Discover the World – Presentation on Sustainability & Tourism in the Azores

This is the presentation given today at the Discover the World Climate Change & Sustainability conference. Within the powerpoint are some weblinks so do download and click into them to see what it was about. A commentary is underneath the powerpoint. Mostly this links to the original posts I wrote about the Azores in this blog during the April 2014 teacher inspection visit so you can read there for detail. The activities are based upon the Discover Geography website that has free resources for teachers on locations such as Iceland and the Azores. The Azores resources were mostly compiled by Simon Ross when you click into the website, so credit goes to him. On the powerpoint when it says ‘e.g. Resource 24′ that is what I am referring to! In true Louis Walsh style though I have generally ‘made it my own’ by taking the suggested activities and then amending them. I also refer to Digital Explorer resources which are great for looking at oceans. Anyway, have a look and if you like an activity then try it and let me know!

Background on the Azores:

The Azores is a volcanic archipelago of 9 islands located in the mid-Atlantic on a triple junction along the Mid Atlantic Ridge. Sao Miguel is the main island and by far the most popular with 69% of all tourists staying here. This is largely due to being the only island with direct flights rather than going via Portugal. Ferries and internal island flights exist across to other smaller islands. The least popular island for tourism is Corvo, closely followed by Flores. Generally most tourism is domestic from the Portuguese mainland (56% in 2013) with Sweden, Germany, France and the UK then being the most common countries of origin. Tourism has been reasonably steady for the past decade although with troughs due to global recession. There is a seasonal variation with July and August not surprisingly being busiest. When we visited the Azores it was clear that the infrastructure is still needed to be put in place to encourage mass tourism – and that copious E.U. funding is being gleaned on every street corner. Currently the islands still retain their distinctiveness and remoteness, with only 5% of the whole chain being urbanised. For four consecutive years the Azores as won the Sustainable Tourism Award for Portugal, and won a global award this year. There are multiple UNESCO Biosphere reserves on the island, European Geopark status and Quality Coast marks, and the main industries and employers are still agriculture and increasingly services.

Slide commentary:

Slide 8 linkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5NiTN0chj0

Slide 10: Google Earth tour file. Email / tweet me if you want a tour file. It’s not that exciting but something!

Slides 12-22: I just described a bit of background on the main locations we went to on the trip to give some context on the Azores. You can read about all these in this blog if you search. In a nutshell just commenting that there are opportunities to use the Azores to teach about eutrophication and its reversal, land use change, social conflict (ie. farmers having land reclaimed), ecology with botanical gardens, geothermal power and comparisons to Iceland (43% of all Sao Miguel island’s energy is from geothermal power, aiming for 50% across the whole chain by 2050 with the Azores being part of the Green Islands initiative, coastal geography at Ferreria, Pico mountain, whaling and the rise of whale sightseeing tourism (in 2011 48’000 tourists did whale watching, supporting 200 jobs for previously unemployed whalers and fishers), Faial island botanical reserve protecting and breeding endemic species (since only 7% of all vegetation in the Azores is currently endemic), and Capelinhos volcanic peninsular and it’s interesting behaviour. You can see the whole commentary guide in the blog or on Slideshare here.

Slide 23: http://www.discover-geography.co.uk Just submit your email address and get approved then off you go.

Slide 24: Using Resource 23. I used this as either a categorising card sort, or to get students to locate each activity on a map or on GIS, or create a travel plan and evaluate the impact of each activity.

Slide 25: Using Resource 15 which contains key facts on the use of energy in different islands. I’ve structured the tasks using Solo language since this is now a common language in school, so students have the choice of either a Relational or Extended Abstract activity to use weblinks to compare and contrast two islands.

Slide 26: Using Resource 27 which asks about the challenges of sustainable tourism and gives information on the current issues and implications of tourism growth. I suggested creating a mock interview /  documentary based on the issues and internet research. A chance for some empathy and to consider different views (stressing the importance of a balanced argument and to ask questions and compare).

Slide 27: Using Resource 25 which has raw data on accommodation and country of origin for tourists this is a chance for some numeracy links. Students can choose from Bronze/Silver/Gold level and are encouraged to try a new skill. I would also correlate this with using the skills webs at KS3 and KS4.

Slide 28-33: Just simple photo stimulus using own images and questions. These would be a ‘Do Now’ activity in class as students enter.

Slide 35: General activities that could be used for a variety of lessons. http://www.bing.com for the every day changing image and reminding people about the free 1:25’000 OS maps layer.

Slide 36: Tell me a story. Always making explicit links to literacy. Also reading and sharing exemplar travel writing and descriptive writing.

Slide 38: Simple diamond 9 sorting activity with statements based on the DtW resources facts.

Slide 39-40: Venn sorting exercise with descriptive statements for students to categorise, sort, discuss – just emphasising that sustainability is a balance of all three.

Slide 41: Self-explanatory! Used this with KS3 classes as part of the Amazing Places unit to design a sustainable solution to different places.

Slide 42-43: Lovely links to numeracy again – we are all teachers of numeracy lol ;-) Again choice of activity of different complexity.

Slide 46-47: Using www.wordle.net or www.tagxedo.com to create word clouds based on impressions of the Azores, or using text from web research. You can then analyse the patterns and discuss these.

Slide 48: Flickr.com stimulus for a photo slideshow as your ‘Do now’ activity. Welcome to use my images if you want to.

Slide 49: Learning grids – which I’ve explained elsewhere in here so have a look.

Slide 51: Practise Decision Making Exercise just based on Azores tourism (just about the same as used for Iceland and Dubai etc.)

Slide 52: VCOP writing frame to structure writing / scaffold.

