Collins Blog features 'Extreme Survival'

'Extreme Survival' is featured on the Collins blog this month, and will apparently be in a Book of the Month feature soon.

My new Read On book, Extreme Survival, provides some guidance for those who might find themselves in life-threatening situations, along with a recounting of a number of dramatic real-life stories from around the world. Young readers will lover reading about the gripping near-death experiences of adventurers such as Joe Simpson, who crawled for six snowy miles with a smashed leg before reaching his climbing partner’s camp.

Some of the most famous stories of battling against extreme odds are linked with the Polar regions of our world. Sir Ernest Shackleton’s famous boat journey to South Georgia after his ship sank still inspires people today. Robert Falcon Scott and his men, in common with many explorers at the time, chose to put their lives at risk in the name of science and exploration. Read On’s other book about our dangerous Earth, Race to the Pole, vividly retells their fateful ‘race’ against the Norwegian team, led by Roald Amundsen. Scott’s tale, which sadly didn’t have a ‘happy ending’, will surely be remembered and told for centuries to come.

The Aral Sea continues to shrink away...

A classic GCSE case study I used to teach every year...

Mt. Ontake

Until the weekend, it's likely that few people in the UK had heard of Mt. Ontake.

It is a volcano on the main island of Japan, close to the city of Nagoya. It's the second-highest mountain in the country.
The area is popular with hikers
At the weekend, over two hundred people were on their way up the slopes of the volcano when, on Saturday morning it erupted without warning. This resulted in a pyroclastic flow and ash falls, as well as other debris raining down on people.
The various news networks reacted quite quickly, as did the social media networks which were full of pictures, and also other tweets.
The Guardian has put up an impressive and dramatic series of images.
It also reported on Sunday that sadly there were about 30 people who had apparently succumbed to the eruption, after rescuers bravely reached the area close to the summit.

Several schools may well be mentioning this today as it's a topical story.

Throw in some video from the current and ongoing eruption of Holuhraun, and perhaps a mention of this story from the Franz Josef glacier and it's a reminder of the need to take care with many physical environments...

New on Spotify - probably not for long...

Latest reading...

In the hunt for a book to read with the Year 7 groups, I came across Marcus Sedgwick's book 'Floodland', which came out in 2000, so is not a new book by any means.

The bonus is that the book is mostly set in Ely: an island again after global warming has caused the Polar ice caps to melt. The cathedral has become a refuge for the remaining residents, and they are led by a boy called Dooby who makes his home in one of the side chapels... perhaps this one shown with a copy of the book. When the book's heroine Zoe arrives, she finds a place of intrigue and fear, but is determined to escape and find her parents...

Coincidentally, in a few weeks' time, we have Marcus' brother Julian coming in to school to talk to students.

An engaging and readable book.

Japanese Ageing Population Map

Japan has been in the news this weekend due to the eruption of Mt. Ontake (of which more to come later), but this is a longer term problem for the country: the rapid ageing of its population.

Keir Clarke shared this map which shows the ageing population of Japan.
You'll need to opt for the translation if you want to understand it.

In the same week, we also had some new figures on the number of centenarians and those in their 90s in the UK, and they are fascinating figures. Over 15 000 people in the UK are apparently now over 100 years old!


Not geography-related necessarily, but you only have 4 days or so left to catch the wonderful movie about Neil Baldwin on iPlayer.... you have to see it... thank me later...

Everyone Counts

A very useful resource aimed at connecting Geography with some numeracy skills.
It has been produced by Oxfam, and is called Everyone Counts.
Aimed at 8-12 year olds.

Everyone Counts is an engaging resource which supports key elements of the maths curriculum. Using real-life data about children living in four countries around the world, pupils will develop their skills and understanding of topics such as time and data handling.

The resource also explores how inequality affects the lives of children in different parts of the globe.

Discovering Galapagos

This is a new resource from the RGS-IBG, who previously brought you the chance to Discover the Antarctica and also the Arctic. (Both being resources that I contributed to)
Galapagos is the new focus for the society.

This resource is aimed at Primary age as well as KS3, and has some useful KS2 materials for teachers to use.

It has been produced by the RGS-IBG in association with the Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT)
Click the link for the special day on the Galapagos islands.

The website is really attractively put together and has some nice interactive mapping and other information on this amazing place.

