Tag Archives: iceland

What’s the point of residential fieldtrips? Are they worth it?

I just got back from a field-trip to Iceland with forty students and my team of staff. It was epic. We were straight back into teaching and the new term today after arriving back at school at 10pm last night, but it was totally worth it.

This year is the ‘Year of Fieldwork’ but I still hear / see so many conversations that include ‘why bother’, ‘it’s too much hassle’, ‘my school won’t let me out’, ‘why should I organise it’, ‘it’s too risky’, and see conscientious teachers worrying about benefit vs cost and whether trips are worth the effort. Well, they are. End of. Because it’s not about the hassle, the paperwork, the emails to the British Council, the liaising with parents, the money collecting, the itinerary building, the bag packing, the passport checking. All of the minutiae isn’t worth focusing on. We say life is a journey, that destinations aren’t important, that learning is a process and that the end point isn’t always the actual achievement – well I think that fits to trips as well. Does it really matter whether every student has a better grasp of coastal processes or volcanism at the end, will the trip itself make them more successful at an exam? No, not in itself. Five days in Iceland doesn’t pass an exam, but it doesn’t half make a life changing difference to some students. Because what matters to the students themselves on a residential, and what they remember most, isn’t necessarily what we as teachers are focusing on. Are they bothered whether they stop for twenty or thirty minutes at a waterfall, or are they more concerned with whom they sit next to on the bus? I’ll be honest, I didn’t have forty students asking me deep and meaningful geographic questions every minute of the day – but I did have deep and meaningful conversations, and saw students having them for themselves.

So why bother with residentials? This was some of the feedback from the students last night that I overheard while they were updating our trip blog (www.geogdebens.wordpress.com if you’re interested):

“I really loved spending time with people I hadn’t known before, and finding out we had become good friends by the end”

“I was dead nervous before the flight as it was my first time flying. I was sitting next to a student I hadn’t met before and Miss. They kept talking to me and reassuring me, and making me laugh. Before I knew it I was confident, and I had a new friend. Now I just want to travel everywhere!”

“I loved every minute of the trip. The teachers were fun and I learned so much. But best was getting to know my friends in a whole new way, learning to look after ourselves.”

“I liked that the teachers gave us freedom and trusted us. We could make mistakes but knew that they were there to look after us and help if we needed it. I felt safe to try something. I’ve never crossed a river by hopping stones before, never been on a glacier. I was scared but now I’m confident.”

“I’ve never walked that far before, and when I first started up the glacier and up the waterfall I didn’t think I could make it. But I wanted to have a go, and Sir kept me going and chatting and distracted me from worrying. I realised I could do more than I thought and that fear had been holding me back. My mum was proud when I told her I did it.”

“The trip was epic. We nicknamed the teachers and it was good getting to know them in a different way. They helped us when we had an argument with people in our room and I learned to ignore the little things and not get so stressed.”

As teachers we might focus on what we want students to get out of a trip, in an academic sense maybe. Students will have different priorities. There might be a disconnect between our disparate aims unless we are careful. Of course this is natural to some extent, but no reason why we can’t cross over more.

What do students worry about / ask about most on trips? Easy: food and friendships! The most often asked questions were to do with who they could sit next to, who they shared a room with, what free time they got, what food they will have. The only tears we had were on the last night when a room key was hidden as a prank and this caused hurt feelings of ‘they don’t like me’ before being resolved and forgotten. Right up there alongside glamorous glacier hiking and Blue Lagoon bathing in the ‘what we enjoyed most’ category was the time spent with friends, the ‘girly chats before bed’, the walking and talking together, the food.

