Tag Archives: curriculum

Discover the World – Presentation on Sustainability & Tourism in the Azores

This is the presentation given today at the Discover the World Climate Change & Sustainability conference. Within the powerpoint are some weblinks so do download and click into them to see what it was about. A commentary is underneath the powerpoint. Mostly this links to the original posts I wrote about the Azores in this blog during the April 2014 teacher inspection visit so you can read there for detail. The activities are based upon the Discover Geography website that has free resources for teachers on locations such as Iceland and the Azores. The Azores resources were mostly compiled by Simon Ross when you click into the website, so credit goes to him. On the powerpoint when it says ‘e.g. Resource 24’ that is what I am referring to! In true Louis Walsh style though I have generally ‘made it my own’ by taking the suggested activities and then amending them. I also refer to Digital Explorer resources which are great for looking at oceans. Anyway, have a look and if you like an activity then try it and let me know!

Background on the Azores:

The Azores is a volcanic archipelago of 9 islands located in the mid-Atlantic on a triple junction along the Mid Atlantic Ridge. Sao Miguel is the main island and by far the most popular with 69% of all tourists staying here. This is largely due to being the only island with direct flights rather than going via Portugal. Ferries and internal island flights exist across to other smaller islands. The least popular island for tourism is Corvo, closely followed by Flores. Generally most tourism is domestic from the Portuguese mainland (56% in 2013) with Sweden, Germany, France and the UK then being the most common countries of origin. Tourism has been reasonably steady for the past decade although with troughs due to global recession. There is a seasonal variation with July and August not surprisingly being busiest. When we visited the Azores it was clear that the infrastructure is still needed to be put in place to encourage mass tourism – and that copious E.U. funding is being gleaned on every street corner. Currently the islands still retain their distinctiveness and remoteness, with only 5% of the whole chain being urbanised. For four consecutive years the Azores as won the Sustainable Tourism Award for Portugal, and won a global award this year. There are multiple UNESCO Biosphere reserves on the island, European Geopark status and Quality Coast marks, and the main industries and employers are still agriculture and increasingly services.

Slide commentary:

Slide 8 linkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5NiTN0chj0

Slide 10: Google Earth tour file. Email / tweet me if you want a tour file. It’s not that exciting but something!

Slides 12-22: I just described a bit of background on the main locations we went to on the trip to give some context on the Azores. You can read about all these in this blog if you search. In a nutshell just commenting that there are opportunities to use the Azores to teach about eutrophication and its reversal, land use change, social conflict (ie. farmers having land reclaimed), ecology with botanical gardens, geothermal power and comparisons to Iceland (43% of all Sao Miguel island’s energy is from geothermal power, aiming for 50% across the whole chain by 2050 with the Azores being part of the Green Islands initiative, coastal geography at Ferreria, Pico mountain, whaling and the rise of whale sightseeing tourism (in 2011 48’000 tourists did whale watching, supporting 200 jobs for previously unemployed whalers and fishers), Faial island botanical reserve protecting and breeding endemic species (since only 7% of all vegetation in the Azores is currently endemic), and Capelinhos volcanic peninsular and it’s interesting behaviour. You can see the whole commentary guide in the blog or on Slideshare here.

Slide 23: http://www.discover-geography.co.uk Just submit your email address and get approved then off you go.

Slide 24: Using Resource 23. I used this as either a categorising card sort, or to get students to locate each activity on a map or on GIS, or create a travel plan and evaluate the impact of each activity.

Slide 25: Using Resource 15 which contains key facts on the use of energy in different islands. I’ve structured the tasks using Solo language since this is now a common language in school, so students have the choice of either a Relational or Extended Abstract activity to use weblinks to compare and contrast two islands.

Slide 26: Using Resource 27 which asks about the challenges of sustainable tourism and gives information on the current issues and implications of tourism growth. I suggested creating a mock interview /  documentary based on the issues and internet research. A chance for some empathy and to consider different views (stressing the importance of a balanced argument and to ask questions and compare).

Slide 27: Using Resource 25 which has raw data on accommodation and country of origin for tourists this is a chance for some numeracy links. Students can choose from Bronze/Silver/Gold level and are encouraged to try a new skill. I would also correlate this with using the skills webs at KS3 and KS4.

Slide 28-33: Just simple photo stimulus using own images and questions. These would be a ‘Do Now’ activity in class as students enter.

Slide 35: General activities that could be used for a variety of lessons. http://www.bing.com for the every day changing image and reminding people about the free 1:25’000 OS maps layer.

Slide 36: Tell me a story. Always making explicit links to literacy. Also reading and sharing exemplar travel writing and descriptive writing.

