Congratulations to Val Vannet

Picked up via my Facebook page today that my friend Val Vannet was today awarded the highest education award from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society: the Joy Tivy Education Medal
It's only been awarded six times, the last time being in 2013, when some other bloke won it.

It's awarded for:

exemplary, outstanding and inspirational teaching, educational policy or work in formal and informal educational arenas.

Val retires later this year after many decades of inspirational teaching, and also leading the development of the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers and developing their conference. An invitation to the SAGT in 2006 was the first time I met other colleagues who've guided my thinking over the years, such as Ollie Bray, and helped lead me on the path which took me to work for the GA, and also help with the prime period of networking through SLN.

This award is very well deserved, and thousands of students and colleagues have benefited from Val's skills and generosity. This is a significant piece of good news for Val, and many of the posts on this, and other blogs, have drawn on her work.

Now in stock and available to buy from the GA

BBC Live Lessons

BBC Live Lessons are a new development, which I became aware of a short while ago.
At the moment, there are no geography specific ones, but it seems to me that Geography is a subject that this interactive format was made for. There's one on the Battle of the Somme taking place next week.
Worth taking a look to see what's there...

British Red Cross

Working away today on 3rd draft of a new resource for British Red Cross on the Nepal earthquake. You can sign up for details when it becomes available here.

New OS map - created by Custom Maps service

We have a special new map in the Geography Department, which was made using the Ordnance Survey's Custom Map service. This has been around for some time now, and allows users to create maps which are either flat or folded, with a title and image of their choice. I've got one centred on my village which I won in an OS competition.
We ordered one at the weekend and it arrived within a few days - very quick service. The map is centred on King's Ely, which is great because the school sits right at the edge of the actual map sheet, so it's not very easy to see the surrounding geography. We'll be using it for our new Fentastic Geography unit in the Michaelmas term too.

Why not order one for your department?

Ben Hennig's referendum cartogram

It was good to spend time with Ben Hennig at the GIS Day that we hosted at my school on Tuesday, and has been blogged about here (with more posts to come)
I was expecting Ben to produce a map of the referendum results and he has delivered as expected.
He describes the map as follows:

The following map is a cartogram that shows the electoral areas from this referendum resized according to their total number of people entitled to vote. In addition, the vote share for leaving and remaining is shown in differently shaded densities, using blue for the remain votes and red for the leave votes (which complement each other to 100% of the valid votes)

Image created by Ben Hennig and shared under CC license - click for a bigger version

Sigur Ros Route One

This was occupying me earlier in the week. It's a promotional film for the new music by Sigur Ros, and was a 24 hour long continuous trip around the ring road which runs around Iceland. I watched it for the first few hours on and off, and the vehicle headed on familiar roads in the SW of the country close to Iceland. When I woke up, it had moved round to the East and the landscape was more rugged and the road surface poorer.
This was a wonderful way to spend a few hours listening to the continuous music… and watching Iceland roll by.

And last night, I watched the hour long live stream of the Sigur Ros set from the John Peel stage at Glastonbury.

Emma Bridgewater and the CPRE

A lot of houses have Emma Bridgewater designed pottery in them. She is about to be announced as the new President of the CPRE: an organisation that has featured on this blog many times over the years. In this Telegraph interview piece she describes some aspects of her views on the Rural landscape.

It is a small country. It is all of our backyards. With increasing numbers of us living in cities then the need to be able to walk out into unspoilt country is all the more crystal clear.
The population is going up - we really, really must be very, very intelligent about how we develop and be mindful of the irreversible nature of development. We will be hated by our grandchildren if we get this wrong.

Geographies of Food and their origins

Food comes from somewhere... Earlier today, I discovered that the apples I'd bought were from China.
There's plenty on Geography of Food that has been explored with Year 7 this year.
Amazon has now launched into the food delivery business in selected parts of the country.
Will be interesting to see how it develops once it launches in the UK.
We're already planning some changes to the geography of food unit for the new year.

The Brexit vote may be connected here too.


A few posts this week about a potential geography of festivals unit. I already have a fab one written by the Woolvens, and was also reminded of my trip to Glastonbury 40 in 2010, the year when it was hot and dry and there was no mud...I was there to work with friends from Mission:Explore and loved spending time with them.
Here's a good British Geological Survey post with map about why Glastonbury gets so muddy, something that the BBC also picked up on.

