Friday, 27 March 2015

Africa Solo

Between August 2007 and February 2008, Mark Beaumont cycled solo around the world, smashing the Guinness World Record in the process.
His former Geography teacher: Val Vannet and I were following virtually, and together (mostly Val) and I tracked Mark's journey around the world in the GeoBlogging with Mark website.

Mark has taken part in further journeys since: cycling the length of the Americas and climbing Denali and Aconcagua, rowing, and other charity events, along with the recent journey following the Commonwealth torch.

Mark is currently training for his next, and perhaps one of his greatest, challenges.
This Daily Record article tells the story of his journey.
He is going to try to cycle 6500 miles from Egypt to South Africa in just 50 days.

Follow on the Africa Solo website and with the hashtag #africsolo

He’ll pedal through deserts and over mountains, enduring temperatures of 40C, navigating some of the most dangerous places on Earth and risking attack from animals and humans.
And each night, after cycling 150 miles, he’ll have to find a place to rest and ensure he gets his daily intake of 10,000 calories – without booking ahead. If not, he’s sleeping in the tent.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Why not come and work with me - a chance that doesn't come around very often...

A chance to do just that has appeared, and the added bonus is that you get to be my Head of Department at King's Ely school, and work with my amazingly talented colleagues in a GA Centre of Excellence department.

For full details, read the information here.

You can see some of the work we've been getting up to on my teaching blog and we have some very exciting things planned for the next year. We have excellent facilities, great results, and are a very popular option choice within the school. I'll be working with you, and co-ordinating the lower school Geography at KS2 and 3.

Apply early as we're expecting a lot of interest. 

Good luck!

University of Southampton Fieldwork Course in July...

For the last few years, the Ordnance Survey has collaborated with the University of Southampton and other partners, including Goldsmiths Company and the Met Office to offer a week long course for teachers who are in mid-career and would welcome a refresher on fieldwork skills and other updates in inspiring locations.

This year's course is not quite the same as previous year's events, as there are fewer excursions, but this strengthens the local focus in the area around Southampton and the coast. There is a day spent at the Ordnance Survey.

It's important to register soon as this trip is:
a) very popular and
b) only £50... which is a deposit to secure your place... you get the money back at the end and all your expenses are paid for during the week-long course, and...
c) there are only 20 places

I might actually apply to go along myself this year, as I have broken up by the time the course starts.

Details below:

Based at the University of Southampton, this course provides teachers with an opportunity to learn how to plan and run high quality fieldwork experiences. The course provides hands-on experience using the latest technology for data collection and analysis in two different fieldwork settings, including practical training in analysing results using geographic information systems.
The University of Southampton's physical geographers are currently engaged in addressing such geographical questions using a variety of innovative and cutting-edge research techniques. These academics will share their expertise, experiences and innovation with school teachers through this course.
The course includes a day at Ordnance Survey where teachers will visit the remote sensing and cartographic departments and to gain an insight into the geographic data industry and career prospects within it.
The objective of the course is to increase teachers’ confidence so candidates are likely to be those who have little or no experience of leading fieldwork, but who are greatly interested in building their personal capacity to improve what their school presently offers to students.
Attending the course will provide geography school teachers with the skills and resources to appreciate leading-edge advances in the discipline, allowing them to pass on that knowledge, enthusiasm and expertise to a new generation of geographers in schools.

How to apply

Complete the application form and arrange for a countersignature by your school. Enclose with a covering letter that explains in no more than 500 words why you believe attending this course will be of particular benefit to your teaching career and a cheque for £50*.
*The £50 booking deposit will be refunded on completion of the course. Delegates must fund their travel costs to attend the course at Southampton. All tuition, accommodation, food and travel during the course will be provided free.

Application and Selection

Applications will be reviewed as and when they are submitted (until the deadline of 31st May 2015) relative to the selection criteria. Applicants will be informed within 2 weeks whether they have been successful in gaining a place on the course. The course is limited to 20 places so interested applicants are advised to discuss with their school as early as possible and put in an application.
Priority criteria for selection:
• Secondary school teacher - must be specialist geography teacher
• Priority to GCSE / A level teachers currently delivering to these year groups
• Candidates are likely to be those who have little or no experience of leading fieldwork
• ONE teacher from each school
• Must teach in GB school

Aims of the course

- To provide teachers with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with the latest tools and techniques for data collection in the field, with its analysis and interpretation.
- To give teachers an insight into how the Ordnance Survey collect and enhance geographical data to underpin complex forecasting and decision-making.
- To ensure teachers return to school equipped with knowledge of new tools that can contribute to raising standards of geography teaching in their school.
- To engage with leading academics to inspire teachers to raise the aspirations of their A level geography students, and provide encouragement to those who are considering a BSc in geography at university.
- To provide an outstanding Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunity. This course provides 10 points towards the 35 annual points required for Chartered Geographers.