Slide 38: Simple diamond 9 sorting activity with statements based on the DtW resources facts.

Slide 39-40: Venn sorting exercise with descriptive statements for students to categorise, sort, discuss – just emphasising that sustainability is a balance of all three.

Slide 41: Self-explanatory! Used this with KS3 classes as part of the Amazing Places unit to design a sustainable solution to different places.

Slide 42-43: Lovely links to numeracy again – we are all teachers of numeracy lol 😉 Again choice of activity of different complexity.

Slide 46-47: Using www.wordle.net or www.tagxedo.com to create word clouds based on impressions of the Azores, or using text from web research. You can then analyse the patterns and discuss these.

Slide 48: Flickr.com stimulus for a photo slideshow as your ‘Do now’ activity. Welcome to use my images if you want to.

Slide 49: Learning grids – which I’ve explained elsewhere in here so have a look.

Slide 51: Practise Decision Making Exercise just based on Azores tourism (just about the same as used for Iceland and Dubai etc.)

Slide 52: VCOP writing frame to structure writing / scaffold.

Slide 53-59: Just to explain SOLO bits briefly. Not because it’s the only tool I use or the be all and end all, but because there is some use for it to help show and guide progression sometimes through the descriptors. Slide 57 shows a template for guiding an increasingly complex answer through the stages. The sheet could be given at the start of a topic when students fill in what they can (most likely the first two boxes), then referred back to at mid point and end of topic to complete with what has been learned. Slide 59 Solo hexagons I’ve explained before but basically used to tessellate information about sustainability before writing an extended answer. The aim is to make as many connections / have as many sides touching as possible.

Slide 60: An example of how I model case study answers to practise doing 3 developed points using point, evidence, explain, link.

Slide 61: Sign up to Microsoft Partners in Learning to get free cool software like Autocollage. My year 7s used it to create a collage of distinctive features in the Azores based on the Flickr images, then they interrogated each other on their choice of image and whether something was really distinctive or not. They were fascinated by the spiral staircase on the lighthouse and the engraved whale bones bless them.

Slide 62: Get kids doing their own placemarks and tours on Google Earth then sharing with each other. Time consuming at first but worth it, especially if you want to create similar works in GCSE for skills.

Slide 63: Have a shared Pinterest board. You can invite by email in to a particular board and then can post links / images into it. Be careful in terms of it being social media so use kids school email addresses but it doesn’t give sensitive information. Can then be used to all collate resources for a project.

Slide 64: Digital Explorer another awesome website for free resources. Great for coral and polar oceans in particular with resources for all key stages, fact sheets, and even simple experiments you can do in school with buckets of water, ice cubes and food dye to show thermohaline conveyor system, impact of glacial melt, etc,. The Azores has cold coral reefs which are starting to become fragile from the impact of fishing nets and also ocean acidification, and there are resources in here that can help explain all that including some great student made videos.

Slide 65: Ocean Health Index shows global patterns of oceanic health and then specific data on 244 ocean regions. Oceans are rated and scored out of 100 based on health, fisheries, carbon storage, tourism, etc. and then ranked for their global position. The Azores is 91/244 and set to improve. You can then compare to other regions. The least healthy areas are predominantly coastal Africa, which leads on nicely to a comparison with a region in Africa and a region in Asia…ooh, did we just tick a statutory box somewhere? 😉 Also relevant for new KS4 curriculum.

Phewf. Hope something was useful in there for those that attended and any of you that made it to the bottom 😉

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it connected to the rest of the world” (John Muir)

Redacted literacy challenge

I’ve been trying to embed more literacy challenges this year as this is always something students struggle with and is a whole school focus that Geography can really contribute to.


Year 9 have been looking at Extreme Environments and with a focus on Everest at the end of this due to the recent events at Easter and the conflicts here. We often try to incorporate travel writing and non-fiction novels into lessons as well and encourage students to learn skills through these for extended writing, creativitity, grammar, etc,. With the Everest focus I’ve been sharing extracts from Beck Weathers’ Left for Dead novel about the 1996 disaster and other texts. This week I decided to try something different and set my students a ‘redacted text’ challenge.


Think top secret files and redaction, where text is obscured in order to inhibit meaning and keep a file secret. I thought that maybe this could be a good literacy tool. So, here’s what we did.


1) Students were given a four page extract from the novel and asked to read this silently for themselves, or aloud to each other in pairs. They were then given three minutes to contemplate and reflect on the story, on what it was conveying, on what style of writing had been used (specifically mood and atmosphere) and the literacy techniques used (eg. adjectives, metaphor, etc,.).