The location is worth exploring perhaps in Google Earth or similar? It's a bowl and water drains down into the bottom, and 170 000 pairs of feet doesn't do much for the soil structure. Some great tweeted images to capture now while you have the chance.

Thinking of putting this back into Year 7 curriculum for the coming year. Also found an old Collins Update I wrote for the KS3 textbook series that was shelved while I was working for the GA, on the links between Geography and Music - lots of exciting ideas there.

Last night, I watched the live stream of Sigur Ros, which was excellent…
Click the map below to see 'the geography' of Glastonbury 2016….

Living the Geography of #Brexit

So, we're all LivingGeography and this week potentially changed history.

A lot of coverage on social media, and some maps and demographic data are emerging to connect with a range of geographical themes.

Most geographical concepts are tied in to the idea of connectivity and interdependence, and it's difficult to see the advantages of uncertainty after years of recession and austerity which have certainly affected me negatively in many ways. The origins of the referendum, the campaign, the use of emotive 'promises' on the NHS, the drop in the value of the pound and economic impact and the link to migration had a certain inevitability about them. I was interested to speak to colleagues at work who had voted for either side, and the reasons they'd given. It's difficult to see how globalisation and the movement of people across the world will be changed in a positive way by the potential upheaval to come. It was also ironic to see Cornwall asking for reassurances that it will still get funding to support it - without EU money there would have been a lot fewer opportunities over the last decade - and yet the people of Cornwall voted to leave. There's a big park in Ely that was funded with EU money, and doubtless those little EU flags and plaques explaining funding are in lots of places if you choose to look for them. Time to revisit this perhaps.

Where I live, there was a strong leave vote, and as I came home from work yesterday, somebody was actually drilling holes for mounting union jacks on the tops of the gate posts either side of their drive. Where I work in Fenland, the vote was also strong to leave by 3 to 1.

The BBC has shared a range of useful infographics.

A few relevant tweets from the thousands I noticed over the last few days:

And this from David Blunkett

And finally, a map shared on ArcGIS Online
And a discussion topic from Russel Tarr, and a link to a petition which is (at the time of writing) up over 1.3 million signatures.

I'm off to Salzburg and the Alentejo region of Portugal in the next 3 weeks… will be interesting to see the reaction there…

OK, as you were, back to resources and ideas for teaching now...

Liam Dutton's Weather Explainers

We've had some weather over the last few weeks, and plenty of rain has fallen… there's been a lot of flooding on the local train services into London, and local roads have been affected too. Just hacked down the jungle that was my lawn.

Liam Dutton is a weather presenter and he has put together a series of short YouTube videos explaining particular aspects of our weather, such as lightning (which has been in the news for the wrong reasons this week) -- check the videos out here.

King's Ely GIS Day as part of the GI Learner project

I'll write more at the weekend, but a public thanks to Darren Bailey from the Ordnance Survey, Paul Turner from Bedales School, Jason Sawle from ESRI UK and Ben Hennig and Tina Gotthardt from the University of Oxford for coming and presenting at the GIS Day that we hosted at King's Ely today. Thanks to colleagues from the school for catering, welcoming guests and sorting the ICT.

Here's a Storify of a few tweets that I posted on the @KingsElyGeog Twitter feed… feel free to follow us.

We started the day by watching some of the amazing Sigur Ros Route One film that was playing at the time…

And we also had a personalised video message from Joseph Kerski of ESRI, a truly legendary GIS professional….

6500 posts...

Up over 6500 posts now.... phew....  thanks for reading...

Emoji annotation task

This is really rather good...

10 years of the Edexcel Ning

Over ten years ago, while working as a Head of Geography at a school in King's Lynn, I came across the Ning platform, short for Networking. It offered a free (at the time) platform which had the features of all sorts of other sites in one:
- bulletin board for discussions
- chat room
- hosting of image galleries
- hosting of videos, with embed codes
- numerous groups with membership
- profile pages

Documents could be attached to discussions and this allowed for a community to develop, which could chat, share ideas and join groups around sub-themes.
I built a Ning to support 6th form students and it worked well - in fact I did my first teachmeet presentation back in 2008 on Nings.

In June 2007, faced with the changes that were coming at 'A' level, we opted for Edexcel as the most forward thinking of the new specifications. They were introducing new ideas for the time, including ideas such as Rebranding Places, and a unit on Cultural Geography. We were teaching the OCR Pilot GCSE Geography at the time, and so the Edexcel spec was the best follow on for a forward thinking and creative department like the one I led at the time. I had a background in supporting teachers through my GeographyPages website, which was still getting many thousand of visitors a day. I didn't want to have to resource and prepare a whole new 'A' level course by myself over the summer, so I started a NING called New Edexcel Geog.

