Thursday, 21 May 2015

Data on tourism in Iceland

Iceland is a place that has been in the news a great deal in the last few months...

Richard Ayoade visited a few weeks ago too on Channel 4's 'Travel Man' and I liked his description of the Blue Lagoon...

The Icelandic tourist board has released a report on Tourism in Iceland figures. Well worth reading - download as a PDF - useful for developing Iceland as a tourist case study, which is something I'm going to be doing over the next six months...

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Geo blogs.... get it ?

Some years ago, I produced a list of Geography blogs for the GA website. It was an updated version of a list that was originally put together by Pauline Wright via the SLN geography forum.

I noticed that it was getting a little out of date, so at the start of the year, I went through all the links and sent through an updated version to the GA. This has now been updated by Milan. It has removed blogs that weren't updated or had disappeared, and mentioned when they were last updated if it's been a while. That information was collected at the start of the year, so there may have been some changes.

Blogging has been one of my major 'contributions', for what it's worth, to the Geography community.
My online persona is GeoBlogs (which is a bad pun on Joe Bloggs...) and grew from an RGS innovative teaching grant I got in 2003-4 to fund a blogging project. I wrote about it for 'Teaching Geography' back in 2004... one of my first involvements with the GA.

I currently run 9 blogs which are regularly updated, and have a new one about to launch for our Iceland trip in November from King's Ely.

If I've missed your blog off the list, get in touch, and I'll collate another update for sending through at the end of the Summer term....

GA Conference 2015 - 19 - end of the review

OK, so this is the last of 19 posts reviewing the 2015 GA Conference and what I got up to...

As in previous years, this event remains a highlight of the year, and I recommend it to any geography educators.
Hopefully there will be a Teachmeet again in 2016.

Next year's conference is on the theme of connections. 

Contact Lucy Oxley at the GA if you would like to offer something at the conference in the next month or so, as the programme will start to be filled in after that...
My HoD Claire and I enjoyed presenting, and we'll (hopefully) be back again.

Richard Allaway and I have already sorted the Beermeet venue too...

To read the previous posts in the series, search top left for #gaconf15 and they'll appear...
Materials from conference sessions are appearing here. Danny Dorling's keynote is now up there for example as a PDF file.

Image: Alan Parkinson

Creative ideas for teaching about Oceans

A piece in the Guardian Teacher Network that was published today.

It offers ideas from 3 teachers about how they teach about the oceans. Good to see that the work of my colleague Claire Kyndt and I, and our pupils at King's Ely, gets a mention.

You are what you eat project

Alan Parkinson, geography teacher at King’s Ely in Cambridgeshire, taught oceans as part of a year 7 unit. He introduced the “you are what you eat” project to teach about food issues and sustainable resourcing.
Students were introduced to the various methods used to catch fish and their effect on the environment. They constructed models of trawlers with string to visualise the impact on the sea floor, and investigated more sustainable alternatives, such as farming fish like sea bass and tilapia.
Using paper plates and cardboard cut-outs, the children made fish and chips dishes with messages written on them. Each fish explained why it was threatened, whether by overfishing or pollution, while the chips were labelled with ideas for helping the fish to survive, such as introducing no-catch zones.
Students were then asked to create an eco-friendly menu. They had to select three meals and, using their new knowledge, ensure each delicacy was sustainable, for example, using locally sourced ingredients and avoiding overfished species such as cod and haddock. They linked up with the food technology department, and some groups were allowed to cook their dishes.
The key idea of the unit is to show how human activity effects the environment. The unit also helps students develop their inquiry skills, using digital mapping to source and locate suppliers of fish.
Parkinson says the variety of different activities involved in this project went down well with students. “From making the menus, the students started to see how decisions we make on a daily basis have an impact on other people and other places. It helped them appreciate the understanding of sustainability, and explore ideas like seasonality, animal welfare and food miles.”

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

GA Conference - 18 - Leo Houlding lecture

This was one of my personal highlights from the conference. A splendid lecture, and accompanying resources.

