Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Year 6 taster day

Today was Year 6 taster day. There were 4 groups of around 20 students who I had during the day - some internal students, and others who were visiting for the day for a taste of the school.
We were looking at the idea of exploration and wanted to get the students being creative. The original idea was for them to be outside, but persistent rain during the day put paid to that idea.
Here's the activity we used.
You will need the Lego Learn to Learn Education pack if you want to use that part of the activity, or a lego minifigure per person / group if not...

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Iceland Trip - Post 5 of 10 - Day 2

Day 2 dawned early, and the weather (as it was for most of the day) was amazingly mild. We checked out of the hotel as we were staying somewhere else that night, and headed out of the city of Reykjavik and into the surrounding countryside. The light started to brighten as we moved out to the east, and the weather improved as well, which was a bonus. We made our first stop at the Hellisheidi Geothermal Plant, which takes heat from a volcano and provides hot water for the housing in Reykjavik. We saw a short film and had a tour of the plant, and then headed back to the coach and had an hour's drive up over high fell and with a view towards the coast. We encountered the rocky former coastline, and then pulled up at the Eyjafjallajokull visitor centre that has been built over the road from Thorvaldseyri. On a previous visit, I pulled up to the farm itself and spoke to the farmer and his wife in their home but now it was a film and a good pause for the students to see how the volcano affected people living in the area.
We then moved on a few miles to the curtain waterfall of Skogafoss, where we broke for lunch.

The weather was certainly changeable, and we had sunshine as we climbed up to the top viewing platform, and into the spray of the waterfall. Everyone enjoyed the falls, and the surrounding countryside and we were then on for another trip along the coastline before heading inland towards the glacier of Solheimajokull. We were fitted with crampons, and then walked up to the glacier - a longer walk than it used to be as the glacier has receded quite a way over the last few years. Everyone had the chance to walk on the glacier, and as we came to the end of the tour, the light was spectacular.

From the glacier we then had a short drive to Vik, where we were staying. I had a shot time to appreciate the wonderful view from my hotel room before it got dark.

ESRI Global Migration visualisation

A useful tool for Year 10 and 12.
See the migration to and from each city come to life.
The UK, for example has seen dramatic out-migration as well as immigration.

Iceland Trip 2015 - Post 4 of 10 - Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is one of National Geographic's natural wonders of the world. It is heated by geothermal heat from beneath the ground. It has expanded since last time I visited, and more expansion is planned, including hotels and other features. We took the opportunity to explore the various lagoons, silica mud smeared on our faces, and also visited the bar. The wristbands bamboozled a few students. We had over an hour to wallow in the water and float looking up at the sky before heading to the hotel to check in.

Image taken on a previous visit by me

Iceland trip 2015 - Post 3 of 10 - Day 1 - the journey

Our journey to Iceland took us to Heathrow airport first. One slight issue was that there was thick fog, which the previous day had forced the cancellation of many flights, and the A14 which was our route to the airport was closed because of a major accident. There were a few delays with various forgotten items, but we were on the road on time, and our driver found a range of detours to get us back on to the road we needed to be on, slowed by the fog and detouring traffic. We arrived at the airport a little later than planned, and had a few delays in check-in and security too, which meant no time for shopping, but we then boarded the plane on time.

Our flight hadn't been cancelled as many had, but having got on board, we then heard that we would be sat there for 40 minutes. The in-flight entertainment system at least offered plenty of choice, and we had refreshments, and food for the younger students. We then started the flight, and soon left the fog of the UK behind and flew North. I always like following the flight tracker maps, which vary in their quality depending on the airline. There were some useful maps showing the route, and we passed over the Peak District, and then on beyond Scotland.

The delay in take off meant that we arrived in Iceland a little later than planned. We were all set up for a splendid week...

BBC WeatherWatchers - are you one ?

Have you signed up to join the BBC Weather Watchers community yet?

The idea is to have a community of people who send in images of the weather and send localised reports of the weather near where you live.

There are also reports on various aspects of the weather, with explanations of wind chill on the site at the moment for example.

GIS Day - Ashcloud Apocalypse

World GIS Day was this week, and my school took part.
We participated in the Ashcloud Apocalypse event, which was organised by Raphael Heath, who won an ESRI award for his work last year.

The students used a range of web maps and a web form to enter some data.

It's not too late to enter your data to get involved and see if we can break a world record for student involvement.

Shackleton Enduring Eye exhibition

A century ago today, Sir Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the 'Endurance' were camping on the ice after the sinking of his ship - crushed in the ice. They faced possibly the most incredible story ever told, as they proceeded to save the life of everyone involved, with a number of voyages including one in the James Caird to South Georgia.