The NING is now, I've just realised, 10 years old!
It's been a decade of teachers helping other teachers.
Thanks to Jon Wolton for funding the NING for the last 6 years or so.
There are over 4300 members now.

And thanks to anyone who has ever shared a resource, or joined a discussion.

We're now preparing for the New New EdexcelGeog from September 2016

Beside the seaside

A few images from a visit to Hunstanton for a Year 7 fieldtrip yesterday.

The making of a National Park city

This event is now available for booking, and is the next stage in Daniel Raven Ellison's concept of London as a National Park City.
Read more about it here.

I'm hoping that we might be able to get some students to attend...

26 years ago today...

I am told that when men hear its voice, it stays in their ears, they cannot be rid of it. It has many different voices: some happy, but others sad. It roars like a baboon, murmurs like a child, drums like the blazing arms of one thousand drummers, rustles like water in a glass, sings like a lover and laments like a priest...

One of the greatest pieces of music ever was released.. apart from the final few minutes when Janet Brown appears...

What a lovely thing to hear

Thanks :)
Here's something I wrote a few years back...

Hunstanton 3D Gallery

Interesting idea and nice execution - this where I'm going this week with Year 7s…
Shared by Russel Tarr on his ClassTools site. 
Thanks to Russel for fixing a bug too...

Home by the Sea

Last week I drove through the village of Holme-next-the-Sea, near Hunstanton, but this is not about that.
There's also this track by Genesis, with a very literal video accompaniament...

But it's not about that.

This piece in the Guardian refers to the Cornish town of St. Ives which has plans to have a referendum on second home ownership.
The plan is to reduce the number of second homes in the town. It refers to the term 'financial cleansing' which refers to the pricing out of local people by the soaring house prices in such tourist honeypots.
Similar settlements have lost their identity a little, as in 'Padstein', or Padstow.
However, there are other views on the value of this sort of development and how rebranding can turn around the fortunes of a town.
Going to be exploring this in more detail over the summer... 

The Loss of Lostness

The Loss of Lostness

This is a programme on the BBC RADIO 4, which attracted my attention with its connection to the work of Rebecca Solnit, and the idea of technology keeping us always located...
Here's the details of the programme from the website:

"Let's Get Lost..." croons Chet Baker, harmonising with his own trumpet. It's a recording made in the 1950s, at the high-water mark of jazz, that improvised and meandering art form. Taking his instruction from Baker, Stephen Smith sets out on a journey.

But he knows he has a difficult task. Getting lost is getting harder. Modern technology can almost guarantee that we'll never be lost again - in cities, encyclopaedias or record shops. Many of today's teenagers have never been lost, either literally or metaphorically. We've been given wifi-enabled omnipotence. But, Stephen asks, "What's the fun in that?"

In the company of other longing-to-be-lost souls, Stephen turns off his GPS and explores the joys of mooching about, taking a wrong turn and stumbling upon an unexpected delight.He has some rollicking encounters along the way. Stephen's attempts to deliberately disorient himself lead him to Hampton Court Maze where he meets a man - incidentally also called Smith - who claims he was clean shaven when he went in. He goes on a Sunday drive - remember them? - with design guru Stephen Bayley where they reminisce about "the Proustian pleasure of a packet of cheese and onion...on an absolutely futile drive". Via Virginia's Woolf's great essay on getting lost, "Street Haunting", he goes to see Graham Gouldman of 10cc. The idea of getting lost strikes a chord with Gouldman. There's lots of messing around on guitars. Gouldman talks about getting lost in the record shops of his youth, relives the writing of their greatest hit "I'm Not in Love", and in the end pens a new song to lostness. Stephen asks Graham what he might do with it. A week later a fully recorded version arrives in Stephen's inbox - and he hits play...

We do like to be beside the seaside

Preparing a field trip to Hunstanton in June with Year 7 students which will take place in less than a week's time now.
We are going to be exploring the town, and what makes it special…
We will be looking at the notion of the seaside and place. We'll be doing a few geographical activities including field sketching and looking at wave action.
Earlier in the term, I asked colleagues and other people that I know on Facebook to tell me about their memories of their favourite seaside places, and why they were their favourite.
Here is a word cloud of the reasons they gave.