Slide 53-59: Just to explain SOLO bits briefly. Not because it’s the only tool I use or the be all and end all, but because there is some use for it to help show and guide progression sometimes through the descriptors. Slide 57 shows a template for guiding an increasingly complex answer through the stages. The sheet could be given at the start of a topic when students fill in what they can (most likely the first two boxes), then referred back to at mid point and end of topic to complete with what has been learned. Slide 59 Solo hexagons I’ve explained before but basically used to tessellate information about sustainability before writing an extended answer. The aim is to make as many connections / have as many sides touching as possible.

Slide 60: An example of how I model case study answers to practise doing 3 developed points using point, evidence, explain, link.

Slide 61: Sign up to Microsoft Partners in Learning to get free cool software like Autocollage. My year 7s used it to create a collage of distinctive features in the Azores based on the Flickr images, then they interrogated each other on their choice of image and whether something was really distinctive or not. They were fascinated by the spiral staircase on the lighthouse and the engraved whale bones bless them.

Slide 62: Get kids doing their own placemarks and tours on Google Earth then sharing with each other. Time consuming at first but worth it, especially if you want to create similar works in GCSE for skills.

Slide 63: Have a shared Pinterest board. You can invite by email in to a particular board and then can post links / images into it. Be careful in terms of it being social media so use kids school email addresses but it doesn’t give sensitive information. Can then be used to all collate resources for a project.

Slide 64: Digital Explorer another awesome website for free resources. Great for coral and polar oceans in particular with resources for all key stages, fact sheets, and even simple experiments you can do in school with buckets of water, ice cubes and food dye to show thermohaline conveyor system, impact of glacial melt, etc,. The Azores has cold coral reefs which are starting to become fragile from the impact of fishing nets and also ocean acidification, and there are resources in here that can help explain all that including some great student made videos.

Slide 65: Ocean Health Index shows global patterns of oceanic health and then specific data on 244 ocean regions. Oceans are rated and scored out of 100 based on health, fisheries, carbon storage, tourism, etc. and then ranked for their global position. The Azores is 91/244 and set to improve. You can then compare to other regions. The least healthy areas are predominantly coastal Africa, which leads on nicely to a comparison with a region in Africa and a region in Asia…ooh, did we just tick a statutory box somewhere? ;-) Also relevant for new KS4 curriculum.

Phewf. Hope something was useful in there for those that attended and any of you that made it to the bottom ;-)

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it connected to the rest of the world” (John Muir)

Prince’s Teaching Institute gearing up for 2014_15 cohort!

PTI It’s been a long time since I last blogged due to moving schools and needing to find my feet. I’ve not felt that I have had anything to share in a positive sense yet while I make the heady transition, but more on that in another post I am mulling over perhaps. It’s been a wee bit mental so I’ve struggled to find time to do anything apart from breathe, but I shall do better! Hopefully!

This Saturday 18th October marks the first of the new 2014_15 year for the Prince’s Teaching Institute Subject Days for new teachers. I’ve been involved with the work of the PTI for the last year as a teacher leader for Geography (other subjects are available ;-) ). The subject days are aimed at NQTs or non-specialists in particular (the PTI also offers other training days and residentials that are subject specific or for leadership) and cover a variety of content over six Saturdays including a fieldwork day. It’s a great opportunity to receive the most up-to-date theory from current researchers or lecturers, to spend time with colleagues discussing what has been heard, and then to work with teacher leaders and peers during focused workshops based around the lecturer content.

The structure of the days usually involves two lectures, plus two workshops, a lovely lunch, and time with colleagues to chat and plan how you would use the information back in the classroom. The workshops are led by current teachers / heads of department such as myself, Graham Goldup, Andy Emms, Helen Boxley, Kate Amis, Ed Chandler, and Paul Cornish at four different locations of London, Manchester, Harrogate and Birmingham. The events are tailored to suit the individuals attending, and I’ve certainly enjoyed being at them and the conversations you have with educators of different experiences and interests and backgrounds. We’ve enjoyed lectures from the likes of Professor Iain Stewart and Simon Reeve, Hazel Barrett, Alan Kinder and Jonny Darling as well as many others. So I am really looking forward to this new year and learning more from others and being involved myself.

Part of the extended work of the PTI also encourages curriculum leaders to join the Schools Programme with their department. This is a scheme that involves a department self-evaluation against a range of criteria, setting of targets to aim for as part of your department development over the course of the year, the submission of an end of year report for review by teacher leader consultants, and an invitation to come to training days and share resources through the PTI website. PTI home PTI staffroom imageAdmittedly this website isn’t the most user friendly at present, but it is a work in progress and the PTI are aiming to improve their use of the site and social media over time. The programme is to be completed over the course of three years so that the actions taken are meant to be sustainable. The aim is to choose development points that are beyond your usual department development focus – a bit ‘above and beyond’, and could include whole school influence, network creation, etc. . I worked through the Schools Programme with my team at my last school and did find that the added level of accountability knowing you were working with mentors and sharing with others was a good extra incentive when plodding through the year, and added some extra clout for those discussions with SLT that needed it.

During the review sessions in the summer this year we read all the reports, moderated them and then decided whether a department would pass through to the second year at different levels of quality – similar to the GA Quality Mark in that sense. I loved hearing what was going on elsewhere – where departments were turning their results around, or changing their teaching strategies, creating local networks of change, embedding technology, etc. . Departments can also go on to the Associate Department scheme after three years so there is always something available. The scheme does cost money, but does also include the training days and mentoring throughout the year – and there is a deduction for schools with multiple departments involved. It’s certainly not the only scheme that can offer that sense of progression and structured development, but I can only speak from own experience with having enjoyed the whole process and the support available. I suppose the thing I like most is that anything offered by the PTI treats you as an intelligent professional, and I love the ‘back to uni’ type feeling where you are being fed information and taught by specialists who are currently researching that issue – it just makes you feel topped up with knowledge, enthused and ready for more. Unless I’m the only person who ever feels a little ‘dumbed down’ from just teaching to GCSE standard and not getting the thrill of the challenge of learning something hard like you did back at uni? No? ;-)

“Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.” (Leonardo da Vinci)

Thinking about formative assessment

Mathematical Bridge, CambridgeStory has it that originally the Mathematical Bridge (in the picture) was built without bolts through geometrical genius, but that when later generations had to renovate it they couldn’t reassemble and had to add bolts in. The legend isn’t true, it’s just that the original iron spikes would have been unseen by the eye as you passed. My point? Wouldn’t it be sweet if students could have their knowledge and understanding all held seamlessly together with everything connected?