Parts of the journey were documented by the expedition's photographer Frank Hurley, who managed to save just some of the images that he took.

An exhibition opens today at the Royal Geographical Society, which shows the images, which have been digitised directly from the original glass plates. It runs through to the end of February 2016. I shall be taking this in at some point when I next go to London.

See details about the exhibition, which is free to enter, and an online exhibition on the RGS website here.

You can see a few sample images on this BBC news article about the exhibition.

The RGS has also produced some resources linked to their collections.

And finally, check out William Grill's wonderful picture book of 'Shackleton's Journey' and the associated Activity Book which we have used to produce some interesting resources.

Image copyright: Royal Geographical Society

Friday, 20 November 2015

Coast inspired stamps

In my KS3 Toolkit book for the GA, "Look at it this Way", there was an activity called 'First Class Landscapes' which explored the design of stamps to show a future landscape.
Since then, plenty of stamp sets have emerged, and we are now about to have a really nice looking set of coastal landscapes.

Textbooks taking shape...

Covers of 2 of the 4 books I'm currently working on completing, ready for publication and purchase (in bulk please) in 2016...
Some excellent names involved with these books (and the others too)

Iceland Trip 2015 - Post 1 of 10 - Memories to last a lifetime...

I spent the first week in November in Iceland, on a five day trip which was organised through Discover the World. We contacted a number of companies and they were the one that offered the best price, and options for the various activities that we wanted students to experience.
We also had good options for hotels, meals etc and took IcelandAir flights from Heathrow as that was more accessible than other airport options for us.

We ended up having a memorable trip, and I'm going to add a few blog posts relating to the trip over the next few weeks as time permits. One of the most memorable moments was a long and dramatic showing of the Northern Lights, an emotional moment...
I didn't get many decent photos sadly despite trying, but here's one taken by student David, which is awesome....

Map produced using ArcGIS Online

ESRI UK User Conference - registration now open

I went to last year's event and it was a very useful day - details can be seen on the blog - do a search.
Registration for the event, which is free is now open.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Climbing up on Solsbury Hill

One of Peter Gabriel's most famous songs is called Solsbury Hill, and refers to a prominent landmark on the edge of the city of Bath.

He describes climbing up on Solsbury Hill and seeing the city lights.
Unfortunately, if plans go ahead, Peter would instead see a park and ride car park.
This could potentially threaten the cities UNESCO World Heritage status too, as it would change the nature of the Bathampton meadows.

Details of the East of Bath Park and Ride scheme can be seen here.
Could be a local issue for some readers.

Hugh's latest campaign

For the last few years we have used Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's material in classes. His Fish Fight campaign was one that we used last year when looking at sustainable fishing, and trying to stop discards.

Hugh's War on Waste is the latest campaign. It's a look at the way that food is wasted at various points in the food production cycle.

We'll be referring to this after Christmas when we go back to looking at food...

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Iceland Trip 2015 - Post 2 of 10 - Where did we go?

A Tagxedo cloud to show the places that we visited on the Iceland fieldtrip. I will be sharing stories from these places in the blog posts to come...

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Why do you live where you do?

This is a key question that lies behind a lot of urban geography.

The report from Centre for Cities has tried to answer that question, and offers a range of graphics and information.

Read the article from the link above, and then have a look at the final report for all the detail.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Iceland - updates coming soon...

Snowed under with work and marking so not yet had time to start adding the planned blog posts about our awesome trip with Discover the World to Iceland last week.
Here's a sample image from Gullfoss to whet your appetite.

Image: Alan Parkinson

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Natural Thinkers

Natural Thinkers from emma sullivan on Vimeo.

Justin Bieber in Iceland

Coming up over the next week or so are a whole range of posts from my recent visit to Iceland. I've just returned from a week's trip, which I was the team leader for. 48 students had a pretty great trip. If you want to see what we got up to, and some pictures, visit the @KingsElyGeog twitter feed. 

Many thanks to my colleagues Claire, Cate, Kathi, Hugh and Dan for their company during the week.

One of the things we were told about was a video made by Justin Bieber which was filmed at some of the locations that we visited. One of the elements of the video that hasn't gone down well is his disrespect for the landscape, particularly the moss which grows on the lava fields, and takes many centuries to grow.

Meanwhile Bjork, who our guide also mentioned, was campaigning to protect an area in the interior of the country...

Keep an eye out for some more Iceland posts and images shortly... Flickr albums coming up too.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Population in the news

Plenty of population interest in the news today.
Firstly, the announcement from the Chinese news agency Xinhua that the government intends to end the One Child Policy, first introduced in 1980

This is partly due to economic reasons apparently, but also to try to rebalance the country's population. Currently around 30% of the population is over the age of 50. Many of these people may have only one child now to potentially support them in their old age.