I also put on the web a document to grab together all of those suggestions from colleagues and a few people on various social media.

Thanks to everyone who got in touch with their suggestions....

Mount Everest - about now is the time teach it perhaps?

Our Year 7s explore Adventure Landscapes, and as part of that they create some work on mountains and the nature of mountains. We use a range of resources including extracts from a number of books, and some DVDs including ancient archive films. Students are asked to write about whether they think Mallory and Irvine reached the summit of Everest. I have a picture of Irvine's ice axe and also some of Mallory - have blogged before about connections at Shrewsbury and Charterhouse schools.

Several weeks ago there was the sad news of the deaths of a number of climbers while attempting to climb or having summited the mountain, but also the bravery shown by some of them, who turned back from their own summit attempts to help other climbers.

This is the main window for climbing the mountain, and each day when the conditions are right, there are hundreds of people on the mountain.

An article here on the sad medical issues that are facing a large number of climbers.
The Guardian has a dedicated section on Mount Everest stories.

Also check out Matt Podbury's 8850m resource if you are intending to teach this topic.
Other issues include litter, the 'death zone', the avalanche following the Nepal earthquake and the life of the Sherpa. 
Also Jan Morris' suggestion that the mountain should be left alone... which I've blogged about before.
Aim high...

3D Gallery on Class Tools

Interesting idea and nice execution - this where I'm going this week with Year 7s…
Shared by Russel Tarr on his ClassTools site. 
Thanks to Russel for fixing a bug too...

Marks and Spencer's source map

Marks and Spencer have produced an interactive map to show some of the sourcing for their fashion: shoes and clothes.
Choose a country and then a factory or product to see exactly where the factory is located and what it produces. You can also see the breakdown of workers, and it's interesting (but not surprising) to see how female dominated the workforce is.

Clean Space Tag

This looks really interesting, but a little expensive perhaps for geography departments who will not necessarily use it

At the moment Clean Space offer air quality mapping of London in particular.

There are various iPhone and Android apps.

The sensor measures air quality

Last year, I was involved in the DISTANCE project with INTEL and Sciencescope and other partners, including Explorer HQ of course.
You can search the blog to find relevant posts. Happy to trial this new entrant into the field of air quality monitoring...

Compute your Commute

Fascinating article on the distances that people travel to work.

I know a few people with very long commutes from Norfolk to London who contribute to this map.
Lovely work by Alasdair Rae, and another really useful resource from The Guardian.

Term of the day: psychological distance

As mentioned in this article on the bleaching of the coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef.

Psychological distance is a construct that measures the “distance” of an event or object in terms of geography, time, cultural similarity and factual certainty. If something is nearby, likely to occur soon, involves people like you, and the facts are certain, that “something” is considered psychologically close. The closer it is, the more likely you are to perceive it as concrete and be willing and able to act on it.

Fairtrade Footballs

A new film looking at the production of Fairtrade Footballs - in time for Euro 2016….

How are footballs made? And why do we need Fairtrade footballs?
To find out, we go to Sialkot in northern Pakistan to see the production process first-hand. We speak to stitchers and workers in two factories who talk about the difference that Fairtrade has made to their lives.

RGS Teachmeet in November

RGS Teachmeet confirmed now for Wednesday the 9th of November
Sadly, I can't make it to London on a school night, so will follow from afar.
Sign up wiki page here.

World Oceans Day

The sun has got his hat on...

Thanks to Andy Black for the tipoff to the MyGridGB twitter feed. Follow it, and every 4 hours it will tell you what the demand for energy is in the UK, and how it is being produced. Here's one from 2pm today, for example… showing a good chunk of solar power, but not that much wind, and gas still the main source of energy… Watch it fluctuate as the weather and time changes...

City in the Sky

Plenty of love for Dallas Campbell's new documentary on flight and aviation tonight...

For anyone who wants more, check out the #cityinthesky hashtag on Twitter....

Also my CILT resources are great too...

What would you take?

Action Aid has an interesting awareness-raising tool on its website relating to migration.

The webpage asks visitors to imagine what they might take with them.
Clicking on an item adds it to the list, but there are only 140 characters on the tweet which is then sent, to raise awareness of the Action Aid campaigns and educational materials relating to the issue of migration.

The resource is based on the actual belongings that people arriving in Greece have with them, or are found on them sadly.

The project reminds me of an activity we have done in the past relating to the migrants who are found having failed to safely cross from Mexico into the USA.

Final half term coming up...