Programme for the course:

Monday 13th July 2015- Welcome from 1pm. Introduction to Geography at Southampton over lunch followed by fieldwork planning workshops.
Tuesday 14th July 2015- Forest fieldwork in the New Forest to include a river study, with follow up on GIS
Wednesday 15th July 2015 - Visit to Ordnance Survey
Remote sensing (aerial photography); Cartography; GI insight, update on resources for schools and introduction to GeoVation.
Thursday 16th July 2015 - Coastal Fieldwork at Hants/Dorset border, with GIS follow up
Friday 17th July 2015 – Optional visit to the National Oceanography Centre (NOCS)
Summary of course and farewell lunch. Depart from 1.30pm

This course is designed to be flexible. We recommend that you attend all of it, but we recognise that teachers may find it challenging to obtain permission for absence for the full week. Therefore we will accept candidates who can only attend Tuesday to Thursday inclusive. You will gain a great deal from informal evening discussions, but to make this family friendly, local teachers may choose to attend as day delegates.

GA Conference Teachmeet

The first ever GA Conference Teachmeet precedes the Beermeet, and is going to be held in the Great Hall of the Sackville Building from 6.45pm on Friday the 10th of April.

Nibbles and refreshments are sponsored by Discover the World Education.

You can go to the website now and sign up as a lurker / spectator, or even better, sign up to do a 6 or 7 minute presentation... Tell us about something that you've tried in the classroom...

At the time of writing, these are the presentations that are 'confirmed':

1. David Rogers.  Creativity Glasses (@davidErogers)
2. Alan Parkinson. The day I met Bernard Clark (and other stories) (@GeoBlogs)
3. Jen English - Using P4C (Philosophy for Children) in Geography (@Jennnnnn_x)
4. Matt Podbury - Collaborating not Competing' - Cross curricular projects with history (&maths) @mattpodbury
5. Paul Berry. "Mr B's Magical Mystery Matrix" - Geography Smorgasbord (@unicorn4275)
6. Bob Lang. " Geography challenge board" (@BobLangGeog) 
7. Richard Allaway. "Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things"  (@richardallaway)
8. Jo Debens. Bill Shakespeare was a Geographer.  Literacy in Geog. (@GeoDebs)
9. Chantal Mayo-Hollaway and Sandy Patterson '10 Years of teaching Geography: where we've been and where we're going.' @CMOGeography and @sandyzpatterson
10. James Hannam - Using Technology and Gaming for Geography - @LRNMKR
11. Andy Knill - Global networking (@aknill)
12. John Sayers (@JOHNSAYERS) - Generation Mapping your community 
13. Tim Jefferis (@tjjteacher) - Collaboration, curation and doing away with paper...
14. Rebecca Willis

GA Conference Beermeet

I met with my HoD: Claire Kyndt this lunchtime to talk through the lecture that we are doing at the Geographical Association Conference on the 10th of April.
Here's the details for you:

DateFriday 10 April       
Time: 13.50-14.40          
Session number: Lecture 6
Title of session
The impact of the ordinary: the story of a geography department
Room type: Lecture Theatre      
Room allocated: D7

Once that's over I have to head over to do the plenary for the double workshop being organised by the GA's Secondary Phase Committee and led by Bethan Harries. 

Then I have a meeting of folks from the GeoCapabilities project.

In the evening there's the 4th or 5th annual BeerMeet. Here's this year's poster, designed by Richard Allaway, with an original illustration by the redoubtable Tom Morgan Jones.

See you there....

Saturday, 21 March 2015


I'm leading a session on engagement in Leeds on Monday.
Also doing something on fieldwork and technology.

One of the activities is to share what has worked in terms of engagement (whether short or longer term, and for some reluctant learners or whole groups) with students.
Created this hexagon sheet using Russel Tarr's hexagon creator tool as a resource.

Have any of these worked for you?

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

A nice BBC Future interactive showing various points on the journey down from the surface towards the centre of the Earth.

Eclipse timelapse

Via Richard Allaway

Questionnaire for students from Geographical Association...

Please ask your students to fill in this questionnaire.

Responses will go towards guiding some of the work of the association, and feed into the conference next month in Manchester.

Thought for the Day

What's in your basket ?

I've blogged about this before, and it's always an interesting cultural change.
In order to calculate the consumer price index a basket of goods is selected that represents what many people are currently buying in large quantities. This means that the items change to reflect what people are currently purchasing, and reflects cultural trends as a result. 
For example, streaming music services have replaced other ways of buying music, and similarly various foods wax and wane in popularity over time.

This year, e-cigarettes were in... and sat navs were out for example.

Would be a nice starter activity - what was in and what was out this year...