Last year David Rogers showed me an example of a Skills Web that his art department had been working on, as I was working through some changes at my place. I’d seen similar elsewhere and really liked the idea as a simple visual way for students to see what skills they require to make progress, to check their confidence and self-assess, and see how skills cross-correlate between different units and subjects. I lose track of how many times we remind students that what they do in Geography correlates to skills in other subjects, and that I know full well that they can do graphs! Anyway, I like simple things and so this year introduced the skills web to trial it.

Below is a GCSE skills web based on the new themes of ‘think like’, ‘know like’, ‘apply like’, ‘study like’. I really like those strands in themselves for building a curriculum around ‘thinking (or knowing) like a geographer’ and make a nice explicit focus on terminology / literacy / numeracy that students need in order to make progress not just in Geog but in essential English and Maths.

 

web web2

 

Usage: students are given the colour version as above with a tracing overlay that has scores on it like the second image. This would be to stay with them for a whole year perhaps and the idea behind having the tracing overlay is that over time you might need to replace the overlay if it becomes too full / overused. You don’t have to do the tracing paper version (bit of a faff maybe) – instead just ask them to use symbols and a legend that dates each symbol so you can track over time.

Students then self-assess confidence from 0-10 along each strand. I wouldn’t get them to assess each strand at once, but at the start of a particular topic and then revisit periodically. Get them to date each time they self-assess then you can track over time. I make it a focal point by displaying on screen and highlighting which spoke of the wheel we are looking at then. Great for them and for you at identifying weaknesses to then work on.

We’ve also dabbled with topic specific skills webs for GCSE. Same principle of marking confidence along the line but this is just for one topic and I would revisit more frequently.

The Key Stage 3 example is below:

ks3web

 

I’d be interested to have feedback on what colleagues think and what is being tried elsewhere. I’m running with this in my current school and will introduce to the new place in September as our department AfL most likely. It’s not a replacement for summative assessment, this is still needed too (and hopefully the path here with tracking student progress in life after levels will become clearer soon!) But maybe it can help hold the strands of learning together.

Redacted literacy challenge

I’ve been trying to embed more literacy challenges this year as this is always something students struggle with and is a whole school focus that Geography can really contribute to.

 

Year 9 have been looking at Extreme Environments and with a focus on Everest at the end of this due to the recent events at Easter and the conflicts here. We often try to incorporate travel writing and non-fiction novels into lessons as well and encourage students to learn skills through these for extended writing, creativitity, grammar, etc,. With the Everest focus I’ve been sharing extracts from Beck Weathers’ Left for Dead novel about the 1996 disaster and other texts. This week I decided to try something different and set my students a ‘redacted text’ challenge.

 

Think top secret files and redaction, where text is obscured in order to inhibit meaning and keep a file secret. I thought that maybe this could be a good literacy tool. So, here’s what we did.

 

1) Students were given a four page extract from the novel and asked to read this silently for themselves, or aloud to each other in pairs. They were then given three minutes to contemplate and reflect on the story, on what it was conveying, on what style of writing had been used (specifically mood and atmosphere) and the literacy techniques used (eg. adjectives, metaphor, etc,.).

 

2) Using felt pens, I set the challenge that students had to go through the text carefully and redact it themselves by blocking out sections of the text leaving only certain parts visible. They were given two options here:

 

a) For a more accessible challenge: redact as much text as you like leaving only a selection of individual words visible (particularly adjectives or geographic words). From these, then take the words and rearrange them into a story or a piece of poetry in a similar style to the original story but in your own words.

 

b) For a harder challenge: redact the text very carefully leaving individual words but also short phrases visible. These words and phrases must be in a logical order and punctuation inserted as needed in order that the visible words now form new sentences that can be read as a new story, or poem. This is actually really hard! It requires text analysis and logic, having to plan ahead and have a vision of what they want the story to look like first and then to be able to create it. Very tricky. I trialled this first with top set students and they found this a real challenge but really interesting. The new stories they created from the visible words had to flow, had to make sense, and could either be in the same style as the original story or actually change the plot.

 

3) Students have to check the punctuation and grammar makes sense for their new stories, and then these are shared with others.

 

When I first suggested and explained this activity to a class, one of the (admittedly somewhat lethargic) boys asked ‘Miss, what’s the point of this – aren’t you just making us do something hard for the sake of it?’ To which I replied that yes I was in a way, that sometimes having to do something hard and learn to overcome it is as much the objective as anything specifically ‘geographic’. By the end of the lesson though he, and the rest of the class, were commenting on how they’d had to really push themselves to do well on this. That it was a difficult challenge that required some real logical and lateral thinking, that tested their creative and literacy skills. And they were pleased with themselves.

 

I wasn’t planning for them to be able to regurgitate the text by the end of the lesson, but I was expecting them to develop essential literacy skills that they have to be good at in order to succeed at anything – if they don’t get their English qualification, life gets pretty hard doesn’t it? It’s also a good tool to be able to say to SLT ‘look here, this is how Geography meets your whole school improvement plan on literacy with this, this and this…’.  The follow up is students making their own geographic adventure novel that must be a blend if fact and fiction.

