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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rock Garden

I was on the way to work this morning and found myself (as I often do) lamenting the state of some part of my house, in this case the garden. As the photographs show, the path is in a pretty poor state and the wall is being colonized by tiny ferns. In this instance, however, at least my annoyance and phone obsession married to complement my double period of advanced higher first thing.

We are trying to incorporate fieldwork around a real live local issue to give context to the geographical methods and techniques that students must be conversant in. Any Troon local would tell you that the future of Marr College, an old listed building whose green dome dominates the back end of the town, has been a highly contentious issue. There has been significant local opposition to the idea of a move to a new campus, with the preference given to a refurbished school, something which I think the consultation is now leaning towards. The amazing thing for me is the strength of feeling the students themselves express. One of the students in class today linked generations of her family to the school and others in the class were so very aware of things such as cost implications, issues which sometimes turn off younger interested parties. We decided to mobilize this interest by asking the class to consider the need for refurbishment/ relocation, if there was one at all.

This morning, before we started, two members of the class were sent out with trundle wheels to measure the perimeter of the old and 'new' buildings. We adapted Rhan's weathering scale and first of all looked at the external fabric of the building. This was really useful as, although we sampled the whole school, we were able to explore the intricacies of stratified sampling techniques by splitting an even amount of sample points between both parts of the school, important as the student perception was one of the new building being less fit for purpose. After this, we systematically sampled 15 points on both sites, therefore introducing another type of sampling. Students really embraced the task, got busy with their phones and picked out some great examples of physical, chemical and biological weathering. Furthermore, I think quite a few were surprised by the outcomes. A real added bonus was that the systematic sample totally missed the worst part of the new building, a fact not lost on some of the class, opening up a discussion about accuracy, validity and justification.

Finally, we spent the second period indoors doing building decay surveys, again splitting the sites, but this time doing a random sample. We were able to identify the flaws in this method (for example, clustering) and were introduced to a very useful tool for urban studies. Again, much credit to the class who were once again enthusiastic in their pursuit of their results. I'm sure the councils estates team could have a few good recruits from this group! We just about managed to discuss hypotheses before we finished and have enough to introduce some simple descriptive statistics tomorrow. I found this a really enjoyable and relevant way to introduce theory heavy content. Into the bargain, my photos allowed the students to visualize chemical and biological weathering. I don't feel so bad about the garden anymore :-)


At 6:01 am, Blogger Juliet Robertson said...

Great idea! I've blogged about weathering for very young children as at their height they see details we miss. It's interesting to see how you've taught it in secondary school.


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