Monday, 29 September 2014

GeoCapabilities - what can Geography do for you?

I can now share some news about an EU-funded project which I will be involved in for the next few years, into 2016.

As regular readers will know, I have been involved in a whole range of projects over the last few years, both before, during and after working for the Geographical Association, and then since returning to teaching. I am grateful to those colleagues who have involved me in such projects, and with whom I have worked - it has introduced me to many inspirational colleagues from across the EU and beyond, and developed my own personal learning network as well as informing my teaching and other work beyond the classroom.

The project I have been asked to join is called GeoCapabilities, and it connects quite a few of the areas that I have worked in and on over the years, including the idea of 'curriculum making' which arose from the work of Professor David Lambert at the time we were creating the GA's manifesto for school geography: 'a different view' when I worked for the Geographical Association.

I previously attended one of the first meetings of the project at the EuroGeo conference in Bruges at Easter 2013. I blogged that back then: a 4 hour meeting involving some UK teachers and academics from a number of countries. The team have since presented at AAG and also at this year's GA conference (they also came to GeoBeerMeet which is a good sign)

I've also previously posted about this article in RIGEO, written by David Lambert with Michael Solem from the AAG and Sirpa Tani from the University of Helsinki. I get a name check at the end too, which is nice.
The article includes the following section which starts to explain the idea of geocapabilities:

We posit that the powerful knowledge offered by geography education consists of a deep descriptive ‘world knowledge’; a theoretically-informed relational understanding of people and places in the world; and a propensity and disposition to think about alternative social, economic and environmental futures. In the context of GeoCapabilities, we are interested in determining the ways in which geography can be considered a powerful knowledge in the education of young people. For curriculum making, this implies thinking about the role of geographic knowledge, skills, perspectives and values in developing the capabilities of young people. It also implies thinking in terms of how young people may become deprived of certain capabilities when they lack access to the powerful knowledge provided by geography education.

In other words (and I'm simplifying things here for my own benefit as much as anything): what can geography do for you, and what implications does this have for teachers developing the curriculum and becoming 'curriculum makers' ?

I've also blogged about a seminar with Margaret Roberts at the IoE that I was privileged to be able to attend last year.
Video of this event has now been made available and I shall post a link in another post, to be added shortly.

You can follow more of our activities by visiting the website.
Check the ABOUT tab for a brief set of introductory resources.

I will also be tweeting information and other news as the project develops over on the Twitter account for the project @geocapabilities - follow us on Twitter to see how the project develops.

My role will be to work on a web resource aimed at guiding teachers through a series of modules which will help them think through how Geocapabilities can inform their work. It will act as a portal, a discussion forum and also a CPD activity.

I'm looking forward to working with, and learning from people I've worked with, and learned from before.

Another interesting professional chapter begins....

Collins Blog features 'Extreme Survival'

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

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

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

The Aral Sea continues to shrink away...

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

Mt. Ontake

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

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

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

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

New on Spotify - probably not for long...

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Latest reading...

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

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

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

An engaging and readable book.

Japanese Ageing Population Map

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

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

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


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

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Everyone Counts

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

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

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

Discovering Galapagos

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

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

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

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

Grow your own glacier

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

The Music of Geography

Another splendid classroom resource from Simon Jones...

Friday, 26 September 2014

Dan in the Independent...

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

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

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

* - a notional park

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

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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

What do they mean ? As Tubbs asked...

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

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

This from Gemma on the OS Blog...

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

Obama on Climate Change

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

Monday, 22 September 2014

Emma Watson at the UN

Has been getting a lot of attention this week....
Link via Paul Turner

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Flatford Mill Fieldtrip

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

6th Form Curriculum Planning event

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

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

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

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

Details obtained from SLN Geography Forum

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Pointless Geography...

A question from a show the other night...
Which one would you choose ?

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Anatomy of an Earthquake

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

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

Presented by: 
Professor Iain Stewart (Plymouth University)

Created by:
Shadow Industries 

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

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

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

Update on previous London National Park* post...

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

New RGS Resource on Mapping London

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

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Queen Mary University and Greater London National Park

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

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

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

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

* - a notional park

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

Landscape Haiku Instructions

Created for a cover lesson.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Geography Teacher Educators' Conference 2015

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

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

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

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

Woodland Walk

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

Image: Alan Parkinson

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

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

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

My Voice - My School

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

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

Check it out....

Pole of Cold at Turner Contemporary

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

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