A lot of case studies will now have to be re-written.

There was also a story about the UK's population.
There have been some ONS releases relating to the country's median age etc. and the latest forecasts of the UK's growth suggests that were heading for 70 million.

Plenty of interest for GCSE and 'A' level students.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Greenland is melting away

An excellent visualisation from the New York Times.
Scroll down to see more.

Megacities: new from Weapons of Reason

One of the best resources I've bought in the last couple of years was the first Weapons of Reason journal on the theme of the Arctic. It had great articles, data, infographics and illustrations, and I've used sections in quite a few lessons.

The second issue has just gone on sale, and I've got my copy ordered, for £6.

This time round, the theme is Megacities, and this is a topic which I shall be teaching with Year 10 and Year 12. Visit the

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Paris Dakar

Spent part of today reading and correcting some proofs of book I'm co-authoring, with a chapter on desert landscapes, and was reminded of an episode of QI I caught the other day.
It mentioned the Paris-Dakar Rally, an event which ran between the 2 cities for some years, and challenged competitors to race through part of the Sahara desert.
It turns out that the race no longer runs between those two cities, partly as a result of the impact that the race had on fragile environments, and also fears about the safety of competitors as a result of terrorist incidents and other reasons.

The event now takes place in South America, but even here there are some geographical issues connected with the route.
The map opposite shows the proposed route for 2016, and this has had to be changed.
It was supposed to be going through Peru, but there are fears of the impact of El Nino which mean that there may be issues providing the necessary support for the race.

The site has a page on the way that they try to reduce the environmental impact of the race.

Investigate the history of the race, and the link between the environment and the challenge that has been provided by it, and the impact of the race on it.

Go Jetters

Go Jetters are new on CBBC: a new animated series, and the geography advisors on the show are my former colleagues Paula Owens and John Lyon. The Go Jetters have global adventures.

Check them out on iPlayer, or play the Global Glitch game.

Primary Map Skills unit

A new unit on MapSkills from the RGS to take students from Y1 - Y6.

Written by Caroline Freedman and well worth a look.

Monday, 26 October 2015

An Atlas of countries that don't exist...

New from Nick Middleton, and just ordered.

A stunning gift hardback featuring beautiful maps and stories of unrecognised countries

Acclaimed travel writer and Oxford geography don Nick Middleton takes us on a magical tour of countries that, lacking diplomatic recognition or UN membership, inhabit a world of shifting borders, visionary leaders and forgotten peoples.

Most of us think we know what a country is, but in truth the concept is rather slippery. From Catalonia to the Crimea, and from Africa's last colony to the European republic that enjoyed just a solitary day of independence, the places in this book may lie on the margins of legitimacy, but all can be visited in the real world.

Beautifully illustrated by fifty regional maps, each shadowy country is literally cut out of the page of this book. Alongside stories, facts and figures, this Atlas brings to life a dreamlike world of nations that exist only in the minds of the people who live there.

Pico Iyer on the meaning of home...

I have a few Pico Iyer books. They are interesting and well-written explorations of movement, and the edges of the world, and the pull of home.
I enjoyed this Ted Talk where Pico starts with the simple question: "Where do you come from?"

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Hurricane Patricia

Woke to a timeline full of stories of Hurricane Patricia as it made landfall into Mexico with 'record-breaking' windspeeds of close to 200mph.

50 000 people apparently evacuated from Mexico City.

I grabbed this image from the Earth Null School visualisation last night as it approached - the animation can't be seen but it was whizzing round super fast...

On the news earlier it said that Mexico's geography saved a lot more damage, as the coastal mountains dissipated a lot of the energy as the hurricane made landfall...

New bloggage...

Every now and again, I start a new blog on a particular theme as an extra place to share specific
resources and ideas.
This new blog will share my ideas on geography in / on film....

I'll share memories of particular films from the past, preview films that are coming up, talk about films I've seen recently, and explore their geographical significance.
Geography is tied in with all films: they are set somewhere, and their narrative is driven by characters engaging with places, and their own interconnections.
Each image in a film has been carefully chosen, and may appear on screen for just a short time, but linger in the memory for a lot longer.

I'll explore film posters and the landscapes they show, cultural geography in films, how cities and the rural landscape are (re)presented in film, film soundtracks and the stories that the films were based on, or the new worlds that they open up. I'll explore how maps feature, and where films are located in specific locations.

Check it out at Geography 24 times a second