2) Using felt pens, I set the challenge that students had to go through the text carefully and redact it themselves by blocking out sections of the text leaving only certain parts visible. They were given two options here:


a) For a more accessible challenge: redact as much text as you like leaving only a selection of individual words visible (particularly adjectives or geographic words). From these, then take the words and rearrange them into a story or a piece of poetry in a similar style to the original story but in your own words.


b) For a harder challenge: redact the text very carefully leaving individual words but also short phrases visible. These words and phrases must be in a logical order and punctuation inserted as needed in order that the visible words now form new sentences that can be read as a new story, or poem. This is actually really hard! It requires text analysis and logic, having to plan ahead and have a vision of what they want the story to look like first and then to be able to create it. Very tricky. I trialled this first with top set students and they found this a real challenge but really interesting. The new stories they created from the visible words had to flow, had to make sense, and could either be in the same style as the original story or actually change the plot.


3) Students have to check the punctuation and grammar makes sense for their new stories, and then these are shared with others.


When I first suggested and explained this activity to a class, one of the (admittedly somewhat lethargic) boys asked ‘Miss, what’s the point of this – aren’t you just making us do something hard for the sake of it?’ To which I replied that yes I was in a way, that sometimes having to do something hard and learn to overcome it is as much the objective as anything specifically ‘geographic’. By the end of the lesson though he, and the rest of the class, were commenting on how they’d had to really push themselves to do well on this. That it was a difficult challenge that required some real logical and lateral thinking, that tested their creative and literacy skills. And they were pleased with themselves.


I wasn’t planning for them to be able to regurgitate the text by the end of the lesson, but I was expecting them to develop essential literacy skills that they have to be good at in order to succeed at anything – if they don’t get their English qualification, life gets pretty hard doesn’t it? It’s also a good tool to be able to say to SLT ‘look here, this is how Geography meets your whole school improvement plan on literacy with this, this and this…’.  The follow up is students making their own geographic adventure novel that must be a blend if fact and fiction.


The images show some works in progress, as the kids wanted to take home and finish some extra pieces bless them.


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Prince’s Teaching Institute Day 3 lectures

Jonathan Darling : population & migration

I wasn’t always the keenest on ‘human geography’ but there are so many interesting topics that are relevant for our students. We teach migration in KS3 as well as for GCSE and it can lead to great discussions and debates on politics, population control, democracy, human rights, geopolitical boundaries, quality of life – and to challenging misconceptions and potential racism / discrimination.

Darling commented on the rising number of international migrants – approx 3.1% of world population is migrant – but that the dispersal is uneven throughout the globe. Immigration accounts for 40% of population growth in OECD countries during 2001-2011, but the impact on their GDP was negligible therefore going against those who argue migrants can have negative impact on economy. Migrants are disproportionately affected by financial crisis / recession so there is a geography here. He stated most refugees remain within their region of origin, that only 17% of refugees will make asylum requests outside of origin (due to lack of resources etc,) so those who do make it further are likely to be better educated / better resource. In fact refugees to the UK tend to be disproportionately better skilled relative to the wider UK population (23% skilled vs 12% of pre-existing residents).

He stated that migration is likely to continue to rise due to continued global inequalities, political disturbances, unpredictable conflict, resource depletion and climate change, and that as the global south develops it provides resources to enable those populations to then be more mobile and migrate – therefore relocating.

Interestingly there are future climate refugees in Alaska. Many settlements in Alaska are built near rivers and coastlines to enable access to resources, but these areas are at risk of climate change and therefore future is uncertain. So while migration units often focus on LEDCs as examples, why not focus on modern day and alternative refugee situations? Decision making scenarios?

There is apparently an increasing death toll annually for Mexican to USA migrants as the routes have become increasingly more dangerous ; the natural geography of the area has been exploited as a geopolitical tool, ie. officials can police key areas which then forces migrants to attempt other routes which are geographically more difficult (mountainous, rivers, etc,.) What I found fascinating is that there is an emergence of resistance groups, e.g. Humane Borders, No More Deaths, Brinco trainers, etc,. The Brinco trainers is a great potential resource for migration decision making exercises / debates / the role of social enterprise action as they can be bought as ‘charity’ to be given out to migrants and they include a map of the area, compass, etc,.! Love it. See here for details.


Klaus Dodds : polar scrambles

A great topic for looking at resource management, environmental responsibility, conflict, etc,. contesting the sovereignty and governance of Arctic and Antarctic regions and all the geopolitical issues involved with this.