 

The images show some works in progress, as the kids wanted to take home and finish some extra pieces bless them.

 

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TES Geography week article – resources I love to use

Below is an article that is published in TES this week as part of Geography Week, a review of resources I commonly use. All free ;-)

 

Investigating a new topic and not sure where to start? Planning your curriculum changes and finding it hard to get inspiration? Or simply ploughing through exams revision and looking to liven it up? Sometimes hitting the ‘search’ button on the internet throws up so many myriad suggestions it is overwhelming, but there are a few reliable places to turn to first.

 

Discover the World: Study Guides

Discover the World have been working with specialists and teacher advisors to create free study guide resources for use with a range of ages, particularly focusing on Key Stage 3-5 but adaptable. At present the online resources are for Iceland – the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption and Solheimajökull glacier, and for Norway – Hardangerfjörd mountain plateau and tourism. These resources are very high quality, with a range of lesson-by-lesson activities and superb videos and photographs for your use. Topics that can be taught from these include tectonics and hazard management, tourism, sustainability, energy, rivers, resource management, glaciology, cold climates and human-physical interactions. The site requires registration, which is free – simply give an email address. Then you can download and adapt to suit your needs. You can also get lovely free posters to display in classrooms, plus the Discover team are really helpful to sort queries.

 

There is also a new resource bank being created atwww.discover-geography.co.uk in conjunction with the Geographical Association that will provide quality teaching aids for other locations, as well as tips on planning overseas fieldwork. This is currently under construction with resources being updated in the next few months including a new destination of the Azores (looking at tourism, sustainability, biodiversity and volcanism). Again this site is free to register – well worth checking and then referring back to in June.

 

Digital Explorer:

Digital Explorer seeks to engage young people in a range of global issues, and has a range of resources for different themes that can be used in the classroom as well as links to useful articles and competitions.

Expeditions around the world can take on real meaning for your students by personalised accounts that are shared on the site, such as the Scott Expedition or London 2 London round the world journeys. I’ve used these to look at changing environments, extreme environments, or for students to grasp the idea of interconnectedness.

 

There are lots of resources available on the site – again registration is free. They are divided up into Oceans, Culture and Tech – with Digital Explorer even providing training in GIS. They are appropriate for a range of key stages. I’ve particularly enjoyed the Coral Oceans and Frozen Oceans (which, although aimed at Primary education is easily applicable and adaptable for 11-13 year olds). There are photographs, lesson guides, Google Earth downloadable .kml files, worksheets and even experiments to try – why not investigate changing sea ice porosity and the impact of climate change on sea levels? Or be cross-curricular and investigate how art changes geographically to reflect culture, identity, diversity, and religion – perhaps comparing British culture to elsewhere.

 

Students can also take part with current expeditions and interact live. For example, in the past we had students interact with Atlantic Rising through Skype and Twitter to ask questions, share ideas and share images live with those on expedition. At present there is an expedition 360 Extremeswhich is travelling the world. They are currently in Brazil andwill carry on until 2017 – lots of time to get involved! Imagine interacting live with them to fit into your new curriculum, perhaps when they are in Russia and China?! Topical.

 

Free Microsoft Tools:

If you want more information about free Microsoft tools being used in various ways, then either check this blog or see davidrogers.org.uk as both have different examples of use in schools.

 

The Microsoft Education team have provided a range of tools that are free, as well as some that are free just for teachers. All you need is a Hotmail account, which is free. Nothing complicated. Once you get a Hotmail account, you immediately get access to various online tools through OneDrive – Microsoft’s cloud. This includes simplified online versions of Word, Excel, OneNote & Powerpoint. These versions can be used on any device whether mobile device,PC, tablet, iOS or Android as they are web-based. This also means they are continuously saved online so you cannot lose work. OneDrive gives you 10Gb of free storage, and I’ve found this really useful for sharing documents and resources with students – for example Year 8 were working on Rainforests completing a decision making exercise so I shared the resources via OneDrive with students, and then they submitted work online to me. The beauty of this is that you can give and record feedback instantly by adding you own comments.

 

I really like using OneNote with classes. You can have multiple users all logged in to the same notebook (you share this with them) and then they can edit and adapt the documentsimultaneously. You can see in my blog how I used this with my Curriculum Hackers student voice group to edit our schemes of work. The teacher can simply create a notebook, perhaps with different key questions to focus on or stimulus images or links to follow, then students edit the document using this. Then you let them lead their own learning while you provide feedback.

If you join Microsoft Partners in Learning – also for free – then you get access to a range of teacher resources, such as AutoCollage and Songsmith, which can be easily used in class. There are also teacher guides to help learn new skills.

 

Reference links:

www.discover-the-world.co.uk/school/trip/en/study-aid/

www.discover-geography.co.uk

www.digitalexplorer.com

davidrogers.org.uk 

www.pil-network.com

GA conference review – opening lectures with Professor Iain Stewart

Professor Iain Stewart & Professor Hazel Barrett: the opening lectures

The theme for this year’s GA Conference was ‘Crossing Boundaries’. The opening lecture was given by twitter.comte who gave a fantastic talk on Geoscience vs Geocommunication, which had many parallels with teaching.
Iain commented that from the media point of view, there is a dilemma between what the public should/need to know and what they want to know. Geo-scientific media programmes aim at the ‘non-attentive’ public in order to grab attention and to educate, which means that issues have to be simplified and exciting in order to gain interest and spark curiosities. Sound familiar? Is this not what we as educators have to do every day?

He discussed the need to capture the wonder of the world, to not let science and theory get in the way or ruin the sense of awe and wonder. How apt this is when considering the new national curriculum and the need to inspire students with fascination and curiosity. This is the boundary that needs to be crossed: between what students want to know, until they become engaged in what they need to know.

