#GeoEdChat October 16th 2013: How can school grounds be used for teaching Geography?

This post is a thinkpiece for #GeoEdChat to help people think of ways they have used or plan to use their school grounds to teach Geography. As Geographers we love working outside the classroom and believe in the power of this in aiding student learning. Along with the obvious examples of learning with field work, we often use the school grounds in creative ways.

Here are a few of the ways I have used the school grounds over the past 2 years:

  • Muriwai in chalkThe courtyard outside of our class was turned into our coastal environment and the students became the wave trains approaching the coast. In this way we were able to physically see the process of wave refraction occurring and discuss the reasons why to add depth to the annotated diagrams we drew in class.
  • Guerrilla LanguagesI have used Guerrilla Geography in many classes to get students thinking and provoking further thinking of others in the school. In the example shown in the photo above, this class had been studying Globalisation and were now sharing important messages about Globalisation that related to their lives at school. This activity had students working in groups, thinking of their audience and picking the important points out of their previous learning – a great revision exercise.
  • Mt Ruapehu

    Mt Ruapehu

    The school grounds are brilliant for preparing students for fieldwork activities. Before taking Year 12 Geography students to Tongariro National Park for their field research, we used the school grounds to train the students in their field procedures. Steve Smith has devised a series of activities to achieve this. Driveway slopes turn into quasi rivers to measure river velocity, gardens are great for Vegetation Transects and slopes overlooking the fields, perfect for slope profiles. Precis sketches are also very easy to practice by purely walking to a different part of the school and practising your sketches.

  • The final activity was one used for learning about perspectives. I had students all in one place writing a description of what they had seen. We then shared these descriptions and discussed how different people noticed different things from the exact same view. A great introduction for these students as to how perspectives shape our actions!

How do you use your school grounds to teach Geography?

Do these activities add anything to your classroom learning?

How do you know?

Love to hear your thoughts in #GeoEdChat at 8pm your local time on Wednesday 16th October.

#GeoEdChat 1: Putting geography at the centre of your school. A think piece by David Rogers.

The inaugural poll has closed.  The first #GeoEdChat on the 6th February will discuss how geography can be at the centre of your school.  The purpose of these ‘think pieces  is to provide some food for thought and a context on which to centre our discussions.  Feel free to add comments below.  This post is here to provoke reaction, generate discussion and get your goat up!

I’ve been teaching geography for almost ten years now and leading Priory Geography for five.  I’ve attended many CPD events, conferences and subject association meetings where the general consensus is that geography is being marginalised in schools.  My argument is that this is usually down to inaction within schools on the part of geography departments.

Let me explain.  If we are to move back into the spotlight, the fight is on two fronts.  The Subject Associations need to convince the politicians and policy makers that our subject should be on the curriculum.  In my view both the GA and RGS are doing a fine job at this scale.  The second front is to win the hearts and minds of our students, parents and leadership teams.  We can only do this through strong leadership from geography teachers at school level.  We need to win one school at a time.

At our school, geography has gone from a marginalised subject to one of the leading subjects in the school.  We deliver more progress, provide more opportunities for our students and are involved in whole school changes.  We weren’t asked to get involved and we didn’t ask for permission. We got on and did, employing a wide range of Guerilla tactics, subversion and sound curriculum design.

Our GCSE numbers have risen from 21 students in 2008 to 100 students in 2012.

We have been proactive, putting our necks above the parapet and being geographers driving change.  In the past five years, we have:

  • Produced a school wide mobile device policy;
  • Run the digital leaders programme;
  • Taken over BBC School Report;
  • Engaged teachers from across the school in guerilla learning and use our school grounds;
  • Gotten pupils, teachers and artists to co-plan lessons;
  • Led whole school off-timetable enquiry days;
  • Enabled children to develop campaigns and manifestos calling for school changes…

I could go on.  Most importantly, we transformed the curriculum so that most of our young people love geography, and let everyone know about it.

My message is simple: geographers need to be proactive, shake up the apple cart and get serious.  Or, allow the continued fossilisation and marginalisation of our subject by staying quiet.

#GeoEdChat Poll 1 with David Rogers

The first #GeoEdChat will happen on the 6th Feb.  I’ve put my head above the parapet and volunteered to moderate the first session. If you want to know who I am, check me out on Twitter or have a gander at my blog.

As moderator, I get to put forward a few ideas for what we focus the conversation around. The best bit is that you get to vote for what you’d like.  Here are my choices:

a. Putting geography at the centre of your school. 

Us geographers are always harping on about how our subject is so great and linked to other subjects.  How can geography and school geography departments take control of whole school initiatives?

b. Getting guerilla with school geography.

Geography is all around us but it’s getting more and more difficult to get out into the wider world.  How can mini-explorations and naughty learning allow children to develop their sense of place?

c. Using school grounds for exploration and fieldwork.

Similar to the second topic but more focused on the development of exam skills on and around the school grounds.

d. Setting up an overseas field-trip.

This one is all about getting out there.  We could focus on how to make the case for an overseas adventure, the planning, risk-assessment and ensuring that young people learn

.