Illustration 2: Teaching geography for a better world


The aim of this illustration is to make strong links between the Australian Curriculum: Geography (and HASS) and teaching geography for a better world. Extracts from the curriculum and discussion papers on geography's role in teaching about and improving futures, provide these links. 

Geography has a global dimension that enables young people to learn about their local area, their region, their country, and the wider world. It is through understanding the interrelationships between 'local', 'national' and 'global', and how these have changed over time, that students can make a difference. An activity linking current topics in the geography curriculum and probable and preferable futures is also provided.

Classroom application

Geography has great relevance in teaching for a better understanding of our society and environment. It is this understanding, as well as having empathy for people in the world, that is necessary if students are to contribute to improving our world. The knowledge, skills and values developed in geography can be used to improve the world through social and environmental action, and through a contribution to action about contemporary community concerns.

David Hicks has written a number of articles that will enhance your appreciation of the potential of this approach. You can download PDF copies from his Teaching for a better world website –

Key links in the Australian Curriculum: Geography (and HASSS)

Attachment 1 summarises key elements of the Australian Curriculum: Geography that demonstrate why geography is well-placed to promote a better world.

The following activities will help you to scaffold students' understanding of the potential of geography to affect positive change in communities. These activities can be undertaken as a class, in small groups or independently.

Student activity: Possible, probable and preferred futures

Many topics in the Australian Curriculum: Geography (and HASS) involve proposing action that may affect the future. These topics include:

  • the use of renewable and non-renewable resources
  • the need to provide clean and sufficient water for all people
  • the impact of climate change on local and regional places
  • the problems of transport and related traffic congestion, air pollution and urban development
  • consumption of the earth's resources, loss of biodiversity and water pollution
  • urban growth and its impact on human and environmental health
  • poverty and wellbeing for the world's people
  • intensive farming and its impact on land degradation, soil protection and water conservation
  • the impacts of tourism on places.


Your teacher may ask you to work with the whole class, in small groups or individually.
Use the information on the next page to think about the future of the world and its water. A number of characteristics of a future 'world water scenario' are provided.
Your tasks will involve thinking about and describing:

  • possible futures
  • a probable future
  • your preferred future for the world and its water.

A number of questions and other information are provided to help you consider the topics in depth.

World water scenario


  • the world's population continues to grow to a predicted nine billion people by 2050
  • climate change shifts precipitation (rainfall) patterns around the world
  • the amount of water available in arid places becomes critical and many countries are under water stress
  • underground water supplies become depleted due to over-withdrawal.

1. Think about and describe the different 'possible futures' based on this world water scenario.
2. Now describe what you think a 'probable future' on world water will be, based on this scenario.
3. Finally, describe what your 'preferred future' on world water will look like:

  • How will you choose which is your preferred future?
  • What are the key features of your preferred future on world water?
  • What action is needed in order to bring about your preferred future?
  • What action can you take to contribute towards your preferred future?
  • What might be the role of governments, corporations and other businesses to help bring about your preferred future?
  • How might the following people have a different view of the future of the world's water and why?

– a middle class child in London
– a homeless person in New York
– an unemployed worker in Beijing
– a farmer in northern Australia
– a desalination plant worker.

Questions for discussion

  • How and where in the Australian Curriculum: Geography (or HASS) do we encourage young people to think more critically and creatively about the world in which they live?
  • In what context can you imagine using a set of scenarios to teach geography for a better world? What would be the focus of each scenario?
  • How does geography contribute to a critical understanding of the notion of sustainability?
  • What types of action are required to bring about change for the future?
  • Does education for sustainability need to be improved at your school? How can geography contribute to this?

Questions for reflection

  • How does a study of geography enable students to think more critically about alternative futures?
  • How important is it to provide positive future scenarios to solve geographical issues?
  • How does the development of different scenarios help geography students to think about alternative and positive futures?
  • Outline the ways that students can be provided with an awareness of the need for present choices to reflect preferred futures.
  • How can the cross-curriculum priority of 'sustainability' be used to help identify preferred futures for a better world?

Books and articles:

Hicks, D. (2011). A sustainable future: Four challenges for geographers (PDF 137 KB). Teaching geography. 36 (1), pp. 9-11. Retrieved May 2019, from:
Hicks, D. (various). A range of articles on the theme of teaching for a better world. Retrieved May 2019, from:
Towards a National Geography Curriculum for Australia Committee, Australian Geography Teachers Association Ltd, Institute of Australian Geographers Inc. & The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland Inc. (June 2009). Towards a National Geography Curriculum for Australia. Retrieved May 2019, from: