Jan 272015
 

I’ve been teaching Year 8’s about coal mining.
To find out how coal is extracted, the class recreated modern long wall mining techniques, summarised in this illustration from UK Coal (who produce some excellent resources by the way)

136634

Props included all the tables in the classroom, most of the chairs and deployment of the students in various roles as development tunnellers, coal face workers and some extremely scary recreations of the collapse of the roof behind the coal face which can’t really be mentioned in public. Apparently our department isn’t doing enough active learning (whatever that is) or group work – yeah? well we were all underground when you “dropped in” weren’t we?

Students also drew “living graphs” to describe the rise and fall of the coal industry. One objective was to get students to consider the social and economic impact of pit closures. I found that the video to Rewind the Film by the Manic Street Preachers fitted the lesson perfectly. The narrative is both simple, and haunting and led to some really good discussion questions. The video would work well for illustrating a variety of post-industrial geography issues at GCSE and A level as well.


Here’s to former colleague and Manics fan Dave Harris who got a number of mentions during the lesson. Hope things are going well back at the coal face ;)

What’s that? More you say??

Dec 262014
 

Back in 2009 I created a visual resource for GCSE students to illustrate the urban redevelopment of part of Exeter’s CBD. The case study perfectly fitted the AQA GCSE syllabus and proved very popular, but a recent change in the Google Maps API broke the linked maps.

Now that Google have helpfully provided the Google Views service that supports photospheres I’ve been able to improve the resource. I’ve also taken the opportunity to go through the pages updating links and trimming the student task. The panoramas are not as high quality as the originals and they lack the embedded hotspots but at least they now work with Google maps again. Click the image below to go directly to the linked photospheres of Princesshay or head over to Juicy Geography to find the updated resource in its entirety.

constellation

For AQA spec A the relevant parts of the Changing Urban Environments syllabus are:

Housing – the attempts to satisfy the increased housing needs of the population in different parts of the city.

Traffic – impact of increased use of road transport on the environment and solutions aimed at reducing the impact.

Revitalising the image of the CBD by improving the physical environment.

Recently I have used the presentation below to introduce and recap the case study…

Sep 072014
 

During the summer holidays I had some contact from Bob Harvey about the Geograph project.  Back in 2005, I really saw the value of the whole idea, but then along came Google Street View. Bob’s message inspired me to revisit the site and add some photographs that I’ve taken in the intervening years since I first joined. Most of my contributions are of locations that a Google camera will never get to see…


photo credit

As term time approached, I started to thinking about some ways that I could try and incorporate Geograph images into more lessons. Here’s a list of some ideas:

1) Teaching copyright issues

2) Lessons on landscapes – based on the ideas of Alan Parkinson and this resource from the Tate and resulting in work like this. One of the learning tasks in my SoW gets students to imagine a recipe for the British landscape and this could be suitably illustrated with a Geograph photo.

3) Overlaying map symbols directly onto Geograph photos in PPT (I need a copy of the OS symbols as individual png files with transparent backgrounds. If anyone has done this already, let me know!)

4) Recognising urban zones / different kinds of land use and general photo annotation practice.

5) Imagining the Geograph view using sketches (as it might have looked in the past / the future)

6) Drawing a sketch map based on solely on the view in a Geograph photo.

For my new Year 8 groups I decided to just rip the entire Geograph idea off and create a mini version for the local area. The idea is to get students to think about how to describe places using geographical terminology and link features with maps. They will use their phones to take an image from the local area. This will be uploaded using a form (Jot Form is perfect for this) and they will add location information using Digimaps. Finally they will describe the features of their photograph and the project will hopefully result in a nice piece of display work. Who knows, some might even contribute their work to the Geograph site!

Here’s the outline of the lesson:

Apr 082014
 
Two boys surviving winter in Norway in a small wooden hut

Connor (Year 9)

NorthoftheSun

I first came across this extraordinary independent film at the 2014 Banff Mountain film festival. It’s won countless prizes and awards and deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. It’s downloadable at Vimeo on demand from this link. The teaser pretty much sums up the plot line…

I was curious to see how the film would be received by students of different ages and took the opportunity of an enforced absence to set it as cover. I set three simple tasks to complete after watching:

1) Where’s the geography? (Why do you think you are being shown this film?)

2) What questions do you have after watching it?

3) Sum up the film in a sentence

Collating the key words from the responses to the first question highlighted interesting variations in the way the film spoke to different year groups. Despite evidence to the contrary, Year 7  have not done any work on recycling, although the landscape project is still fairly recent in their collective memories and we did make reference to Svalbard at the start of the year. It does look as though they’ve been exposed to a degree of “greenwashing” (though hopefully not in my lessons.) Year 8 on the other hand, did weather last term, and clearly thought that the film was being shown for that reason. Year 9 have just finished a unit of work on development which included a reference to Bhutan’s slogan “Gross National Happiness is more important than GNP”  so I was very happy to see several students reflecting on the film’s references to quality of life vs standard of living.

Year 7

7nots

Year 8
8nots

Year 9

9nots

Responses to the second question were perhaps more predictable, with many students asking somewhat disappointingly what the two characters were trying to “achieve”. It’s quite telling that few students seem to be able to conceive of outdoor adventure and fun being an end in itself. Encouragingly, several wanted to know where the beach was located, which is slightly more encouraging and would make a good piece of detective work. (I found it in about 15 minutes on Google Earth)  More interesting was the student from year 8 who wondered if they could have managed without mobiles and a supermarket.

As a potential offering for the four word film review site, Ellie from Year 7 managed to be the most concise with…

“Surfing til dawn”

and Kathleen from Year 9 offered…

A truly amazing winter

nots

I’m certain that there’s a great deal of potential learning to extract from this wonderful film. Despite the prevailing orthodoxy, occasionally there is a strong argument to be had for not splitting films into bite sized chunks, and instead just give students the chance to be captivated. Whether the theme is landscapes as part of a “fantastic places” – type unit, the impact of latitude on weather and seasons,  a comparison place study, or extreme tourism at GCSE, the film has a lot to offer. I suspect it could be a good precursor for introducing the John Muir Award into a school.

If you do discover the location of the beach – do keep it a secret. I might even see you there next summer!

North of the Sun on Vimeo