After a very interesting section on the issue of fracking, and all the socio-enviro-political conflicts involved here with environmental damage, energy management, cultural attitude, etc., Iain stated that there appears to be almost a schizophrenia of Geography. The artificial separation into ‘human’ and ‘physical’ Geography which can lead to sometimes forgetting the inextricable interconnectedness of humans and nature. The division does appear obscure, since the human world is controlled and constrained by the physical world just as the physical world is influenced and altered by the human world. Interlinked. Interdependent. Inseparable. So why try to study them separately?
Why not lose the divergent, divisive classification and just be….Geography?

This was echoed in GA President Professor Hazel Barrett’s keynote who asked ‘what is Geography today?’. Hazel queried whether we have moved too far along the lines of ‘what does the government say’ and become constrained by policy, programmes of study and pedagogical fashions at the expense of the subject itself. Have we forgotten what Geography is?

She asked whether we need a debate on what Geography is today, on how this dynamic subject has changed, and challenged whether we have lost focus on the heart of Geography. Geography has always been crossing boundaries, the boundaries between the human and physical world – this is the beauty of the subject. It requires and demands and interdisciplinary approach that crosses subject boundaries and removes constraints. Whether you are studying climate change, refugees, trafficking, tectonics or any of a limitless number of topics you will find these are dynamic and multifaceted. They could be studied by any one of many disciplines in super-specialised, highly focused ways that only look at a small part of the whole topic – it is only Geography that has the privilege and the challenge of combining all these approaches into one. We blend demographics, ethnography, climatology, environmental science, politics, GIS, technologies, numeracy, literacy, critical thought, etc., in order to investigate and draw conclusions on an interdisciplinary topic. Only Geography takes the world as a whole, and applies a spatial approach in order to funnel all these myriad methodologies into something concrete, applicable, and embed this into the real world.

Geographers are uniquely equipped to understand and address global issues, we should be at the forefront – and more importantly we should be teaching and training the next generation to be at the forefront of solving world issues. The division into ‘human’ and ‘physical’ is not helping.

So, let’s just be…Geography.

GA conference review – the new national curriculum & the end of Geography? #gaconf14

David Rogers’ lecture on the future of Geography under the new national curriculum 

 

David is an Assistant Headteacher and Geographer who previously led the @priorygeography department and saw it flourish into a Centre of Excellence after taking over a failing department. His lecture was focused on the new national curriculum, and was thought-provoking and challenging for those that attended. It was also refreshingly positive on this topic.

Originally the lecture had been titled ‘It’s not the end of Geography as we know it’ but after being impacted by Professor Iain Stewart’s excellent opening lecture was re-titled to ‘It is the end of Geography as we know it, hopefully….’. David, speaking from the viewpoint of an experienced geographer who has seen his fair share of government change & still developed an excellent curriculum and department regardless, asked whether teachers protest at government changes largely out of fear. That we find curriculum change scary, because we become comfortable. Whether the new skeletal curriculum is worrying because teachers have been drip-fed for too long, have become too used to being constrained and prescribed, so that the loss of restraint and sudden emergence into freedom is actually somewhat daunting.

David reminded us that no curriculum document or policy is ever going to be exciting or creative; that it is our jobs as teachers and middle leaders to take these documents and adapt, even subvert them, to meet the needs of our learners. Quoting from How Children Succeed he commented on the value of teaching and learning character, it being equally as important as raising intellect.

There have been various commentaries and discussions on forums pertaining to the new curriculum, and at times these have actually been sadly negative. David pointed out what should be obvious: can we really argue with a new curriculum programme of study that states that a high quality Geography education should ‘inspire curiosity and fascination about the world and its people that will remain with them for life’? That demands greater rigour so that children make excellent progress? What’s not to like about that?! There is a danger of not looking past the document outline, and seeing the benefitof the freedom given.

Many teachers, and school leaders, are feeling the impact of the loss of levels and level descriptors and are trying to find new ways to assess, record and report progress. I liked the reference to Hattie that it is our job as teachers to ensure that ‘no child in our care meets their potential – but that they ultimately smash their potential’. That is the challenge. It reminded me of one of my favourite concepts: the power of ‘yet’. That when a learner says ‘I don’t understand’ or ‘I can’t do it’, your response is ‘yet’. They will get there. One suggestion for formative assessment he shared was the use of Skills Webs – you can see more on this on this blog.

As well as being a thought provoker and stirring up the audience, David also shared a few tips. You can see his lecture resource via his blog which has the slides and his commentary. He shared how Geography can lead the school in the delivery of English and Maths, as well as Science / STEM. That we as Geography teachers and leaders should tackle thewhole school issues of improving literacy, embedding quality and high level numeracy, delivering citizenship, developingstudent voice, sharing global dimensions, etc., and not just get caught up in the attitude of ‘I must teach soils’ look past the document into the broader picture, see how Geography can benefit your students in a holistic way. It’s not about pub quiz Geography and factual recall, it’s about the whole.

Finally he ended with one of my favourite quotes: ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’ (Nelson Mandela). Don’t forget – policy doesn’t have to be a barrier, Gove and Ofsted aren’t in your classroom, so get creative.

