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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Forgotten, but not gone :-)

One of the perils of my job since I became PT three years ago this June is that I spend more of my time dealing with bits of paper which gives me less time to blog. As such, it can be frustrating, as for much of the time in that role, I see some great things or have a trigger for some nice ideas which I would like to share but don't get the time to. Plus, there are always the occupational hazards like trips to Arran, shown in the photograph taken today ;-) I wanted to share something we are developing for the coming year as I am genuinely excited about it and, for me, illustrates a lot of what the new curriculum in Scotland could be.

We have been given the opportunity to develop and deliver an S3 skills elective. Effectively, this is a blank canvas and, while I will share the outline of what we have so far, I would love to hear from any readers with further suggestions for activities which might work in conjunction with ours. We have decided to focus on skills and content which allow clear interdisciplinary learning to be facilitated and have (probably rather cheekily) titled it 'We rule the school'.

The elective involves three main themes and, if they work well, I would plan to bring some of them in to our core courses, particularly in the lower school where there is a lot of flexibility over content. The first of our three themes is primarily focused on developing literacy skills and is, unsurprisingly, being called Writing the Earth. We are using a purchase of digimap to help with this and have borrowed some ideas by Alan Parkinson and, for a later lesson elsewhere, Paula Owens. We probably don't use Ordnance Survey maps as often as we used to since developing our new courses, so this is also a good way to incorporate key mapping skills into students learning as well as an element of numeracy. Some of the activities include a persuasive writing exercise where students have to compete against one another for 'square of the year' using a randomly selected grid square and elaborating on the limited map evidence to make a convincing case for their 'brilliant' locations. We are also using the resource as a prompt for film locations and scripting. Finally, we are hoping to use the O.S. to inspire grid square poetry. I am hoping to set up a wiki to showcase student work and will credit properly where the ideas arrived from there (I have no idea how to hyperlink from my phone). Outwith mapping, anyone who is a regular reader will know that I like a good story and I think this would be an ideal place to resurrect the very successful river stories of two years ago where students wrote and recorded a first person account from a river from its youthful upper course to its old age (estuary). For all of this, we have liaised with the English department and are looking to assess literacy skills in a uniform way that students will recognise from their time in that subject.

The second theme is something we have called Experimental Geography. Here, we have linked with the sciences. I am currently speaking with a Chemistry colleague who already uses similar tectonics experiments as us and, hopefully, this will be something which compliments rather than repeats learning elsewhere in the school. We are using several experiments on pressure, weather, renewable energy, growing stalactites, ocean energy transfers, earth forces and biodiversity to enhance our status as a science subject as well as a social one. I really value the practical experiences as it contextualises learning for the students and provides a 'wow' factor at times. We plan to have students write up experiments to analyse their findings and become better at problem solving e.g. If it didn't work well, why? What would have improved the result? What influenced the result? The beauty of this is that it should make geographical field work and the use of hypotheses much easier if students continue with Geography in the upper school. 

The final theme is Artful Geography and involves some exciting collaboration with both Design and Technology and Art. We have already started an activity where we have been looking at abstract art and comparing to the patterns on maps (this was the Paula Owens idea). This will result in student produced mosaics or collages which mimic the patterns on maps which use shape, colour and line, will require students to become more familiar with the symbols on the maps and draw on advice from the Art department with regards the best way to create the piece of art. This also requires students to work on scaling up their compositions and will require disciplined team working. A side benefit has been the suggestion by my colleague in art that we can also dovetail with her photography elective by using landscape and photograph composition which involves some joint tuition. With my colleague in Design, we have also managed to come together to create an opportunity to use design skills learned in S2 using specialist software to bring to life sustainable building designs related to Noel Jenkins' excellent 'Designing for Dubai' exercise. This will also develop our role in global citizenship delivery and will allow students the opportunity to use digital mapping through Google Earth to provide a suitable site and situation for their designs, as well as again utilising problem solving.

I would love to hear any suggestions for further extension of these themes, particularly in terms of practical activities that you may have used which would fit. When we have had our first run through by November, I'd be happy to share a fully resourced scheme of work too. The short timescale has meant thinking on our feet a little, but I am really delighted at the shape it has taken and hope to be sharing some of the results here soon.

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At 11:04 pm, Anonymous Karen muir said...

I had geobus go school yesterday running a wind power workshop. The kids made their own wind turbines which were then tested using a vacuum cleaner as the wind, with the mast connected to a machine which calculated how much energy was created. It was a great exercise, with numeracy, problem solving and team work. They also used maps to find a suitable location and calculated the profit it would make using simple formulas. You should look into this,great experience for the kids

At 1:41 pm, Blogger Kenny O'Donnell said...

Many thanks, Karen, will look into that.


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