Office for National Statistics released a useful infographic, which shows some of the changes over the years.

And a more historical one:
What makes up the basket of goods infographic
Infographic by Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Friday, 20 March 2015

The Urbanists' Guide to the World

The Guardian has a range of bloggers based in cities around the world, who share stories from their location.
This is a useful resource for those looking for interesting urban stories, as many of them are very geographical in nature.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Poldark Country

I've blogged before about how TV programmes and film locations can be linked to specific landscapes and areas of countryside. I did my degree in what was called 'Last of the Summer Wine' country at the time, and remember seeing it being filmed once. There's also 'Heartbeat' country, near Whitby (I visited the 'Royal' over the winter) and also the impact of 'Game of Thrones'.

The latest programme that people are talking about is Poldark, and there is a useful list of locations on the BBC website.
The local Visit Cornwall site also has some useful information.
Here's one of my images of Cornwall.

Image: Cornish Rock Pools, Alan Parkinson

Here's a picture of Aiden Turner to finish...

Ranulph Fiennes swapping cold for heat...

Ranulph Fiennes is famous for travelling in the world's cold places, particular his Transglobal expedition, which took him to both Poles.

Later this year, he is going to swap the cold of the Poles, which featured in his latest book (which I used extracts from with Year 8) for the heat of the Sahara desert.
He is going to run the Marathon des Sables: a long distance run which will take him through sandy desert terrain.
A good focus for those exploring deserts and desert landscapes.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Thought for the Day

Enquiry and challenge based learning should play an important part in the geographical curriculum, where pupils are driven into corners where they have to be hard on the information that they have collated, or that they are given to work with. “What does it actually mean?” “What does this mean that we have to investigate next?” “If this is the case then what should be done here?” are memes of geographical enquiry. Sometimes this leads to important conclusions and sometimes it sends pupils back to the drawing board, but life’s like that.

Andrew Lee

From the article which starts on p.44 of the latest SATIPS Prep School magazine. (PDF download link)

Another good reason to watch Countryfile on a Sunday...

Study Geography !

Sunday, 15 March 2015

2 years on from Rana Plaza...

Regular readers will know that I have been involved with the work of the Follow the Things project for some time now.

This is a project based at Exeter University, which started with the work of Professor Ian Cook, exploring global supply chains, trade justice and the stories of the things that we own and consume.

One of the associated projects that explores this area is Fashion Revolution Day.

We are approaching the 2nd anniversary  of the Rana Plaza tragedy and a timely pack of materials has been produced to help teachers and students think through its significance and the wider question of 'who made my clothes?' That's the question that FRD is asking this year. Last year there was one pack for everyone. This year they have made packs for primary, secondary, FE and University students/staff.

The education materials can be seen and downloaded at this page.

There are Top Trumps cards to be made as part of the activity, exploring the impact of globalisation.
Ian Cook writes about using the cards here.

We will be using the materials at my school with Year 8 in some format.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Thought for the Day

"Consider things and you will have humans. Consider humans, and you are by that very act interested in things".
Bruno Latour, 2000

San Andreas - the new Dante's Peak ?

Risky World Infographic

A lovely piece of work by Tobias Jolly....

Click for biggery...

RGS-IBG Fieldwork Masterclasses

The annual RGS Learning and Leading opportunity for teachers is now being advertised, and teachers who qualify would be advised to take a look.
A colleague of mine went on one of these weekends a few years ago and found it a very valuable experience, in providing her ideas for fieldwork and developing her skills in that area.

Robert MacFarlane discussion

I went to UEA earlier in the week to see Robert MacFarlane in conversation, discussing and reading from his book Landmarks. It was part of the Norwich Literacy Festival.

I've blogged about the book previously with an early review, and also the long association with Robert's work and Geography since 2003 and 'Mountains of the Mind'. I've used it as inspiration for a number of projects over the years.

It was a chance to hear Robert read from the book, and talk about his personal inspirations and the process of creating it, starting with a trip to Lewis and the discovery of a glossary of peat moorland terms.
The section he read has an important message about landscape and the difficulty of writing about it, particularly when it was so apparently uniform.

There was also a reminder of the phrase mamba, which I've used before ...

I didn't take notes but preferred to listen. As Robert said, if he was to take notes while on trips that would be a barrier between him and the landscape, although memory could also be a barrier.

A few things that stood out.
a) he was asked about the political nature of environmental writing, with links to the work of Marion Shoard, and Oliver Rackham also getting a mention. He said: "my direct action is my teaching and writing..."
b) he talked about his work with school aged students through the charity Action for Conservation
c) he developed some of the ideas in the final chapter of the book about the language of children, which he called 'Childish' in the same way as 'English' - the way that young people experience the landscape is obviously something that is very much connected with the teaching of geography with young people
d) lots of praise for J.A.Baker's 'The Peregrine' - I imagine a lot of people will read the book as a result.
e) He described the link between language and landscape.
Reminds me of the title of something I wrote for the Ordnance Survey in 2009.