Discover the World focus group to #discoverazores Day 6

We actually got up after sunrise today which was a pleasant treat! And the Pousada Jouvades de Pico provided a simple but nice breakfast of fresh local bread and jams with cereal that went down very well (we didn’t get breakfast really at the Pousada Jouvades de Lagoa as for some reason they only open up from 0830 which is after we leave each day!).   Today was exploring Pico island itself. A fairly chilled way to end the week. First stop was Dos Lajos de Pico village. This is an old whaling village. Whaling was first introduced to the area by visitors and settlers from Nantucket and other areas, and there is a clear influence of North American style on the architecture here as well as sometimes a slightly Scandinavian feel in terms of wood cladding and cabins, as well as the paint colours. Whaling was done here until the 1980s and was still conducted in a traditional low scale manner with rowing boats and hand thrown harpoons. The whaling museum is quite interesting, albeit depressing and a sad tale of the habit. However this was an important income for an area struggling economically. Nowadays, the negative has been turned into something positive with whale and dolphin tours available at a very low price. You also have much better odds of actually seeing them compared to a Iceland and other areas where whales are now rarely sighted due to changing sea temperatures.   We moved on around the coast to the Vineyards of Pico. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site where fig and grape plants are cultivated still in a traditional sense. Lava / basalt rocks are split and seeds planted within into the ashes below. The basalts are porous and also retain heat when they soak up the sun, and so this helps provide good conditions for growing in an otherwise harsh and exposed salty and windy coastal environment. Basalt rocks are built into small walls and enclosures around the plants to protect from wind. And a local windmill in the area also served to thresh and crush corn and cereals in the past. The visitor area here provided an excellent local lunch of spicy sausage, soft breads, and a range of traditional flavoured liquors and wines for us to sample. All with a slight earthy and volcanic aftertaste!

After this, we had a visit to Gruta das Torres lava tube caves. This is one of the largest in the world and was truly excellent. Mostly because it had been kept in a natural state – no concrete flooring, no lighting – you are just guided through walking on rough volcanic floors and with torches. Students and adults would love this. You can see great vast caverns, collapsed lava benches, pahoehoe and aa lavas (which the locals call ‘biscuit lava’ due to its rocky nature, reminding them of traditional twice-baked rockcake biscuits) and the growth of rare lichens and bacteria as well as some small lava stalactites formed at the time of the lava flow as it slowed and dripped down from the ceiling. A very interesting and unique cave, and the time passes so quickly inside – we spent over an hour but felt like a few minutes. At one point we switched all torches off and just got a sense of how intensely pitch black and silent it is, very awe inspiring.

Finally we headed back to the hostel and had a locally made dinner provided by our hosts from the local youth council who have set up the five Pousadas on five different Azorean islands. We had a sample of foods from the island of Terceria which was delicious; meat stew, local fish, some sweet doughy cakes made with milk and beans, and the obligatory locally made wines and liquors – well, would be rude not to ;-) Our hosts told us about a youth card available for those aged 13-30 which is well worth investigating if you wish to do island hopping with students. It costs €42 in the first place but then provides 50% discount in the hostels, 20% off inter-island flights, all ferries cost €7, and there is also 20% off many tourist attractions and activities such as the mountain biking, kayaking, etc,. Well worth considering.

We went for a stroll of the town and brought an end to the trip. There is much to reflect on, and my next post in a few days will look at what I think you can get out of a trip to the Azores in terms of exciting places to visit and academically useful activities to do – but I shall reflect a little first. There is real potential here, but a lot of logistics still needs sorting.

An excellent trip though and very well run and led by Discover the World. It has been great to meet and work with other geographers from around the country, and to share ideas – we’ve even had some nice heated discussions and debates about the purpose of overseas trips generally and pedagogy which is all good fun. I’ll also develop some teaching resources once back in the UK and will post these soon through slideshare. But I need a few days rest now – it’s been good, but exhausting! Thanks DtW.

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Discover the World focus group to #discoverazores Day 5

Waking up (fairly stiff and sore from Mount Pico) we took a ferry to Faial, to the town of Horta. Faial is a small island but Horta is a large well developed town including a professional training college, the Central islands’ hospital, and a variety of tourist-centric facilities such as cafés, restaurants, boat trips, etc,. The ferry was brand new, and we were filmed by the local paparazzi as everyone boarded. It brought yet another comedy moment of ‘sponsored by the EU’ as we have spent the whole week playing EU bingo – almost everywhere you go seems to have benefitted from EU funding somehow, and yet not being developed to capacity. It is as if the Azorean government followed a policy of ‘if you build it, they will come’ in some areas, but has not had a clear plan and drive to actually encourage and develop tourism throughout the islands. Quite odd.

 

First stop was the national Botanical Garden at Faial. This is part of a BASEMAC project for protecting native and endemic species of vegetation through seed bank preservation of seeds, propagation, protection and maintenance of a variety of species. They are also working on the reintroduction and breeding of plant species once thought extinct in nature.

 

Only 7% of all vegetation species on the Azorean Islands are actually endemic. Many plants are artificially introduced foreign invasive species such as laurel, hydrangea, ginger, etc,. Most of those were introduced in the 18-1900s for a purpose, e.g. Bamboo was introduced in order to create natural fencing and hedge shelters around terraced crops as windbreaks, Japanese Cedar was introduced so the leaves and wood could be used for baskets to transport oranges by sea as it was observed that they did not lead to bacteria or insect problems, etc,. There are just 300 species considered native on islands, with 700 species introduced by man.

 

Of course, the Azores are very isolated islands. 1000miles from mainland Europe, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The nearest land south is Antarctica, and the islands are relatively young geologically. So this leads to the question of dispersal. How did the pioneer seeds get here in the first place? The most likely suggestions being wind, wave, and bird. There is also the influence of sea level change and volcanism, particularly uplift. During the last ice age, when the Azorean islands were being built taller by volcanic activity, sea levels were lower. Therefore islands across the Atlantic such as the Azores became much more exposed, and so perhaps wind, wave and bird dispersal became easier.