Grow your own glacier

Splendid work by Garry Simmons shared earlier this month, and finally blogged about.
You will need a few props and bits before you get started, but this apparently works a treat for modelling the way that glaciers grow or retreat.
Check it out on Garry's 'Serious Geography' blog here.

The Music of Geography

Another splendid classroom resource from Simon Jones...

Dan in the Independent...

There was some amazing coverage of the Greater London National Park* and Daniel Raven Ellison's work with students from Queen Mary University of London in the Independent and the i newspapers today.
Each one had several pages devoted to an item on the plans for the park. A great description of Dan's work, and the birth of the Geography Collective.

This is an excellent bit of coverage for the idea of an urban national park. I'm going to try to get some more educational materials on the site as soon as I get a moment.
This article alone is a great resource.

You can also sign up for an event on the 24th of February 2015 where this will be discussed...

* - a notional park

You can read the articles online of course, as it's a little too late to get a paper copy now unless you head out rather quickly...

"Lines and lines and lines and lines and lines...."

What do they mean ? As Tubbs asked...

Any Ordnance Survey map has lines.... grid lines...

A consultation is coming to an end next week, to ask users of OS maps about a proposed change to the way that information is displayed on maps.

This from Gemma on the OS Blog...

We’re considering changing the overlay showing latitude and longitude markers on Ordnance Survey paper maps. This would mean moving towards the overlay showing latitude and longitude used on GPS devices, to help bring digital navigation devices and paper maps closer together and work more in harmony. We believe this would have little impact on the majority of users of our paper maps; however, we would like your opinions on this change to ensure we fully consider all options and impacts before we make a final decision. If you would like to share your thoughts on how this would affect you, complete our short survey by Friday 3 October.
Most people use OS paper maps for location – either they want to know where they are, or where they want to get to (or even where they’ve just been). Once you have an OS paper map in front of you, there are a couple of ways of identifying the location you’re after – you can use National Grid, or latitude and longitude.
In Great Britain, the National Grid is the map reference system used on all Ordnance Survey maps to identify the position of any feature. The National Grid breaks Great Britain down into progressively smaller squares identified first by letters and then numbers.           lat-long-1
Latitude is generally understood as your position in relation to the equator, which is 0o, and the distances you might be north or south of that line. Longitude is generally understood as your position in relation to the ‘Prime Meridian’, which for Great Britain (and much of the rest of the world) is sited at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. This is also 0o.                                 lat-long-2
Each of these methods will help you to pinpoint and find a location on a map.
To make life a little more complicated, the Earth is not a perfect sphere – it’s a bit squashed at the poles, so it bulges around the equator – this shape is called ‘ellipsoid’. This can impact on how location is calculated; various interpretations have developed as geographers adapt latitude and longitude calculations to best fit the ‘ellipsoid’ in their part of the world – these are ‘datums’.
Ordnance Survey’s work in Great Britain uses the “Airy 1830 ellipsoid” to underpin the representation of latitude and longitude on OS paper maps, as this best fits Britain. However, in recent years, more and more map users are starting to use GPS devices, which operate on a datum with a wider geographical reach than just Great Britain. The datum that underpins GPS is called WGS84, and through sheer volume of usage is starting to become the default datum.
To support this increasing usage of GPS devices, OS are considering options that could help bring digital navigation devices and paper maps closer together and work more in harmony. Such an option could be the changing of the overlay on paper maps from Airy 1830 to WGS84.
It’s important for us to stress that this is NOT a change in the base map datum or the National Grid, which remains the Transverse Mercator Projection on the Airy 1830 ellipsoid, but it would result in a change in the datum of the latitude/longitude overlay only, adjusting where the latitude/longitude markers fall on the OS paper maps. For OS Landranger Maps, this movement may be as little as 2mm.
We realise that this is an important change to how our paper maps are presented, so we want to find out what the impact of implementing this change might be to you, the users of OS paper maps. The link below takes you through to a short survey of seven questions – please complete the survey and let us know how this might affect you if we were to move ahead with this change. The survey window closes Friday 3 October 2014, so please send your thoughts to us before then.