He talked about his favourite words being hummadruz and also a Gaelic phrase describing the shadow of moving clouds on the landscape...

He also closed with a reading from Landmarks describing a trip down a tunnel. His next book is going to be
about the underground landscapes beneath our feet.

A nice way to spend the early evening.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Sad news...

“Geography is just physics slowed down, with a couple of trees stuck in it.”

RIP Terry Pratchett

Remember buying 'The Colour of Magic' 30 odd years ago and loving it... A unique perspective on the cosmos and the geography of Discworld.... Got a signed copy of 'The Last Continent' somewhere too....

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Robert MacFarlane

Off to see Robert MacFarlane later today at UEA

Will be blogging my notes...
In the meantime, here's Robert talking about his new book...

Fukushima 4 years on....

From The Guardian

London Geography Alliance

I found out today about the London Geography Alliance.

It's a support network for geographers and geography educators, funded by the Mayor of London's school excellence funding.

I was interested in the amount of funding involved...

Project Lead: Institute of Education Project Title: London Schools Geography Alliance Subject: Geography Key Stage: 1,2,3,4 Grant Awarded: £136,440 Project Description: The project will establish the London Schools Geography Alliance; a unique combination of primary and secondary school teachers working directly with teacher educators from the Institute of Education, academics from London’s leading university geography departments and other geography experts. Project Outputs Schools Teachers 36 in 36 boroughs, including Brent, Enfield, Hackney, Hillingdon, Lewisham, Richmond, Wandsworth 

The London Geography Alliance aims to:
  • Engage teachers in an on-going relationship with the discipline such that they deepen and build their geographical knowledge about how the world is changing.
  • Bridge the divide between schools and universities so that new knowledge and ideas are made available for teachers to use and lecturers have a better understanding of geography teaching in schools.
  • Provide a network of subject-based support for primary and secondary teachers to share ideas and resources.
  • Develop new schemes of work and resources geared towards meeting the demands of the new national curriculum, GCSEs and A Level.
What we do:
  • The LGA organises workshops and fieldtrips focused on particular areas of the geography curriculum, identified by teachers as areas in which they would like support. Led by university lecturers, education specialists and teachers, workshops/fieldtrips aim to engage teachers in discussion about new ideas and ways of approaching aspect of geography. This is done through a combination of lectures, discussion and practical activities in which teachers play an active role in identifying curricular priorities and what is possible in the classroom context.
  • We also organise workshops to support teachers’ planning and implementation of the curriculum.
  • Workshops and fieldtrips contribute towards teacher Continuing Professional Development.
  • If your department would like support with a particular area of the geography curriculum or you have an idea for a workshop feel free to contact the LGA with your request.
  • If you would like to become a member of the LGA and participate in future workshops please contact us.
Tessa Willy – Director of London Geography Alliance (primary schools)
Dr Alex Standish – Director of London Geography Alliance (secondary schools)
The website has a range of resource headings, some of which have content added.

And a reminder of our request for help with the Greater London National Park - scroll down a little to see our online form...

Tectonic Plate StoryMap

StoryMaps are being used to tell the story of a whole range of geographical ideas.
I like this one which shows the way that tectonic plates move, interactively.

Well worth using with a whole range of students.

Monday, 9 March 2015

World Meteorological Day events at Leeds University

World Meteorological Day 23rd March 2015 exciting weather-related activities for KS3, 4 and 5 – Free!

Celebrate World Meteorological Day with us! Your students can find out about the science behind the weather from interactive demonstrations, and get the inside story from one of the people who made a BBC documentary in an airship. Details below. If you would like to stay for a full day bring a packed lunch. Campus tours can be arranged on request.
For more information and bookings go to our website:

All Aboard the Cloud Lab: Crossing America in an Airship (KS3, 4 and 5) 23/03/15 (11:00 – 12:00)
Cloud Lab Scientist Jim McQuaid explains the science behind the stories from the TV series, and shows some of the amazing things that never made it onto the screen.

Weather and Water: Demisting the science of our atmosphere (KS3)23/03/15 (13:00 – 15:00)
Celebrate World Meteorological Day with the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science! This interactive session will allow participants to investigate the many processes that make our weather.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Danny Dorling and Ben Hennig on Inequality

Two further resources relating to the changing inequality of the UK have emerged this weekend, produced by Danny and Ben, and of interest to those wanting up to date resources on this growing outcome of severn years of austerity.

The Observer included a useful article today on the new analysis of Census data.

There's also now a new area of the LondonMapper website, with an interactive looking at Poverty and Wealth in London.