Leo Houlding described an expedition that he made to Antarctica, to climb an incredible peak...

Notes that I took, which have been tidied up, are available to view below.

Keep an eye out for some resources linked to his planned 2016 expedition...

Monday, 18 May 2015

ESRI UK Conference

I'm off here tomorrow....

There's a stronger  Education strand to the conference this time round, with talks from three or four people who have been doing some very interesting work with ArcGIS Online and StoryMaps, notably Raphael Heath who was behind the World record GIS in Schools event that I took part in last year.

Already planned to meet up with quite a lot of people that I know and am looking forward to making connections with some people from industry who may be interested to get into schools, or fund some educational materials...

The event has its own app, and I like how they have added challenges to encourage delegates to use it. Will be reporting on my day tomorrow....

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Bones of Brave Ships

I've just downloaded the high quality files of the tracks on Suns of the Tundra's Bones of Brave Ships.
I supported the Kickstarter campaign to get it made.
The lead guitarist is Simon Oakes.
It tells the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance expedition, and the boat trip to South Georgia in the James Caird.
It's got stonking artwork and some splendid instrumental tracks, which are all synched to the classic 'South' film by Hurley.

A geographical delight.... Available on Spotify too...

30 Days Wild

I'm taking part in the 30 Days Wild campaign in June....
It's being organised by Wildlife Trusts across the country.

I'm a member of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust - I hope you're a member of your local trust too....

The 30 Days Wild campaign involves people doing a small 'random act of wildness' each day of the month.
There's a slight whiff of Mission:Explore about some of the suggested challenges.... 

I have an hour commute to work, which means 2 hours each day are spent in the car. I often break my journey to take photos, or explore a road I've never driven down before... I've taken quite a lot of the routes but not them all...
Join the 3000+ people (and counting) who are taking part.
Sign up to get a wallchart, badge and an excuse to take part in a Random Act of Wildness.....

My students will be getting involved too... they just don't know it yet....


I have an idea for a project involving commuting teachers too, but more on that when I get some time to develop it further......

Rosario, Argentina

This is a little challenge and experiment.

Here's a city that I know nothing about, but which I'd like to know more about.
I've chosen it after a conversation with Alex Schafran from the University of Leeds as a city that has a lot of interest... and is 'comparable' with Leeds apparently in several ways...

I've already been in touch with Chris Prettejohn, who teaches Geography out in Argentina (although of course that doesn't mean he knows about every city in the country just because he lives there, though he does know a decent barbecue when he sees one!) He put me on to the city's website here.

I've started a Google Doc...

If you visit you should be able to edit it... I'm keen to see whether anything gets added....

Teachmeet at the Royal Geographical Society

After successfully lobbying for a Teachmeet at the GA Conference in April, David Rogers has now secured another prestigious location for a Teachmeet: the Royal Geographical Society.
It will take place on November the 4th, and the sign-up page is already open.

I'll be in Iceland at the time, but might Viber in to talk about what I've been getting up to...

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Rex Walford Award 2015

The Rex Walford Award is now available for new(ish) teachers to apply for once again.

It is offered by the Royal Geographical Society in conjunction with their Young Geographer of the Year competition.

The Rex Walford Award is for trainees or teachers who have just started their careers, including students enrolled on a PGCE, Teach First and Schools Direct alongside NQTs and colleagues at a similar stage in their careers.
Linked to the Young Geographer of the Year competition, this years’ Rex Walford Award asks entrants to produce a short scheme of work, covering at least three lessons that focuses on the question ‘Why does Antarctica matter?’ The Society welcomes innovative and effective approaches to engaging students with this question and would also be interested to see examples of students’ work that has resulted from the lessons.
The deadline for all entries is 5pm on Friday 16th October 2015.

The 2014 winner of the award was Becki Quigley. At the time she was a recently qualified teacher at the McAuley Catholic Voluntary Academy in Doncaster. Her innovative scheme of work encouraged her students to think about the ways geography can help their lives; from keeping up with the news and examining the world's major problems, to helping their school become more environmentally friendly.

