Prince’s Teaching Institute: Day 1 lectures

Prince's Teaching InstituteThe summer school lectures saw a mix of physical and human Geography being shared. These lectures were taught / presented at the academic level. This wasn’t about pedagogy and ‘here’s something to try back in school’. The lecture series was designed to, and aimed at, reinvigorate and re-enthuse teachers by making us think like learners ourselves again. Being back in the feel of undergraduate years maybe. It is then up to teachers to take what they had heard and adapt it to use in schools, but it gave us up-to-date insight into different topics.

Professor Iain Stewart: ’50 shales of grey or Meet the Frackers’

Professor Stewart gave an insightful and charismatic presentation that had us all listening avidly and scribbling / tapping away making notes.The focus was on the physical-social interaction involved with hydraulic fracturing (aka ‘fracking‘) and how this is a socio-phyical issue to be managed. It could make an excellent contemporary Decision Making Exercise (DME) for either KS3 or KS4, linking to resource use and management, conflict, environmental impacts of economic development, etc,. Many layers of potential interest with a view to debates, role plays, DME simulation scenarios, etc,.

Stewart noted that in the UK we now have too high a gas consumption to meet supply, therefore we rely on foreign liquid gas important. The UK being hugely vulnerable in this sense because of its reliance on energy imports. The greatest imports being from Russia, Algeria, Finland. There is therefore a vast political arena to be contended with, with emerging strong politico-economic  ties between provider and consumer nations. Potential for a bit of political geography debate then, considering interdependence.

There is also the issue of water resource use. Huge quantities of water are use in fracking, involving trucks being in water / sand / chemicals to shale areas under fracking and the subsequent congestion and fuel emission issues in these areas. There is an ecological and environmental footprint left afterwards (as with all fossil fuel areas) of abandoned buildings and infrastructure, this being an unsustainable process and non-renewable. There are also knock-on consequences of leaching chemicals from the process into water sources or local soils and potential contamination. Again, something to weigh up in a DME / energy resource management debate or role play?

Finally there is the local social impact. for example, in areas like Man Tor, the local residents are not debating the finer politics and environmental issues such as climate change ; they are debating the impact of fracking on their own local area. The potential boom and bust scenario. In the UK, landowners do not own the rights to what is beneath their feet. You may own the land itself but you do not own what is underneath and have no right to drill, the Queen and government owns these rights. There is a conflict in terms of rights, decision makers, conflicting views of interested parties, etc,. So local residents have no real benefit to drilling going on in their back yard, they are not going to become rich from it. So in order to convince residents to go ahead, companies must be able to offer local communities some kind of beneficial package that makes it worth their while.

This was an incredibly interesting presentation, and this coming from a girl that doesn’t know much about rocks or get excited about soils. But the potential for various learning activities is clear. And with the new KS3 curriculum including resource management….bonus?

Dr Kendra Strauss: ‘Geographies of labour’

Now I admit it, I am not a huge fan of economic geography. And the room was very hot and by this point we had had back-to-back lectures for some time. But Dr Strauss did present some interesting concepts and was very animated by her topic.

Geographies of labour, and how this links to migration and demographics could be useful to consider for KS4 economic development topics. Dr Strauss commented on the fact that more and more people work part-time, in informal, temporary, or agency related employment – as well as changing their employment more often throughout their working life than we used to in the past. She noted that this has an impact on working demographics and geographic divides. That labour patterns vary regionally due to gender, race, ethnicity, age, etc,. As a result the recent recession has had varying severity of impact in different regions. Geographically speaking, London has recovered more quickly from the recession than areas reliant on heavy industry or having a high population of temporary or part-time workers.

There are precarious work positions in terms of jobs not being ‘jobs for life’ and that recessions and financial crises will have differing impacts across society in terms of geographic and demographic divides. For example, areas that have higher reliance on temporary or informal work will be the worst hit areas since these are the jobs that are threatened or removed first. And this kind of flexible work can affect some social groups more than others, those that are already ‘marginalised’ such as lower skilled areas, migrants, women, part-time workers, etc,.

She also commented on the link between labour geography and conflict, for example the Arab Spring turmoil.

Although this topic could be difficult with lower years, perhaps there is scope for some discussion at KS4 (and KS5) level in terms of looking at patterns, disparity, comparing social groups?

Professor Hazel Barrett: HIV/Aids Pandemic in the 21st century

Professor Barrett was querying the claim made by mass media and UNAids that the HIV/Aids pandemic is coming to an end, that ‘the world has turned a corner and begun to reverse the spread of HIV’. She gave us up-to-the-minute statistics and left us to interpret. I won’t go into all the detail, but in essence the claim is that HIV infections and deaths are in decline. Yet currently 30.4 million people gobally are living with HIV, with 2.5million new infections in 2011-2012 and 1.7million deaths. So mathematically speaking, there are more people living with HIV then before. There is still a positive trend.

2/3rds of all HIV/Aids is within sub-Saharan Africa, so this is a spatially very uneven disease. Also, the worst affected age group is 15-24 and particular women within this age bracket. So it is a disease of the young ; having socio-economic impacts in terms of workforce, families, etc,.

HIV reduction was a Millennium Goal, and by 1997 the growth in annual new infections peaked and has since been decreasing by 20%. Deaths from HIV peaked in 2004 (there is a lag time between peak infection and peak deaths due to incubation time for the disease) at 2.1million deaths, and has been in decline since. Therefore fewer people are dying from HIV/Aids – but this decline is not uniform globally. In fact, while the disease is stable or in decline in many areas it is actually on the increase in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Many areas still have an increase in infection rate (e.g. Bangladesh, Morocco, Indonesia, Georgia). So maybe the disease is simply moving geographically and there will be another boom in peak infection again in the future in some other locality.

So how has the decline been caused? Two main reasons. Firstly, eliminating transmission from mother-to-child, and secondly changing behaviours (e.g. sexual health, hygiene, etc,.) Barrett comments on the huge success in terms of reducing transmission to children through use of AntiRetroViral drugs. However, she also comments that she has witnessed some areas where the attempts to challenge and change behaviours has been more problematic. The some people may now think ‘why bother changing my habits, I’ll just get a pill’ – changing attitudes is difficult. Also, she noted there is a confusion at times with people thinking ARVs are a cure while they are not, they merely treat and reduce symptoms. So people are living longer, but are still living with HIV. She is also considered about potential future disease mutation to become ARV resistant since these drugs are now so commonly used.

Barrett concluded that the number of people living with HIV will continue to rise (in her opinion) until behaviours and attitudes change, that there is a risk of future ARV resistance and perhaps we are just postponing another boom, and that the geographic disparities of the prevalence of the disease as well as access to treatment will still continue to grow – especially since 97% of all infections are still found in low & middle income countries.

So it is an interesting topic. One that could be moulded to provide context for data manipulation (in terms of synthesising data, producing or interpreting graphs, plotting and analysing map distributions, etc,.) as well as debate and discussion as to the future and the management of a disease. It would also be an interesting / useful topic to include (in a unit about geographies of disease perhaps) if you were wanting to consider Human Rights, the right to health and who is responsible for this (i.e. disparity of treatment) and looking at socio-economic divides.

Thank you to the presenters, it was an insightful day.

“The study of geography is about more than just memorizing places on a map. It’s about understanding the complexity of our world, appreciating the diversity of cultures that exists across continents. And in the end, it’s about using all that knowledge to help bridge divides and bring people together.” (President Obama)

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