Obama on Climate Change

Here's President Obama from earlier today with a useful quote:

Flatford Mill Fieldtrip

Spent the weekend at Flatford Mill, working on the GCSE Geography fieldtrip... and generally coughing my guts up...
Here are some preliminary photos and more to come...
Reports and other information for those who came along on the Geography Teaching blog - also an ESRI StoryMap in preparation

6th Form Curriculum Planning event

George Budd at the Sir William Perkins' School in Chertsey has posted about an event he's organising which might be useful for some of you thinking about forthcoming 6th form changes.

If anyone is interested, in order to help schools discuss creating a new 6th form curriculum, I am organising a Heads of Sixth/Directors of Studies conference on 5 December at SWPS in Chertsey. Absolute bargain at only £25 for the day to cover food etc.

Speakers are:
Mary Curnock Cook (UCAS), 
Barnaby Lenon (ISC Chairman of and on the board of OFQUAL), 
Alice Phillips (GSA President), 
Paul Teulon, Director of Admissions, Kings College London, 
Isabel Nisbet, Executive Director, The A Level Content Advisory Board (ALCAB), 
Natasha Porter, Deputy Head of Education Unit, Policy Exchange, 
Harriet Becher, Lead for GCSE and A Level reform, DfE.

If you want more details please email George (or ask whoever does this in your school to email him) on

Details obtained from SLN Geography Forum

Anatomy of an Earthquake

A new resource which is narrated by Professor Iain Stewart, and has been created in collaboration with NERC...
A great little resource

Details here:
A Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) film exploring the anatomy of an earthquake. What happens when a seismic hazard deep beneath the Earth's surface meets a vulnerable population above? And as people around the world continue to flock towards urban centres, how can our mega-cities prepare for the looming threat of a direct seismic strike?

Presented by: 
Professor Iain Stewart (Plymouth University)

Created by:
Shadow Industries 

Written by: 
Professor Iain Stewart (Plymouth University)
Luke Wilmot (Shadow Industries)
Tony Gilbert (Shadow Industries)
Alex Peel (NERC)

With thanks to:
Dr Susanne Sargeant (British Geological Survey)
Dr Roger Musson (British Geological Survey)

Created in partnership with the British Geological Survey and the Earthquakes Without Frontiers project.

Update on previous London National Park* post...

You can now follow the new set of Queen Mary University of London colleagues who are temporary 'Park rangers', and who are going to be exploring all of the boroughs of the city as part of the Reimagine London project.
Follow the Twitter feed for more details over the next few weeks...

New RGS Resource on Mapping London

A resource I wrote in the first few weeks of the summer holidays is now up on the RGS-IBG website.
There's plenty of scope for it to be expanded, as new maps emerge. Let me know if you spot other relevant resources...

Queen Mary University and Greater London National Park

Earlier in the year, the Greater London National Park* was launched, the brainchild of Daniel Raven Ellison.
The website was launched, along with a petition which at the time of writing now has over 1000 signatures. The idea has been gaining a lot of support and we now have a large number of 'friends' who are supporting the idea.

Earlier today, I read about a very exciting project which teams Dan with Queen Mary University of London's Geography department.

This will involve undergraduates working to explore the city, and is described below...

This ‘Reimagine London’ project is a collaboration between the School of Geography and guerrilla geographer Daniel Raven-Ellison who is campaigning to have London designated as a national park. Acting as park rangers, the students will visit each of the capital’s 33 boroughs in groups and report back on their findings. Their explorations will be the basis for an exhibition of their work in the School of Geography at its Mile End Campus and then at City Hall in October.
Professor Catherine Nash has been leading the development of the project. “We wanted to get our new students out in the field as soon as possible to get to know London, get to know each other and to explore ideas and places in lively, imaginative and practical ways,” she said. “Their work will contribute to a debate around how people think about, enjoy and take care of this city, as well as help foster those special fieldwork skills common to geographers and environmental scientists. This is an important element of their studies and our location in east London puts us in the perfect position to research a whole host of geographical issues. We have Britain’s second-longest river running west to east across the capital, huge disparities in wealth and power in the city, and all kinds of local and London-wide initiatives engaging with environmental and social issues.”

* - a notional park

Also, congratulations to Dan for completing his StepUp challenge to climb the height of Mt Everest within London earlier today....

Landscape Haiku Instructions

Created for a cover lesson.

Geography Teacher Educators' Conference 2015

This is a very useful event for those who are interested in straddling the research - pedagogy border, and also meeting up with colleagues who currently train new teachers.
An event I have attended and also presented at about four times previously...

