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Cross-curricular primary geography

‘We need to ask not just what geography can do for other subjects, but they can also do for geography. In other words, where the “meaningful overlaps” are; the places where learning in one subject strengthens learning in the other.’ (Ballin, 2019)


There are two ways of viewing cross-curricular geography:

  1. How geography can be learned through the delivery of other subject areas.
  2. How other subject areas can be delivered using a geographical theme.


In either case, a high-quality geographical experience can only occur if geographical skills and knowledge are at the core. This may seem obvious, but it is easy to lose sight of even the most robust and explicit geographical learning objectives while trying to spin other subject plates as well as those pertaining to wellbeing, values, assessment, classroom management etc. The list is a long one.


‘To be effective, a cross-curricular approach must both maintain the integrity of the subject and achieve a high level of geographical learning. Lose the academic vigour and direction and you soon find that what is being taught in ‘topic’ on a Wednesday afternoon is part of a “Julie Andrews curriculum” where teaches focus on a few of their “favourite things”.’  (Iwaskow, 2019)


Geography is a broad subject spanning the arts and sciences, and as such can provide the perfect starting point for a well-planned and well-implemented topic, concept-based, integrated, creative or thematic curriculum. All of these approaches can provide opportunities for amazing learning across all subject areas, as well as the hidden curriculum of values, attitudes and personal development, and they can all be driven by real-world geographical themes. The use of pupils’ personal experiences of places, awe-inspiring ‘experts’, news items or exciting global sporting events such as the Olympics, enable learning to become embedded in pupils’ memories because of the meaningful links to their interests and authentic real-world issues.


‘Topics can build on pupils’ natural curiosity about the world at a range of scales, from the local to the global. Topics can relate to pupils’ everyday experiences in their valued places, like the park; their passions for reading music or sport; the people and places they are fascinated by, in real and virtual localities’ (Pike, 2019)


The largest section in Leading Primary Geography is dedicated to ‘integrating geography’, where the value of geography as an ‘umbrella’ subject is expanded on. There is also a wealth of articles written around cross-curriculum learning in Primary Geography; the table below links to some good examples. Primary Plus members can download all articles from the Primary Geography back-catalogue for free.

Subject areas Title and link Overview
Music Moving music Charlotte Knight reports on a small-scale study that explored whether music can be used to challenge stereotypes that pupils might have of distant places
History A changing settlement Alf Wilkinson explores a Lincolnshire village through time, and demonstrates how we can combine history and geography to help pupils make sense of change and continuity in a local village or town
Art Exploring settlement through architecture and art Iain Burns and Dr Anne Dolan explore the links between architecture and geography, and offer ideas on using architectural principles to develop pupils’ awareness of the environment


Climate change A climate change assembly Henry Greenwood offers a plan for an interactive assembly on climate change designed to promote and motivate pupils into positive action for the future
Writing + Writing the flood Gordon Maclellan describes how he helped year 5 and 6 pupils to make sense of a local, destructive, weather event and to create a lasting memory of the event in their own words
Sustainability Sustaining school gardens Sam Woodhouse looks at sustaining interest in sustainability when it comes to the long-term maintenance of a school garden
Art Where vandalism becomes art Paula Richardson explores where the boundary between graffiti and street art lies
Cross-curricular Where can the Naughty Bus take us geographically? Chris Trevor starts a journey into playful geographies through the use of story


Cross-curricular 30 ways to get started Arthur Kelly offers 30 ways to help your pupils learn about the world they live in
Cross-curricular 30 things to do before you are any age… in a city! Ben Steel suggests 30 ideas to get you started with exploring and discovering our urban landscapes


Cross-curricular Adapting geography through topic-based teaching Hina Hussain offers practical examples of how adapting geography through a topic-based approach can support and develop the delivery of high-quality teaching of the subject
Global learning Global Learning: a cross-curricular approach Andrew Christie details how one school incorporated the Global Learning Programme into its curriculum and how it will continue to explore global themes as it adapts to life after the GLP
Drama and history Intertwined stories: making sense of Europe Chris Cooper and Nicky Easey with Ben Ballin explain how one school brought together drama, history and geography as a means of exploring the complex issues involved in the EU Referendum


A note on outdoor learning

It is easy to label any trip out of school as ‘geography’, even if it is to a museum to study the historic rise and fall of the Celts. However, there must be meaningful geographical thought and action and all trips  provide a great opportunity for this. For example, for such a museum trip:

  • discuss the route from school
  • speculate why the museum is located where it is and what is nearby (transport hubs, large population, similar services etc.)
  • consider the functionality of the building and the other services it provides
  • use or even create a plan view map of the building – pupils might also reflect on what they would add, replace or remove from the site.


This is all before you get to the ‘academics’: what influence did the physical landscape and climate have on the way Celts dressed, sheltered, farmed and used natural resources such as iron and bronze, and do we how is life today governed by similar restrictions?


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