As far as I’m concerned, a residential trip is multi-purpose. I took mixed year 9 and 10s, all GCSE Geography students but a wide range of abilities and personalities and circumstances. I had some with serious health concerns, some child protection children, some first-time travellers, some world jet-setters, all sorts. It wasn’t a ‘clipboard-tastic’ trip. If someone has paid £850 and gone in their Easter holiday then I want them to enjoy themselves. The kids called it ‘learning by accident’, which I love. We had snowball fights, laughed at ourselves, told stories, shared experiences but also learned about waterfalls by being inside one, learned about waves by listening to them and watching them smash the shore, learned about glaciers by climbing on them. But on top of this we watched students blossom from being shy to being outgoing, learning how to hold conversations, learning independence, sorting their own problems (if you lose your room key, you try to sort it out first), dealing with fear, building relationships, becoming more well rounded young people.

Residentials also have a purpose for the staff involved. We bonded ourselves, having not all worked together before. The science NQT had some ‘in at the deep end’ learning experience (and can check of some standards in his folder!) – you could see his confidence clearly rise throughout, and his presence with students change both out there and now back in school. The non-teacher learned all sorts of subject knowledge and logistics planning. The member of SLT got to let their hair down and build relationships with teachers and students in a different way. The returning-to-work Geographer had some in depth hands-on CPD and came away buzzing.

On the last night meal we had speeches and awards. Our newly appointed Head Girl made a thank you speech to staff that made me well up. She thanked us all, but particularly made me well up by thanking me for the opportunity that they had never had before and for ‘making life better’ since I joined. This trip wasn’t about the geography, it was about the students. And as far as I’m concerned, it always will be. Why am I a teacher? For spine tingly, eyes-welling up moments like that. Was it worth the hassle of 6 months of planning? Hell yes. Staff happy, students happy. And when else do you get to be on a trampoline under the northern lights with a bunch of teenagers chatting about life?!

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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

Celebrating European Day of Languages 2013

Room 18 for languages day

So Thursday was the European Day of Languages and I wanted to make sure that Geography supported the events going on in school. The MFL department had been busy making and displaying different flags and bits of information about other countries around the school, every department was meant to be meeting and greeting kids with a chosen language for the day, and we even had a more varied multicultural menu in the dining room for the day which was delicious. Naturally this is all geography really, so we needed to get involved.

I decided to draw on the work of Sam Atkins, and the work he produced last year for the mobile@priory project with his upside down map of the world linking to a lesson with EAL (English as Additional Language) – this project can be seen on the mobile@priory ‘cookbook’ here. The lesson slideshow for this week is below:

This is how I ran the lesson, the others may have done differently.

Slide 1) students were greeted at the door with the Icelandic for ‘welcome to Geography’ and had to guess what the phrase meant

Slide 2) I took a suggestions poll for how many languages the students thought were spoken at Priory. The answer is over 37. We then had a quick discussion about their surprise at this, and that 300 languages are spoken in London. Then students discussed in table groups how many languages they could speak fluently or conversationally, and which languages these were. I asked them to decide if there were any patterns to where these languages came from, i.e. are they from a predominant continent / group of countries, from a similar cultural background, etc,. Geography is all about people in the world, and about patterns, so we really hyped this up.

Slide 3) Priory is a Rights Respecting School, with the Level 1 award and working towards Level 2. We routinely link to the Unicef charter in lesson and it’s part of everyday conversation in school, so this came as no surprise to the kids. Article 30 states that each has the right to ‘use your own language’ – so we had a quick chat about this and what it means, linking to responsibility for attempting to learn other languages in order to make communications easier (they were well aware of reputation the English have; the classic example of going abroad and then assuming everyone will speak English and if they don’t we just speak louder English and use gestures!).

upside down world mapSlide 4) The main part of the lesson using the upside down map of the world superimposed over the school site map. I introduced students who hadn’t seen it before (I ran this lesson with year 7-9) and explained how to worked, we did some simple orientation exercises and practised some grid refs to acquaint them.

Slides 5-7) Students worked in pairs for the challenge. Each had a copy of the map, and a copy of the table sheet to complete. They could use an atlas, or a Win8 device, or their mobile to complete the enquiry. There were two versions to the challenge: years 7 & 8 used the first table, and I just wanted them to spend the time becoming familiar with comparing resources (i.e. which is quicker / more accurate / simpler to use – a device or an atlas), to become comfortable with locating places and finding information out about them – basic geographic skills; whereas year 9 had the second grid which links to their current topic on Development, so I wanted them researching whether a place qualified as an MEDC or LEDC and to source date to prove it, I told them I was pushing for GCSE skills of using evidence to support answers, of linking to fact, of comparing resources, etc,.