2015's GTE is being organised by Roger Firth of the University of Oxford, and will take place in a hotel on the edge of the city in the last weekend of January.

You can see details of the conference (and also previous conferences, along with presentations from the presenters) on the GA page.

A few details below:
The 2015 GTE Conference takes place from Friday 30 January to Sunday 1 February in Oxford.
Professor Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography and Fellow of St Peter's College, University of Oxford is Friday evening’s guest speaker and will presenting a lecture entitled 'The difficulties and rewards of talking to school children about inequality in one of the most unequal countries of the rich world'.

Woodland Walk

Took the time to head to the Common yesterday to avoid a large pile of marking that was staring at me... Managed to get a few nice autumnal images, but it's also a reminder to get out there if you can, away from your desk and screen and take in the changing seasons...
Ideas for teaching about Landscapes with Year 7 were forming in my mind too...
Not quite Daniel Raven Ellison-esque exercise proportions, but a good hour and a half's pootle nonetheless....

Image: Alan Parkinson

New 'AS' and 'A' Level Geography Subject Content

This has been released by the DfE
You can download a PDF copy here.

There are 4 CORE themes for knowledge and understanding, and there is an ongoing consultation, which you are running out of time to have your say - the consultation closes in a week's time.
Check out what the RGS-IBG have to say here.

My Voice - My School

The latest impressive project from Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop and the team at Digital Explorer.
My Voice My School has been working in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria to connect children there with children in the UK.

There are classroom resources and other multimedia materials on the website.

Check it out....

Pole of Cold at Turner Contemporary

Regular readers will know of my involvement with the Pole of Cold expedition earlier in the year. I wrote the educational materials that accompanied the trip made by Felicity Aston and colleagues to the Pole of Cold.

The exhibition of impressive images that accompanied the return to the RGS-IBG is now going to be shown at the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate through the winter.
This is a good connection with the central question for the expedition which was asking the question: 'What does winter mean to you ?'

Industrial location discussion point

A Week of Geography

I'm grateful to Simon Jones for creating this resource.
Each daily slide will be placed into the Hotboard in my classroom each morning...

Sharing is Caring

A post that I wrote was featured in Martyn Reah's Sharing is Caring series on his blog this week.
Entitled 'Shoulders of Giants' it repeats a message which I have been talking about for at least ten years, and which underpins most of the work that I have spent inside and outside of classrooms for a quarter of a century (which sounds a bit pretentious now it's written down, but is the truth...)

It's a reminder that every teacher needs support, and that can come from various sources, but it has to keep coming....

It also made it to the Echo Chamber blog....

Check out the other blog posts in the series. Plenty of great advice...

Secret Messages Project

I was contacted by Peter Humphries from Sir John Nelthorpe School in Brigg, North Lincolnshire this week, who wanted to being my attention to the Secret Messages Project

Amongst his other roles and talents, he is Vice President of the Midlands National Flying Club 
The Royal Racing Pigeon Association were looking for a project, and the MNFC had already developed a Flying Back to Nature campaign. 
Peter's school was looking for different cross curricular projects to commemorate WW1. 
The government was also trying to promote enthusiasm for cryptography in schools. 
Secret Messages was a perfect time to bring together both organisations and an opportunity to create a commemoration event for WW1.  I have placed the website in My Resources on the TES website and had arranged approximately 100 visits so far and had excellent feedback from staff. The project has been requested in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland in recent weeks. The humble homing pigeon carried vital secret messages in both WWI and WWII. The project is completely FREE for schools to book.
How the Secret Messages project using homing pigeons operates.
  • Pupils place their message into a canister and learn how to attached to the pigeon’s leg.
  • Pupils are taught how to hold the pigeon and then release their bird from an experienced pigeon fancier. Soldiers would have had to learn this skill.
  • The homing pigeon is released and sets off for home carrying the message back to the code breakers at Kingsmead School.
  • When the bird arrives home the message is taken from the canister and the message is decoded as fast as possible by a team of code breakers. 
  • The decoded message, the original coded message and with a series of challenges suitable to the ability of the pupils are emailed back to the organising teacher at the school. 

The pupils have to describe the homing pigeon’s journey from their school back home to their loft at Kingsmead School. Each school has a presentation and the Google Earth image and elevation profile with key landforms or places added. We could attach GPS to the pigeon and record some examples of the difference between the straight-line and their actual routes home. The pupils are given challenges to work out the speed of the journey.
There are opportunities to research famous WW1 and WWII homing pigeons which won the Dickin medal. 32 our of the 65 medals were awarded to homing pigeons (PDSA). 