Dodds noted how the Arctic had been seen as a ‘last frontier’ but it is increasingly accessible and is also a resource treasure chest. This has therefore led to geopolitical scrambles to claim territory / rights to resources and governance. With rapid environmental change in Arctic regions, particularly the decline of Greenland ice sheet and Northern Europe glaciers, and the impact of increasing freshwater, this is a cross-theme topic. There are concerns about resource exploitation & tourism: potential for becoming the ‘Polar Mediterranean’ with all the potential knock-on consequences. There are also implications that other nations (eg. UK, China, etc.) will be able to stake a claim to these Arctic areas if it becomes a thoroughfare; with increasing accessibility and increasing awareness of this ‘global commons’ there is a debate about whether the area ‘belongs’ to the Arctic states or who owns the ocean (and its resources) etc,. So this leads to an interesting sociopolitical discourse on the rights of indigenous populations. There is also the issue of contesting sovereignty in coastal states : that sovereignty doesn’t end at the beach, there are claims for resources and access to oceans off-coast which go beyond the traditional political boundaries. There are also disputes over access to transport routes such as North West Passage and Northern Trade Route; with Russia becoming increasingly concerned about security if increasing shipping through these routes.

Dodds commented on the considerable potential resources still to be realised in these areas (e.g. Gas and oil deposits off shore in Greenland, etc). These resources are essential to Greenland’s aim to become independent. Again a political-environmental topic. Furthermore there is conflict between Greenpeace and Arctic communities. To many, the Arctic is a global space because of its intrinsic links to global issues (such as freshwater, sea level change, climate change, resource potential, etc,.) but Arctic communities such as in Greenland do not like outside agencies / NGOs coming in and saying what should or should not happen in their backyard.

The issues are similar for the Antarctic and Southern Ocean regions managed by the Antarctic Treaty, i.e. concerns about environmental change, particularly uncertainty on scale and rate of ice melt, and resource exploitation, the regulation of Antarctic tourism in response to increasing accessibility & mobility, resource use and rights, etc,.
There is potential for activities regarding Greenpeace involvement on whaling, protecting the ‘park’ status of the wilderness, illegal fishing, arguments over fishing rights, e.g. ‘Illegal’ whaling by Japan vs Australia , and over mineral rights.

Dodds conclusions:

– Polar regions remain an ironic hotbed of geopolitical scrambles for knowledge, access, governance, and resources
– the contesting and confusing issue of sovereignty, security and stewardship is likely to increase

Prince’s Teaching Institute: Day 2 lectures


Day 2 dawned with an excellent buffet breakfast in the dining hall – great way to set yourself up for a hard day using those little grey cells!

Alan Kinder : Curriculum change

Alan, Geography Association Chief Executive, was commenting on the forthcoming KS3 and KS4 curriculum changes and the debate surrounding this. He was able to provide the latest news on this as well as how the GA has been involved in the consultation. First came the stats : nationally, History uptake at GCSE has approximately 35’000 more students, and at A level ~20’000 more students choosing the option compared to Geography. He noted that the decline has plateaued out and there is evidence of some increase but still has concerns ; that there are some signs of growth but we shouldn’t sit still yet. So as Geography teachers who love our subject (and want to keep our jobs!) there is even more need to ensure we adapt and modify the curriculum to make it engaging and relevant to our students – what suits one school is different to another. And don’t forget the up side : Geography is still one of the recommended subjects preferred by Russell Group top universities and one of the most employable subjects for graduates because it is a facilitating subject.

So, following the curriculum reviews, the GA is arguing for renewed focus on subject rigour : improved locational knowledge, a better balance between physical and human Geog, a sound understanding of the how and the why of processes and how these link to people and place at different scales. Those involved in converting the curriculum into working schemes of work must bear in mind that (as ever) the framework is still skeletal and it is our responsibility as teachers to subvert and use professional judgment to make it appropriate.

At KS4 Alan suggested the 2015 GCSE changes will see greater emphasis on extended writing within the programme, and on the application of knowledge, i.e. students will learn about an example coastline and then be assessed on a different area, therefore will be examined in terms of applying their knowledge to an unknown place and not using rote memory 🙂 There are lots of concerns about the format that fieldwork and the examination of fieldwork skills will take with the move to terminal exams : that the proposed terminal fieldwork skills exam is not a good or thorough enough tool for demonstrating field skills compared to extended controlled assessments.

