave birth to Tuamatua. Tuamatua was the guardian of the different stones and gravel found on sea coasts. The younger brother of Tuamatua, Whatuaho, typified greywacke and chert. Next came Papakura, the origin of volcanic stone…

Retaining understanding in this way has enabled Māori knowledge to be passed on from one generation to another. This body of knowledge arises from the experiences of Māori living in the environment of Aotearoa. Many people have realised that mātauranga Māori contains potentially useful knowledge, for example, about utilising and preserving the environment.

Twitter Challenge for the end of term

Give students a series of photographs and ask them to create the best “tweet” on the various topics.

Maximum of 140 characters. Use post it notes and post them on the classroom windows or on the whiteboard or somewhere to get other students thinking about geography.

You could do it around the theme of work you have been doing in class recently OR on some geography in the news topics that have come up over the term OR something you want them thinking about over the holiday break ….

I love doing this in the last few days of term – the students like it and they especially like doing things with hashtags



Geography class: Inside the ‘Covid Triangle’: a catastrophe years in the making

Click to read the article below and then answer the questions:

Inside the ‘Covid Triangle’: a catastrophe years in the making

  1. Where is the ‘covid triangle’ and why were the odds stacked against the area when the disease struck? (Include reference to rates of child poverty, the informal economy, multigenerational households)
  2. Explain how government policies since the 1980s have contributed to economic and health inequalities.
  3. Explain how racial discrimination has contributed to higher covid cases in parts of London.


Teaching ideas and resources for the Geography teachers of New Zealand