Becki's resources are now available for you to download from the RGS website.

Finally, for those who aren't familiar with Rex Walford, you can read this piece here. At the time of Rex's untimely death I was working at the GA and it was a great shock to all at Solly Street. A book of condolences was opened, and rapidly filled.

Rex's memorial service was held at Ely Cathedral, and over 1000 people attended. I am fortunate to go to the cathedral every week for school services, and I remember him often when sat in the South Transept.

I was also privileged to be at Wolfson College, Cambridge in the Old Library in April 2011, representing the Geographical Association at a remembrance party for Rex Walford.
MikeYounger, the retiring Head of Education faculty spoke about Rex and his many achievements. In particular, the need for geography to be engaging, critical and enquiring. I wrote about my memories of Rex here.

I was particularly struck with the words of Wendy Walford at the event, as she spoke about the 'tyranny of the question': the way that Rex really did seize every moment, with his boundless energy and inquisitiveness and would always ask "what have you achieved today", which seems like a reasonable question to ask at the end of each day, and to have in mind as the day progresses....

So, what have you achieved today ?

Current listening...

Thought for the Day

The amount of carbon dioxide that is given off per pound of beef is, in fact, greater [than burning a gallon of gasoline].
Denis Hayes
 | environmental activist and author

Friday, 15 May 2015

LondonMapper - resources now up

In 2014, I was awarded my 4th (ish) Innovative Geography Teaching award / grant from the Royal Geographical Society, to work with the wonderful Ben Hennig on a project using Census data.
The idea was to make this data accessible and linked to some resources.
Here's the description of the 2 grants awarded last year:

2014 Innovative Geography Teaching Grant recipients

 Alan Parkinson (King's Ely School) and Dr Benjamin Hennig (Oxford University). 'LondonMapper: exploring a World city through Census Data'. By focusing on London, this project will provide a context which has national relevance, but is on a more manageable scale. It will provide a framework for using Census data and a range of visually stunning maps to support imaginative enquiry work, which will also extend students’ critical thinking as they explore the sprawling city of London.

 Paul Turner (Sevenoaks School) and Dr Adam Dennett (University College London). 'CENTRISt (CENsus teaching ThRough gIS)'. A scheme of work will be developed for sixth form students, which will allow them to learn new quantitative analysis and GIS skills through exploring the 2011 Census data, while also engaging with wider substantive and increasingly important themes such as the North / South Divide in the UK or widening inequalities between London / the South East and the rest of the UK at a variety of spatial scales.

Details of the grants are here - I recommend that you apply the next time they are offered.
It's money to fund something in your school....

LondonMapper is a relatively new site, with cartography from Ben Hennig.
The scheme of work and resources offer 4 sessions looking at the city of London: past, present and future.

It's also linked with the MAPPING LONDON materials that I wrote for the RGS as part of their Rediscovering London's Geography.

Did I mentioned that this won a Silver Award at the GA conference - my 4th (ish) too....

Petri (fied)

Here's an idea I've been developing... along the idea of the Landscape in a Box.
My wife is an Art educator, and works with groups from Early Years up to Adults, in several local Primary and Secondary schools in Norfolk.
We have a local 'scrap store' which is based in Reepham, Norfolk.
It is called SCRAP BOX, and is in an industrial unit which you would drive past if you didn't know it was there...
It's a veritable treasure trove for crafty and creative types. From their website:

Mini-Scrapbox has a wide variety of resources :

• Paper, Folders, Coloured Card, Tubing, Calendars, Wallpaper etc
• Fabrics: large selection, various sizes, patterns, textures and colours.
• Zips, Reels of Cotton and Wool, Foam, Wood, Plastic
• Paint brushes and rollers
• We can get one of a thing or 1,000, and regularly obtain fresh resources to stimulate experimentation

Play is:
sticking, cutting, drawing, designing, folding… in fact whatever you want play to be.

Play is important to everyone:
• Young people learn through it.
• Older people share their play experiences with younger people.