The project is apparently free to schools, and you can book a time in 2015 to get involved.

The Old Harry Song

 Loving the effort that has gone into this...

Dan on LondonLive

Earlier today, I introduced two Year 7 groups to Dan Raven Ellison's StepUp Mountain Challenge.
He's in London, climbing the height of Mount Everest using steps inside some of the tallest / historic / most interesting buildings in the capital...

13 years ago today

I came home from work to a news story that changed the world...

Discussing it earlier today with some students who have American parents. A reminder of the global connections that exist, and even more so in a school which has a strong international focus...


Thanks to Jane Dyson from the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford for getting in touch and telling me about a resource that she has been involved in creating, called LIFELINES.

Here's the message from Jane:
I have produced a short (15mins) video portrait from a village in the Indian Himalayas, where I have been conducting research for over a decade. The film, 'Lifelines', tells one man's story of struggle in his remote mountain community. It focuses on the rapid social and economic change in the region, including the increasing availability of, and thirst for, education. I am hoping that the film might be of use to secondary school geography teachers.

The film can be viewed at:

I have worked with a number of teachers to produce a lesson plan and other teaching resources to accompany the film in the classroom (probably at K4/5 level). These resources are no available on the Lifelines website in the Resources section ( ) 
This section of the website also contains a shortened version of the film (10mins), for those teachers who require a faster paced piece for classroom use. 

This looks like it would be useful for a range of GCSE and 'A' level Geography contexts.

Thought for the Day

Via Alex Quigley

GA Magazine

The Autumn 2014 issue of the GA Magazine is now available to download from the GA website by members.
As always, it has a range of really useful articles on GA projects, and other items of Geographical interest. There's a full page article on the work that we do at my school to develop Global Learning.
And a very useful Webwatch column as well.
Just one of the many benefits of GA membership.

Going Places with Geography

A refreshed area of the RGS-IBG website is now up and running.
It deals with careers, and where Geography can take you, and also the further study of Geography after school.
There's a rather splendid poster that you can download from the site and display in your department.

Don't forget the materials that I wrote while working for the GA too: Careers in Geography.

What keeps the world awake at night ?

A very useful starter for considering RISKY WORLD style discussions...

Out next week...

2nd edition of the iGCSE textbook and teacher guide supporting those teaching the Cambridge iGCSE Specification.

Several months of my life went into the production of these books, and good to see a 2nd edition being released... I've blogged about these before several times.

UK EdChat - top tweeters

UKEDCHAT #ukedchat has created a list of what they are calling their community's Favourite UK Educators on Twitter.
There was a similar list earlier in the year, which I was very pleased to appear on, and I'm delighted to say that I'm also on this
See the list and the rest of the article HERE.

Thanks to anyone who nominated me for this list.... much appreciated.

Follow me on Twitter @GeoBlogs

5* for 'The Ice Man'

A nice 5* review for my Ice Man book on Amazon from Matt - available from some good bookshops... and online retailers...

A super book that hooks young geographers natural enquiry skills and takes them on a journey that covers climatology, science, technology, natural hazards, glacial processes and of course stimulates a natural curiosity in adventure. A superb resource for young learners or EAL and contains a number of activities that cover literacy and geography. I have used the text as a basis for a cross over project between the history and geography department down at the International School of Toulouse. More information can be found in the Year 7 section of the geography teaching site 'geographypods' and on Alan Parkinson's Living Geography blog.

Also check out my 'Extreme Survival' book

Geography with Mr. Gunn

Link HERE if the above doesn't play in your browser...

Thought for the Day

Quality Street

Congratulations to those schools that are finding out the results of applications for Primary and Secondary Quality Marks and Centre of Excellence Awards from the Geographical Association.
As in previous years, it was a privilege to be on the moderating team to decide whether schools met the criteria.
I will also be working through the next few months to produce a bank of support materials for those schools who are in the latest cohort. Think about applying - walking into my classroom and seeing the CoE certificate gives me a lift every morning.
If you want to apply, visit the GA website to find out more - but not right this very moment as it's down for maintenance...
Or search this blog for PGQM or SGQM