Hope everyone's June and early July go smoothly...

I was going to write a lot here about how many things I have to do, but it was just making me a bit scared, so I'd better get on and start doing them instead...

Southwold Seaside

I've been writing about coasts for a while now, as part of the writing for the new OCR 'A' and 'B' 9-1 textbooks.
Over to Southwold on the Suffolk coast yesterday, which is one of my favourite places, for a stroll on the Pier, then into town for browsing and a few second hand book shop purchases, followed by a pint and chips in the Sole Bay Inn. There was a fairground on the green, Vintage clothing market, and Adnams was offering wine tasting, so plenty of interest...

What's the melting point of Lego?

It was suggested to me yesterday that it's just over 100 degrees Celsius.
Google that phrase and it returns this:

ABS maximum temperature is 80°C (176°F) and melt at 105°C (221°F)
Polycarbonate plastic used for transparent bricks melt at 267°C (512.6°F)

I went over to Southwold yesterday, and found that there is now a whole new range of sets of volcano scientists in the Lego City Explorers series.
They drive funky vehicles with compass logos on the front, and wear rugged clothes... They are pictured on the boxes investigating volcanoes. They have vehicles and helicopters, and equipment. 

It would be interesting to find out what research Lego did before putting the sets together, and what the scientists are actually supposed to be doing? Perhaps they're researching a system for volcano early warning? That would be helpful for sure...
Here's a full breakdown of the various sets.

It also gave me an idea for student tasks, based around designing scenarios for other geography-related places for these explorers to go.

Which brings me back to the title of the post. This is quite a scary thing for a Lego figure to be doing, standing so close to molten lava :) 
That's how cool these explorers are - they do it in the name of science and exploration.

Paris Flood Map

Via Andy Knill

Water levels are rising on the Seine, and art galleries are closing and moving art upstairs...
Google Maps Mania has more.

Website here

Mission:Explore Book Launch

It was down to London yesterday for the pre-launch of our Mission:Explore National Parks book. Here's a Storify of a few tweets and pictures…
Book available to buy from all National Park visitor centres...

New Soils resource from Smarter Scotland

Thanks to Juliet Robertson for the tip-off to this new Soils resource.

Click this link to download as a PDF


Spent an hour or so tonight writing about an unfamiliar subject: me.
It's for an anthology of reflections on school geography that's being produced for an event in 2017.
I've been looking back at my early years, and how they influence the person, and the teacher that I am now, and the power of the place where I was born and grew up, and memories of school.

I've been using a range of tools to explore the changes in the area since then, and what it was like in the period from 1963-75 in particular. It's been an interesting change from the writing that I've been doing for the last year or two… going to hunt out some old photos too.

Risky World resources

One of the topics that we teach in Year 9 is a risky world topic. We look at the idea of micromorts and microlives (from the work of David Spiegelhalter) and then move onto an assessment of why people continue to live in risky places.

This Guardian Datablog article features a useful interactive graphic showing the relative risk in a range of countries at different levels of development. It's joined by an excellent article on the communities that live on the slopes of Mt. Sinabung in Indonesia.

Magpied Pedagogy

A new blog from @MrsHumanities.

It's based on a simple idea which is collating some of the practice that is shared on Twitter by teachers. It's a model which allows the blog to grow rapidly, and collates ideas linked to the humanities and other subjects.
Check out the content so far here.

Urbanisation in China

A nice part-animated short film from CBBC exploring how the move to urbanising China has affected its children. Another reason to check out VIMEO if you haven't already...

The Left-Behind Children from Made in Colour on Vimeo.

Mr. P's Britain….

I'd quite like to make one of these, but with me….

Ross Kemp's Britain - Title Sequence from Made in Colour on Vimeo.

Planning the new, resources for the new GCSE 'A' level Geography OCR, AQA, Edexcel, Eduqas specification, teaching, sharing….

Well, that blog post title should bring a few people in perhaps…

It's the next 6 weeks which is when a lot of people will be writing medium term plans, lesson plans and then resources for the first units they'll be teaching in September.

You'll probably find most of what you need to answer any of those queries by searching this blog using the box top left, and if you subscribe using the box top right you'll get a daily e-mail with any new additions to the blog.
There's also some books that I was involved in if you're doing specifically:

OCR 'A' and 'B' for GCSE - spec 'B' book out now

AQA for 'A' Level - includes downloads of sample chapter, scheme of work and accompanying resources for Natural Disasters and Fieldwork