Mini-scrapbox provides:
Material resources at low cost enabling play to happen;
1) affordably
2) experimentally, participating with others
3) indoors and outdoors

A recent purchase was a lot of petri dishes. This is how my wife used them: filled with small objects for close observational drawing, and of course to protect the contents.
My idea was to grow a culture... but of course a culture in geographical terms, like a miniature representation of cultural globalisation, or the culture of a country, or a learning culture for a school.
How would you use a petri dish for creative geography ?
I've already since seen being used stacked to show contour patterns, for example...

Image: Alan Parkinson

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Class Tools - new Breaking News feature....

Russel Tarr has added a new generator to his Class Tools suite for teachers.
Make your own BREAKING NEWS style News graphics.
Here's one I made earlier....

Iqaluit on Street View

One of my jobs for the last month has been to finalise the latest chapters of the GCSE textbook that I am creating chapters for. This has led me to lots of new resources (and revisiting some older ones as well)

As part of my reading, I came across the street view images that have been produced for the remote town of Iqaluit, which is the main town in the Canadian province of Nunavut.
The images give a feeling for what life might be like in this place, and the town makes a good example of a location which is adapting to the new 'North' and the impact of climate change.

Should Mt. Everest be left unclimbed from now on?

In 1953, when Hillary and Tenzing descended from the ascent of Everest, a young James Morris was waiting to greet them, and managed to get the news back to the UK.
Now Jan Morris, she has written this fascinating piece in the New Statesman.
She suggests that given the avalanche that hit in 2014, and the 2nd avalanche triggered by the Nepal Earthquake in 2015, which killed and injured so many Sherpas and climbers, that perhaps the time is right to stop people climbing the peak.
This would make a great debate topic... as part of a unit on mountains, or risk, or landscapes...


Geocapabilities is one of the (quite a few) projects I'm currently involved in. It has been blogged about here several times before.
You can now download a very useful article / paper from the Taylor and Francis site which has been written by David Lambert, Michael Solem and Sirpa Tani, who I am working with on the project along with many other talented folks.

This article provides the theoretical underpinnings for an innovative international collaborative project in the field of geography education named GeoCapabilities. The project attempts to respond in new ways to enduring challenges facing geography teachers in schools. These include the need to find convincing expression of geography's contribution to the education of all young people and coping with the apparent divergence of geography in educational settings and its highly disparate expression as a research discipline in university departments. The project also hopes to contribute to the development of a framework for communicating the aims and purposes of geography in schools internationally, because here, too, there is great variety in definitions of national standards and even of disciplinary allegiances (including, e.g., the social studies, humanities, and biological sciences). GeoCapabilities does not seek to flatten such divergences, for one of geography's great strengths is its breadth. The long-term goal is to establish a secure platform for the international development of teachers’ capacities as creative and disciplined innovators. The project encourages teachers to think beyond program delivery and implementation and to embrace their role as the curriculum makers.

Coincidentally, David Lambert is picking up the Taylor and Francis award from the RGS-IBG the day after we return from Helsinki (or in my case, the same day as I'm hanging around for the following day...)


A few Fridays ago I led an hour-long whole staff CPD session on using Mission:Explore's new curriculum missions and badges to explore the school creatively.
Thanks to my colleagues for participating so positively, and also for sharing some of the things they produced, which are going up on the school website (no public access)
I liked this example of a photo-collage which was produced and shared by colleagues. Click for bigger version.

Visit the Mission:Explore site to see our new curriculum badges.

Details here...

Crowdsourced Webwatch issue

The latest issue of my Webwatch pages in GA Magazine, which I've been writing for a fair few years now was crowdsourced.
It's now been published and thanks to all those who sent me something for inclusion in the final article.
The people who made the final cut are listed below - all worth following on Twitter if you don't already.
Richard Allaway - @Richardallaway
Bob Lang - @Boblanggeog
Angharad Stone - @AngharadStone
Neil Cluclas - @stclun
Lizzie Crean - @LCreanGeog
Stephen Schwab - @schwabs52
Mr. Anderson and Miss Machin - @dukkhaboy and @Porthia18
David Holmes - @David905947
David Drake - @_DavidDrake
Alice Griffiths - @AliceLouseGrif
Raphael Heath - @RHSB_Geography

There's also some Twitter feeds to follow, an excellent suite of weather apps, and the wonderful Earth Primer app for iPads.

