Basic Geography: What's a Place?

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Part 2: Place to Place

The Egypt example had Egypt being a place where the Pyramids are. The Pyramids are a man-made thing. A place can also be a nature-made thing. An example is America's Grand Canyon, which is both a thing and a place. Another example is Mount Everest.

In each of these cases, the place is where the land is so very different from its surroundings that it deserves a name all its own. The Grand Canyon is a very deep hole surrounded by tall cliffs. Mount Everest may be surrounded by high mountains, but it is the highest mountain on Earth. Because the Grand Canyon and Mount Everest are so different from their surroundings, we give them special names and call them places.

How do we tell one place from another? With Mount Everest, it's easy. It's the tallest mountain on Earth, so everyplace else is a different place. Anything that is not part of Mount Everest is a different place. In a sense, the mountain itself is its own boundary.

A boundary is a line, visible or invisible, that marks the outer edge of something. When you play soccer or baseball or basketball, you have out-of-bounds lines that some people call boundary lines. The playing field is inside the boundary lines. The soccer field or baseball field is a place because it has boundaries.

The same can be said for cities and countries and continents. The city of Beijing has boundaries that the Chinese people have set up. If you start in Beijing and travel over the boundary line, you have traveled to another place. The same is true for Egypt and Africa. Cross the boundary line and you're in another place.

You can even apply this to your yellow house. If you step outside your house, you're in the back yard or on the sidewalk or the street. You are in a different place. Live in an apartment building? Walk outside. You're no longer in the building where you live, so you're in a different place. You're still in Beijing at this point, so you're still in the place that is Beijing. But you're outside, so you're not in the place that is your house.

The place is a basic unit of study for geography. Geographers compare places or tell how to get from place to place or measure coordinates of places (like latitude and longitude). Once you understand the concept of place, you're well on your way to understanding geography.

First page > Defining a Place > Page 1, 2

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