31 Aug

Map of the Week: Back to School

By Katie Anderson

It’s summer, July has been the hottest month on record, and yet despite the heat, large signs loom everywhere: Back to School Sale. But how can this be? It feels too soon! Meanwhile, one’s definition of “too soon” back to school can vary greatly depending on geographic location. 

A Pew Research Center study conducted in 2019 found that the first day of school varies greatly depending on where your school district is located. The study found that some school districts start as early as July 23-August 2 while others don’t start until after Labor Day (the first Monday in September). The majority of schools surveyed start at some point in the month of August. But why is there so much variation in the first place? 

It comes down to historical precedents based on the needs of different regional communities. Agrarian cycles are oftentimes cited as the cause of summer vacations. However, this explanation fails to explain how children would be in school during the spring planting and fall harvest seasons. In reality, the cause of summer vacation is more closely rooted in the goal of standardizing school schedules between rural and urban regions. 

Climate is also a major factor in the development of the school system. Prior to the invention and standard usage of air conditioning systems, some urban families (specifically those of wealth) would leave urban areas and travel to the less densely populated countryside where temperatures were cooler for the summer months. As a result, there were fewer children around to attend school during the summer. 

So, whether you’ve been back in school for weeks, or just about to start up again, best of luck this school year from AGS!



This year, the American Geographical Society’s Geography Educator Initiative is offering AP Human Geography teachers across the United States a chance to enhance their students’ learning with GeoBoost. Through the GeoBoost program, we will provide 60-70 teachers with $300 grants to purchase geography or geospatial-related activities or resources. It’s easy to apply, and your odds of being selected are high!

We are eager to see the new geographical ideas and experiences you bring to your classroom. Applications open September 5th!