Slide 8) bit of a plenary pit stop, discussed some of their answers and talked about the reliability of data and which resource was best to use for the purpose of the enquiry (interestingly, most preferred a paper atlas for locating countries and found that using the internet was more time consuming for this, though they did pick up that the data in the atlas will be out of date too quickly and so they chose to use more up-to-date information from places such as CIA factbook, etc,.)

languages day activitySlide 9) discussion time, linking back to the original Rights, Respect, Responsibility and the Article 30. We talked about the implications of language in terms of school signage (all in English – if there are even any signs at all!), about problems and fears navigating, about language barriers in class, barriers to learning, the right to an education, etc,. I was thoroughly impressed with their suggestions and their ability to empathise, with how they could consider sensitive issues.

Slide 10) translation = What have you learnt? Asking them to guess first.

Slide 11) an exit plenary was a simple ‘what have you learnt’. Students had to demonstrate an increased awareness of languages and places across the world, to be able to express links to the Unicef charter and to language – education barriers. With some classes I did this as a simple ‘3 things I have learnt’ written activity, for others I went through the register and each had to articulate something, one class I asked for a simple 3 facts about the ‘countries visited on the map’, and with 9a1 I wanted 100 words to explain the links between language and the right to learn and to development. A myriad of activities would work, but basically each student had to earn their ‘visa’ stamp in order to leave the room – in this case they got their work stamped with a ‘mobile@priory’ or ‘guerilla geography’ stamp. They do love stamps 🙂

Slide 12) means Goodbye in Icelandic! One group in 9a1 stayed behind afterwards chatting to me and arguing with each other about how they felt the image represented a divided and diverging world, just like Iceland, that the gap between rich & poor was getting bigger and that education and language barriers they felt were one of the main reasons for this. Quite impressed. Each week that group seems to have a debate about something – I just light the fire and enjoy! Love it.

Slide 13-14) extension if needed, a card sort with Icelandic and Swahili phrases for students to attempt to match up and sort.

9a1 languagesNote: while students were on task in their pairs completing the world map challenge, I asked each member to come and tell me what languages they could speak in order to complete a class wordle of languages spoken. At the very end of the lesson I would show them their wordle and ask them if they could spot any patterns from it. The premise, if you are unaware, is that the larger the word is the more common it is. Over the course of the day I was able to compare these wordles with other classes, and then we could talk about that and whether there was a pattern with languages spoken and age range. We tweeted a couple of wordles out via @priorygeography and you can see in the gallery below two of them from 7b4 and 9a1 – it was interesting for me seeing the differences in the patterns with two years difference, and very different ability classes. Some students in 7a1 Friday actually afternoon picked this up and asked whether students in lower ability classes who didn’t have English as a first language would be having their right to education taken away, whether they would be able to succeed as easily or whether language was a barrier for them. They weren’t saying it in a negative ‘they can’t speak English so must not be clever’ way, they were genuinely concerned whether these students were being catered for and whether they would be able to make progress. All interesting.

7b4 langaugesSo there you have it. I thoroughly enjoyed these lessons and ran them as floating topicality with KS3 for Thursday & Friday. I intend to link them into our schemes of work to run with in future. @priorygeography is taking part in the Global Learning Programme this year as an Expert Centre and part of this work involves considering global dimensions of language, barriers to learning, education access, human rights, etc,. so this kind of activity could be run simply in any school, perhaps then being compared. It would be interesting to see if there are patterns within the UK for how many languages are spoken by students in a school, or to perhaps link to schools in other parts of the world and see what patterns exist there? Something to think about. If you are interested in sharing about your school then let me know!

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If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.
‒Nelson Mandela