 

We were guided around the centre by a very passionate and well informed centre guide and biologist. The facility has many educational activities for a range of ages, and a purpose built classroom with library, and investigative equipment such as microscopes, etc,. You can do insect studies and investigate these under microscopes and compare what exists in different habitats, plus you can look at succession, the necessary conditions required to colonise, compare and contrast species and biodiversity in different areas, etc,. I would recommend this centre as an excellent base from which to do biodiversity and ecosystem studies at different key stages. Particularly since the gardens are divided into two halves: endemic vs invasive. On one side, you have the carefully maintained and restricted endemic species area, where you can see the natural Azorean landscape as it would have been had not humans introduced species from abroad – you can see that the Piconia Azorica is the natural climatic climax. On the other side of the gardens you have a representation of the invasives. Here you can compare and contrast how succession looks and is altered after the influence of humans, and see that now the plagioclimax species is Japanese Cedar. It would be possible to do studies into soils, microorganisms, vegetation and how these compare and contrast under different circumstances and see the influence of humans and management.

 

There is a clear conservation aspect at the centre with recreating different biomes and propagating species that are endangered. Eg. There are small coastal and alpine biomes that are endangered by rats and rabbits, here species that are now extinct in the wild are being bred and can then be reintroduced. Water levels in natural bogs on the island were disturbed in 1998 by earthquake, which led to a drop in the water table and subsequently to damage / death of native species. So an area has been recreated in the botanical garden to replicate this and breed species.

 

After this we were taken on a short tour of the island. We had to abandon the Ten Volcanoes Trail due to heavy rains leading to deep water and unpassable paths, and we could not see the view over the Caldeira due to poor weather and no visibility. However we were still taken on a hike around the Caldeira from the viewpoint up and down around the rim and then eventually down towards the lighthouse and Capelinhos area. This walk would be lovely on a clear day, but fairly pointless otherwise. The path is steep and slippery, and is certainly not something to do the day after climbing Mount Pico. However you do see the influence of clean air here with abundant lichen growth, and some interesting plant species growing out from a rift / canyon that is heating by steam vents. You feel as though you are walking through a rainforest almost in places, as if in Costa Rica perhaps.

 

The Capelinhos walk down to the coast and around the volcanic peninsula was excellent, although you do need to allow a good amount of time for this. You are walking on volcanic sands and ash and pumice, and can find various evidence of the 1957 eruption that created the peninsula and added new land to the island. Lava bombs, broken trees, and heavily eroded hillslopes are coated in soft ash and sand. You then head to the Lighthouse and the award winning visitor centre.

 

It was easy to see why this has won various European tourist centre awards. We were shown around by a very enthusiastic and easy to understand geologist who clearly loves the job and the area. The centre has a variety of photographic and video displays to explain the creation of the peninsula and the timeline of the eruption. It also explains the structure of the earth and tectonics in general, as well as the evolution of each of the 9 islands of the archipelago. Fantastic wall displays showed famous volcanoes and volcanic behaviour from around the world, such as Kilauea, Surtsey, Stromboli, etc,. So students could easily learn and compare different volcanic types and behaviours. There is an excellent step-by-step series of 3d relief models that show the 1957 eruption and subsequent land creation and modern coastal erosion: you could perhaps get students making their own versions of these for other eruptions or flipbook timelines or similar.

 

Interestingly, we learnt that the Capelinhos eruption actually should have had the honour and credit of being the first studied and noted Surtseyan style eruption. The 1957 activity preceded the arrival of Surtsey but sadly was not made public enough or patented, otherwise the submarine volcanism and island creation activity we now know as Surtseyan should actually have been called Capelinhosian – but perhaps this is too tricky to say anyway?! Very interesting though. The period of eruption lasted over 18months with alternating periods of submarine or aerial volcanism. In the beginning, all activity was submarine with the volcano located off coast underwater. First came underwater effusive lava flows leading to above surface steam and huge ash production. This continued to build up until a small island of ash and pumice broke the surface. Once above surface, volcanic behaviour changed to be more explosive with large lava flows and more ash and pumice production now spreading over the peninsular and creating new land. The lighthouse began to be buried – it is now buried to the second floor and preserved in this state as an arrested time memorial with the tourist centre built into its basement floors.

Under the influence of destructive waves, the new land of soft ashes was eroded back until the activity became submarine again as the volcano went into a quiet period. So these cycles of submarine and aerial eruptions kept repeating for many months. Eventually the eruption stopped and a new peninsular had been formed, with many local villages buried and destroyed. Nowadays, some 60% of this new land had been eroded back by wind, rain and wave and it is thought that in time the volcano will again become largely submarine until another eruption. All very interesting. And a great example of volcanic behaviour and coastal influence for students.

 

There is a theory that this area acts as a ‘wet spot’ rather than a hotspot which leads to different behaviour. The Azores is located on a triple junction of tectonic plates, but with the influence of the ocean it is suggested that the melting point of submarine rocks is actually lowered so that submarine volcanism here has more of a dramatic influence. A new type of behaviour has been observed here (and patented this time) at Serrata, where submarine volcanism is leading to the creation of lava balloons. This phenomenon is like the formation of lava bombs but is submarine: as lava at the sea floor is effused it rises to the surface, cooling as it does and forming a crust still with liquid lava inside. When these balloons hit the surface they then explode outwards, popping like a balloon, and the shrapnel rock and lava droplets from it then drop back to the sea floor. So this has been termed Serratan behaviour. It is likely in future that this volcano will also penetrate the surface to form a tenth island in the archipelago.

 

After this we caught the ferry back to Pico, and saw some lovely views of the island and the mountain rising up. I would thoroughly recommend that you could spend a good two or more days investigating Faial, either for academic or exploratory purposes and that children would get a good ‘wow factor’ with such a dramatic landscape. There is limited accommodation at present but the ferry ride is very regular, only takes 30-45minutes and costs €10 return or €7.50 for under 16s.

 

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Discover the World focus group #discoverazores Day 4

So today we were up and awake before sunrise and heading to the airport. We were entertained in the departure lounge by various different sporting or musical groups including a medieval tribute youth orchestra complete in monk outfit. They sang and danced their way through customs and through to the gates which evoked much applause and brought a smile to many faces. Is this a traditional Azorean cultural activity?