I'm always happy to receive suggestions for websites, apps and web tools that you've used in the classroom for inclusion in the feature...

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Ordnance Survey Map Symbol Design competition

Just announced on the One Show apparently...
I was eating fish and chips at the time so missed it...

The One Show / Ordnance Survey Limited “On the Map” Design Competition

We are looking for something visual, original and eyecatching for our judging panel....

We have already run competitions to find the UK’s best chicken curry, chocolate brownies and home-made bread.

Now we want you to turn your hand to designing a map symbol, or several map symbols! We’re looking for your creative ideas in the following areas:

1) Vineyard
2) Skate Park
3) Caves
4) Toilet
5) Art Gallery
6) Electric Car Charging Point
7) Climbing Centre
8) Solar Farm
9) Kite Surfing
10) Ice Rink

All the details of how to enter are here on our website along with the terms and conditions. If you wish to enter a design for more than one category, please send each image in a separate email as your entry might not reach us if you attach multiple designs to one email. The competition is not open to professional graphic designers, map designers or professional cartographers.

Furthermore, as this is a competition for amateurs, entrants must declare any connection with commercial design when entering. Although this will not automatically exclude an entrant, the Organisers will consider any conflict of interest and reserves the right to exclude an entry on that basis.
Entrants are invited to submit a design for a map symbol for one or more of the specified categories listed above. Entries should be sent by email to the One Show email address

Entrants are required to send an image file of their design, no bigger than 10 megabytes. You can create your design on a computer or draw it by hand and send us a photograph of it. We are unable to accept PDF files, but you can submit JPEG, PNG and JIF file formats.

4. Please include your name, a contact telephone number, and a brief description of your design in the body of your email.

5. Please specify which category you are entering your design for in the subject heading of your email. For example if you are submitting a design for an Ice Rink, please put “On the Map – Ice Rink” in the subject heading of your email. Failure to do this may result in your entry not reaching its appropriate judging category and being disqualified.

Entries may be submitted from Wednesday 13th May 2015. The entry window will close at midnight on Sunday 31st May 2015. Entries received after midnight onSunday 31st May 2015 will not be considered.

The designs will be passed over to the OS judging panel, which will consist of their expert map designers and independent judge, who shortlist the entries and will then select the winning design(s) based on the following criteria:

• Originality of design and quality of artwork
• Clarity of symbol – does it clearly represent the category?
• Suitability of design for reproduction on digital and printed maps

The name of the independent judge will be available on written request. The judges may choose up to a maximum of 10 winners for each category. However the Organisers reserve the right, in their absolute discretion, not to choose any winners for any category.

The winners will be notified by the week beginning the 21st June 2015. Competition results will be announced on the One Show on the 1st July 2015, although the Organisers reserve the right to change the date of this announcement. The winner(s) shall receive a bespoke OS map which features their map symbol.

So what are you waiting for? Go and get creative!

Thought for the Day

Tomorrow may be hell but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.
Neil Gaiman

Weapons of Reason

I've blogged about this here before a few times.
It's one of the finest resources I've come across for teaching the Arctic and used for a while. I love it...

Thanks to Jon Barker for posting the link on Twitter.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Send my Friend to School 2015

Send my Friend to School is an annual campaign which teaches 5-15 year olds about global education and how to become active global citizens through a wide range of free teaching resources? 
I've featured it here for the last few years now, and used the materials in my own classroom.

2015 is an incredibly important year for the campaign. It is the target year for universal primary education but 58 million children are still out of school and it is girls, children in conflict areas and children with disabilities that are missing out the most. At the current rate of progress, according to Send my Friend to School, it will be 2086 before every child worldwide gets an education and a chance for a bright future.

However, 2015 is also the year that could change 58 million children's futures. 

