I'm seeing a new Higher class tomorrow for the first time. I've always been critical of the jump to non-experiences when pupils enter the senior phase. There is such a temptation to force feed content and hope that students pass the memory test at the end of it all. I think that Geography in particular, due to the vast amount that the course covers, can often be delivered in this way. It acts as insurance for the teacher who stresses about their ability to get through the course, but dulls development of critical skills which are needed in both S6 and beyond.
A couple of years ago, I spent an introductory period pretty much telling students what we would be covering without providing any context. Weeks later after a couple of homework exercises and having had a bit of time to get to know the class, I realised that they could reel off learned responses, but had absolutely no idea what the lithosphere actually was, for example. So, how can I ensure that proper context has been given, firstly for this Physical Environment topic which can be so relentless in its new terminology? The easiest way I can think of is through cake...
When this idea was forming, I thought the pitch might be too low, but I've reconciled myself to it. Firstly, most of the students I see tomorrow will be just off the back of the most intensive rote learning of their lives as they prepped for exams. Secondly, the idea, for me, makes links clear. Imagine a cake without the sponge or the icing/ topping. It wouldn't quite work, would it? So imagine that the foundation of the cake, that sponge is laid out as the lithosphere. It's pretty solid, yet changes in conditions can lead to it being put under pressure - temperature, pressure etc. On its own, its bare, barren, almost lifeless. Can the students think of any areas of the earths surface geology which fits this description? Where are they? What are they? Why are they like that?
To make the cake enticing, to make it come alive, if you like, the decorative layer is important. Much thinner, but where its all going on. This gives the cake its flavour, character and can be influenced by what's beneath it and also, I suppose, can influence what's above it- what compliments those flavours. For instance, would jelly diamonds or chocolate buttons go best on chocolate icing? This layer is a little like the biosphere. Different types of geology in the lithosphere influence the development of the biosphere and that, in turn, influences the vegetation which develops at surface level.
Bring in the cream, pour it on the cake. Where does it go? Can we see 'watersheds'? Does it all stay on the surface and, if not, where does it end up? Is any lost? Does it change the surface of the cake in any way? Surely this is a perfect in for study of the actions of water in the hydrosphere.
Finally, for the Physical Environment topic, we could explore atmosphere through asking about the perfect serving temperature, how its attained and regulated and what happens if its varied.
Posted via email from Mr O'D's class posterous