So the message sparked debate, of course, and is essentially that of business as usual ; teachers to take and subvert the new KS3 curriculum to suit, but that this will always be driven by the requirements of the KS4 curriculum since this is what we are preparing for

Christian Nold : Emotional Mapping

This was one of the main highlights of the whole residential. Christian was speaking about emotional mapping, producing sensory maps based on perceptions and human emotional response to places based on senses / feelings / thoughts. He mentioned an activity I’ve used before and found really useful and insightful: maps from memory. The idea is you are blindfolded (safely, in pairs!) and explore a place so you can focus on your other senses only, then create a map from memory. E.g. make a sketch road map and then write descriptions over it to demonstrate not only what the physical features are but how you respond to them (e.g. ‘Fast cars keep zooming past on the dual carriageway, I feel nervous, I smell coffee’).

Christian has adapted a GPS unit to include bio sensors / neurophysiological sensors to map physical reactions as you move through an environment. He then uses this to create a bio map after uploading the information to Google Earth and producing polygons / graph overlays from the sensor information. You then have a conversation to interpret this afterwards; e.g. where spikes on the graph occur you can unpick what happened there, or why you felt that way and how the place made you feel.

Christian has used to create an emotional topography for Greenwich peninsula, Paris, etc,. And also the sensory journeys project with schools www.sensoryjourneys.net


It is all about relationships between individuals and places, which you can scale up to include large numbers of respondents and then have enough data to assess patterns – then this may lead to rethinking how places / spaces are actually perceived (could then inform built environment & area planning). You can find more information in Alan Parkinson and Paul Cornish’s review book.


During the lecture I was introduced to the Fieldnotes app for recording data which is geolocated. This app is quite expensive (and you could use the alternative Maverick app for adding placemarks to GE instead which is free) but basically means you can add text, code, photos, videos and they are tagged to a geographical location. This information can then be exported (along with images) as a .kmz file to Google Earth and then used with GE graphs to produce graphs and then overlay graphs onto the GE file. This is great for showing relationships between factors, e.g. The perception of place compared to traffic congestion etc,.

We then followed this up with another highlight : field trip! As good geographers we were very happy to get outside. And it helped that it was sunny. We visited Cambourne and were set a GCSE enquiry style project to test how distinctive the place is. Some members of the team had the adapted GPS unit (which measured pulse and sweat production through a fingertip attachment) while others used Fieldnotes or good old paper to record things like traffic/pedestrian surveys, quality of infrastructure, how the place made you feel, etc,. We had an hour or so wandering around in a haphazard manner (including the obligatory coffee shop) and the information was then uploaded later to the GE files and discussed. Funny how every participant noted that their mood / sense of place improved significantly when coffee and cake was nearby 😉

The follow-up challenge for me as far as I’m concerned is to see if we can hack a GPS unit to do this ourselves – and this is a project for the autumn with the help of the twitter community of hackers! We have done sense of place mapping just on paper in the past, but we have a keen group of digital leaders who would love to have a go at making an actual piece of tech we could use in school – but with a budget of course.

Professor Jonathan Bamber : Climate Change

One of the things I liked most about the PTI residential was that the lectures were like going back to Uni! Reminding us that we are intelligent individuals. Or that’s how I felt anyway. It’s easy to only think in terms of school curriculum, and it’s important to keep ourselves fresh and challenge ourselves with up-to-date developments in our subject and to keep being learners ourselves.

Bamber updated us on the scientific community’s concerns regarding the increase in ocean acidification as well as ocean salinity, and the impact of reduced permafrost and polar warming (and the potential impact of these combined). He commented on the increase in biological activity following melting of permafrost, which causes an increase in methane production which is one of highest contributing greenhouse gases.

The influence of the Arctic ice melt is much more significant than that of the Antarctic and yet this remains a common misconception. The Arctic is melting more rapidly and having more severe potential consequences (in terms of affecting the thermohaline conveyor and more rapid Northern European glacial melt). There are approximately 250million people living within 5m of the sea worldwide, including major cities like NYC, and many marginal native communities as well as important resources found in Arctic regions that are at risk of the impact of melting.

Bamber noted that of the two main contributors to sea level rise it is a 50/50 balance in terms of impact: the thermal expansion of existing seas, and the influence of freshwater melt with subsequent influx to oceans. With 90% of all freshwater stored in Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets it is clear why scientists are concerned about ice melt (and remember that freshwater has a different salinity and density to oceans which has implications for the conveyor system globally).

His concluding concerns were:
– predicted risk of there being no Arctic sea ice in summers by 2020
– that Alpine glaciers will largely be gone by 2100
– the risk of permafrost methane ‘bomb’
– a relative sea level rise of approx 1m possible by 2100

So it was a really intense day! Full of mind-bending thinking as well as how we can embed these issues within the relevant curriculum. It’s about us being able to remain cutting edge and then adapt this to suit.

‘Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few people engage in it often’ (Henry Ford)