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

Connor (Year 9)


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


Year 8

Year 9


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


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


Feb 072009

I don’t own a pocket video camera, relying instead on a combination of a very old digital compact camera, a web cam (which has now been stolen) and the built in iSight video on my Macbook to record classroom goings-on. I am totally sold on the idea of students making videos, indeed its an essential teaching strategy that can result in very deep learning indeed. Equally, using a conventional video camera with a tripod and fiddly controls, followed by hours of editing large files can be quite demotivating.

The advent of pocket video cameras such as the Flip means that video is a much more accessible teaching tool. The specifications of simple one button recording, direct usb connection and instant editing with onboard software all sound very appealing. My Head lent me her personal Flip this week giving me an opportunity to evaluate it’s usefulness and practicality..


The Flip

For the first test I gave the camera to a student, with instructions to film the important parts of the lesson. I chose an individual who usually finds learning quite frustrating. The experiment worked very well – the only instruction I gave was to “press the red button and point it at anyone who speaks”. I was very impressed with the results – the student made a brilliant job of recording the important detail, and even began adding a narration. In fact the footage will make a good teaching resource, and has provided me with some useful feedback on some of my more irritating classroom mannerisms!

Friday, being a snow day, was an opportunity to test the camera in a fieldtrip scenario. Heading into the Blackdown Hills for the morning, I made the following short film:

Snow Day from Noel Jenkins on Vimeo.

I think the resulting footage is quite acceptable for use in the classroom. The light was low, it was cold and snowy, but the camera performed very well. It was easy to carry in one hand while snowboarding. Although there are editing facilities in the Flip software, on this occasion I dropped the footage into iMovie for a quick edit.

I’m definitely hoping that eventually we can budget for a class set of Flips at school. I’d be tempted to get the HD version for my personal use, but the Mino version I used is perfect for students to create and edit their own films.

Here’s a related post on 60 second film-making

Finally, don’t forget the brilliant collaborative presentation on pocket video cameras in the classroom –  lot’s of inspiration and still growing.

Oct 122008

Every so often, a perfect day’s surfing reminds me of my overwhelming good fortune to have moved back home to the South West. While many of those I shared waves with today are driving in an exhausted state back up the M5, I’m eating cakes at home.

Local creative-type Richard Gregory is waiting with a supporting film crew, and cast of local surfers, for the ideal weather window in which to complete his One Day film project and capture the essence of North Devon in a 24 hour period of film-making and photography. There’s a teaser below, and lots more information about Richard’s many (unfinished) projects at his Wave Dreamer site.

Richard’s surf films are completely removed from the generic offerings of the industry – the surfing is infused by the sense of place. It would be even better if he ever finished one;) He describes my world in intricate detail. I can’t wait for One Day to be finished – today would have been a good day for the filming.

One Day involves 24 hours of filming. The Geographical Association’s My World in 60 Seconds project is challenging students to make a film that’s just a minute long. I hope to inspire some of my students to have a go. It’s not a competiton, but the best films will be shown on giant screens in city centres around the country.

My World in 60 seconds

My World in 60 seconds

Finally, some other recent news from North Devon – maybe the hardest traditional rock climb in the world. If you ever get the chance – go and have a look at Dyer’s Lookout and contemplate James Pearson’s achievement!

Oct 012008

Here’s my entry for the One World Film competition organized by the ring leader of the particpatory geography movement in UK secondary schools Dan Raven-Ellison. Not a great production by any means, but I loved the concept of 60 second films to explain a point, and would really like to to get more of my students making short films for their own (and the wider community’s) benefit. Although I made the film several months ago, I can finally show it in a lesson since Year 11 are about to embark on a coasts topic.

Extreme Geography: Perfect waves from Noel Jenkins on Vimeo.

Some Year 10 students showed some short films they’d made about Dubai today. I was really pleased to see how far their editing skills have progressed since Year 9. I noticed that some of the students had discovered BBC Motion Gallery independently, though no-one had actually done any original filming. How I would love a few Flip DV cameras for my classroom!

Flip web site

David Rayner has recently explained on the SLN site that the BBC News School Report represents a great opportunity for KS3 Geography students to develop their investigative and reporting skills. What better motivation to get students into short film making?