We were heading to Pico island on a regular internal flight. There are various internal flights and ferries throughout the islands. I have to say, before today many of us had felt we were lacking in any ‘wow factor’ – that we didn’t know how we would ‘sell’ the Azores as a study trip, not because there is a lack of opportunity per se but because if you are offering an international residential it needs to have a combination of activities and experiences that are unique or cannot be seen back home. So we were really excited on our descent to Pico island, and became proper geeky tourists stepping off of our plane, frantically switching on phones and cameras, and getting a photograph of Mount Pico as soon as possible. We had our wow factor. Arriving on Pico is like arriving in a completely different landscape, something that would be guaranteed to arrest student and adult interest and make them have a collective intake of breath. The island immediately felt unusual, rare, exotic, and exciting.

We had been warned that we were at the mercy of the changeable weather, and that we would not necessarily be able to climb Mt Pico today. This is something to bear in mind to any of you planning future trips – you need a back up plan and flexible itinerary that if the weather is inclement you can try again another day. Luckily for us however, there was a break in the cloud until later so we had a window of opportunity. Our minibus driver raced us up to the mountain only allowing a short photo stop, and we stocked up on carbs on the journey.

One third of Pico island is a nature reserve, including the mountain. You have to get a permit to climb, which costs 10Euros each. The numbers of visitors at any time are limited and monitored, and the tiny car park up the mountain at the start point may prevent too many casual attempts. This is all due to the various endemic species of vegetation in existence, particular alpine species that are very fragile.

Pico is the youngest of all the Azores Islands at just 300’000 years old. The archipelago has developed over time in numerous stages dating back 8million years, from submarine volcanism building up successively over the ages. Pico is a basaltic stratovolcano and from a distance looks like a stereotypical ‘proper’ volcano, exactly like you would draw. As we drove towards it we could see the caldera and summit peak poking through the mists temptingly, and this gave me butterflies. I couldn’t wait to get up there! The mountain is Portugal’s tallest, and it is still an active volcano.

So we spent the day trekking. Having been told beforehand that the climb was ‘gentle’ we were all a little surprised when we met our incredibly serious but very helpful local mountain guide Sonia who warned us of the dangers and briefed us. I was grateful for the good weather – some light cloud cover and mist to prevent overheating or too much sunburn, and a gentle breeze mostly. At times on the higher exposed sections there was biting cold strong winds, and we did have heavy cloud on the return below the summit, but we had a comfortable environment to climb in. So we set off.

The climb takes approximately 7-7.5hour and I would say is a mediumly arduous hike with times that are hard. There is very uneven ground because you are walking on broken clinkers of volcanic debris lava and ash deposits and volcanic sand which us grippy with good boots but very uneven and there are some scrambling sections requiring hands. The climb is not scarily precipitous but does lead to a slow descent due to the terrain. You hike up and down the mountain over ancient pahoehoe and a-a lava fields and we even had snow fields. There are lots of lava tube relics and scars, pillow lava and ropy pahoehoe flows arrested in time cascading down the mountain in dramatic blacks and oranges. Then amongst all this there is evidence of some succession of alpine species up the mountain, although vegetation is very limited and scrubby generally.

The material underfoot was obviously igneous, mostly basalt and ignimbrite and also plagioclase and various other minerals such as trichite, olivine, etc,. This rocks made excellent grips when in large enough sections. As we went up above the clouds and the snowline, there were very few species. However there was lots of lava scree and volcano sands, again making the conditions a bit difficult and slow going in places.

The crater rim is vast and unstable so we were guided to skirt round the edge and then drop down into the pit to walk along the crater base, from where you then can choose to scramble up the final central cone. The pit crater of Pico is called Pico Alto and is about 500m diameter. This area was naked rock and lava, and largely filled with snow. The final summit is called Piquinho and is a small volcanic cond formed by the last eruption that rises another 70m of near vertical scrambling to to true summit. At the summit (2351m), a human-made rocky boundary provides shelter from winds and the natural steam vents (some up to 50C but modified by winds) provide heating for a lunch break! Truly a very unusual summit from this point of view, and the most comfortable and warm summit I have ever stopped on!

The descent was very slow for the most part, with many finding the steep unsteady and uneven sections very awkward for knees / ankles due to the rocky material. I would say that the climb is entirely doable, if you have time, but it is a long slog. It is very worth it, and on clear days you can see the other islands as well as the lower Pico valley. However, I would suggest that anyone taking a school group has a back-up plan for poor weather and also for any students who cannot complete the whole ascent as I would be surprised if all had the stamina or confidence or drive to make it all to the top. So consider your options for splitting groups, having a back-up alternative, and having enough guides and qualified staff that you can have the choice of some in the group making the summit attempt whilst others do something else.

After the hike we were transported to our accommodation on Pico island to stay at the youth hostel which is a converted monastery. Very interesting building and has basic clean rooms of bunks, nice hot showers and four separate lounges in different areas including a main lounge with table football, tv and some wifi access.

I would say this is a great climb, and certainly good fun. But it needs to be taken seriously. You would need students to be fit and confident, and have a good number of staff and local trained guides as it is very remote. You could easily sell this as being a challenge, the ‘character building’ or ‘push yourself to achieve something new’ activity that forms part of the overall exploration and academic trip. You could tie in the activity to academic purposes if you wished looking at biodiversity, succession, colonisation, pionerf species, invasive vs endemic species, soil quality and type, geology, landforms, impact of volcanic activity, etc,. Especially if you then compared to an/other island/s in the archipelago to compare and contrast volcanic behaviour, landform creation, environments, etc,. As such it is fantastic. Just be prepared for very changeable weather, and have a back up plan!

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"I am still learning" (Michelangelo)

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