World leaders will gather this September in New York to decide the future of the world's children and create a new set of sustainable development goals (SDGs)

The Send My Friend to School campaign is asking young people in the UK to imagine that they were a world leader and tell politicians what crucial decisions they would make to get every child worldwide into school now.

With the election just over, this is a good time to continue the focus on active citizenship.

There are brand new resources for 2015: case studies, assembly power points, fact sheets, lesson plans and other resources available to schools and once again, you can order a free teachers pack to all schools who get involved, which includes stickers and a free DVD.

Watch this VIMEO film to see how important the campaign is:

Follow the campaign on Twitter: @sendmyfriend

Young Geographer of the Year Award

Young Geographer of the Year 2015

Why does Antarctica matter?

The question for this year’s Young Geographer of the Year competition coincides with the centenary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, which aimed to complete the first crossing of Antarctica. Despite failing in his original plans and being stranded on pack ice for over a year, Shackleton and his men returned safely and the expedition is recognised as one of the most remarkable feats of leadership and endeavour.
This year’s competition is an opportunity for students to explore why Antarctica still matters today. This may be for a number of reasons, spanning:
  • Antarctica's world-leading science
  • The continent's unique biodiversity and landscapes
  • As a location which still inspires people with awe and wonder of the natural world
  • Antarctica's unique status as the only continent in the world without countries
  • Antarctica's governance by the Antarctic Treaty which promotes science, peaceful purposes, sets aside territorial claims and prevents military activity
Discovering Antarctica, developed in partnership with the British Antarctic Survey and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, features a wealth of information about the distant, frozen wilderness of Antarctica.
The competition has four categories: Key Stage 2 (students aged 9-11), Key Stage 3 (students aged 11-14), Key Stage 4 or GCSE (students aged 14-16) and Key Stage 5 or A Level (students aged 16-18). The Society encourages schools to run their own local semi-finals before entering their top-placed entries into the national competition.

The deadline for all entries is 5pm on Friday 16th October 2015.

Details here

Thought for the Day

It wasnt a city, it was a process, a weight on the world that distorted the land for hundreds of miles around.  People whod never see it in their whole lives nevertheless spent their life working for it.  Thousands and thousands of green acres were part of it, forests were part of it.  It drew in and consumed…
…and gave back the dung from its pens and the soot from its chimneys, and steel, and saucepans, and all the tools by which its food was made.  And also its clothes, and fashions and ideas and interesting vices, songs and knowledge and something which if looked at in the right light, was called civilization.  Thats what civilization meant.  It meant the city.

Night Watch – Terry Pratchett

Lego Street View

That might be stretching it a bit, but it's an interesting experiment.
The website takes the StreetView API and adds a very 'Lego' feel, with studs and a brick motif extending to the replacement of the yellow pegman.
Here's Ely Cathedral and the green in front with the Old Palace... not really doing it justice...

What if we made London a National Park City ?

A VIMEO video by Dan Raven Ellison poses that very question, and answers it too...

Sunday, 10 May 2015

MiniGeogs - the perfect revision fillip...

And you can also use them even if your name isn't Philip....

MiniGeogs was one of my favourite projects that I thought of when building the GeographyPages website. It was created back in 2005, with the help of FatMax.

Go HERE to download the XLS file that you'll need to create your MiniGeog.
You'll need to enable the macro that it contains to do the painting by numbers magic.

This is a mini-pixellated image in a 10x10 grid - a little creative challenge for you and your students...

Here's the instruction sheet.

Why not have a go at making:

- a mini landscape
- a physical or human feature
- a map symbol
- the outline of a country
- a local landmark

If you want a challenge sheet, then here are some things that you could have a go at.

Could you please screengrab the 10x10 MiniGeog section of the XLS and send them to me / tweet them with the hashtag #minigeogs

Here's a few examples that I got from the Wayback Machine archive of my classic GeographyPages, which had over 5 million page views in their time...

Thanks to Val Vannet, Helen Nurton, Victoria Ellis and Noel Jenkins for these back in the day....

Now minigeog on...