Wednesday, 9 September 2020

'Why Study Geography?' - coming soon

Geography is the big-picture subject for our times. It encompasses subjects ranging from the microscopic – how soils form, and how those soils can be protected and managed well to grow food, for example – through to things as large-scale as the future trajectory of megacities and the threat of ever more warming of the planet. Alan Parkinson’s guide clearly and carefully explains why geography is worthy of study, at GCSE, at A level and at university. It is bang up to date. Students, their teachers and parents are all likely to find it essential reading.

Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, University of Oxford

Just ahead of lockdown, I met with Richard and Sam from the London Publishing Partnership about writing a book in a series explaining why students should teach different curriculum subjects. The History book is already published, and others are on the way. The lockdown gave me the time and the inclination to meet a quite tight deadline, and after several drafts, hundreds of edits and tweaks and rewriting, the book is now about to go to print, and is set for publication in October.

The book explores why the study of geography is so important. It looks at how the subject developed, links between school and academic geography, how to apply to study geography at university, the different types of courses, how to make the most of your time at university, what careers geography can lead you into and with case studies of individuals who studied geography and who went on to do interesting things with it, and others who came into a geographical field later. There are also suggestions for how you can develop your geographical thinking, and make the most of your powerful geographical knowledge. Thanks to those people who kindly contributed to the creation of this book, which helped me shape my own thoughts, and has also led to me starting to write another related book to connect with my planned GA Presidential theme for 2021-22.

I think this book would be helpful for several different groups of people:

- for teachers of Geography, who are keen to find out about how the subject developed, and what contemporary geography courses look like
- for parents of students who have shown an interest in studying geography at HE or undergraduate level
- for those staff whose role includes preparing students for UCAS choices and university applications, or writing EPQs and related activities to support a move into academic study
- for those staff who are involved in helping with careers options for those who may want to secure a job or internship or apprenticeship instead of
- for those who simply want a few copies of a book around the place to direct those who they know might go on to study Geography at university to read to find out more...
- as a gift for Y13s who do particularly well, and head off to university (hopefully to study geography)

Please let your UCAS / Careers teachers at school know about the book - great for Options evening as well to have around to show the value of the subject to so many careers.

It would be great to get this book into as many schools as possible. Although the book is UK-focussed, it would also be useful to those in the USA and other countries, including in International Schools and those that follow UK-based exam specifications.

Go HERE to pre-order your copy and if you think you might want a small (or large) order o multiple copies then let me know and I'll put you in touch with the publishers to see whether we can arrange a discount.

And why the beans on the front cover? If you get a copy you'll find out why :)

Saturday, 18 July 2020

The wild side of the M25

Helen Macdonald, author of 'H is for Hawk' has completed a journey around the M25 exploring the wildlife that lies along its margins.



Catch it on iPlayer.

Is there a wild side to Britain’s busiest road? Author and naturalist Helen Macdonald embarks on a clockwise loop around London’s orbital motorway - searching for hidden wildness and natural beauty within the sight and sound of the M25. Along her journey, Helen encounters the remarkable people, plants and animals living above, beside and beneath the motorway, and delves into the controversial history of the UK’s longest and least-loved bypass.

The M25 has been part of Britain’s landscape for nearly 35 years, so how has the natural world adapted to the motorway carving a path through its environment? Starting just south of the Thames at Kent’s Junction 1, Helen explores the woodland that lines the first 40 miles of the M25. In a first sign of how animals’ lives are shaped by the man-made world, great tits are changing the pitch of their calls in order to be heard above the roar of the road. But humans have often been less willing to adapt to the M25’s noisy presence.

The village of Shoreham won a battle to divert the motorway, thanks to the landscape paintings of 19th-century artist Samuel Palmer. Palmer’s paintings are highly prized today for their pre-impressionistic style and their idyllic visions of a benign countryside. Although Palmer’s vision was at odds with the harsher reality for farmworkers of the time, 20th-century locals leveraged their emotive value to save Shoreham’s valley and re-route the motorway through nearby woods.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Place 2020

Place 2020 is a new project which has been launched as part of the Centre for Place Writing.


The work here explores, via a dynamic mix of new writing (poetry, essay, commentary, reflection and story), films, photography and podcasts, how ideas of ‘place’ shifted radically across the globe in 2020, as billions of people went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter Movement changed how we think about everything.

New work will feature on this site throughout 2020.

An excellent piece by Amy Liptrot is part of the first few pieces, exploring young people's relationship with nature.

I often think about how the geographies of our childhoods define our psyches. I grew up next to cliffs, in big skies with the open ocean and wide horizons. I’m coming to see that my son’s ‘local acre’, his native mile, will be different. Where we now live, in West Yorkshire, is about as landlocked as you can be in the UK. His is a world of woods and rivers, of terraced houses among trees: a world of gritstone and green rather than sky and sea.

It’s been striking how something global (a pandemic) has made me focus on the local. Our street leads onto the woods: a gorge extending a mile or so up the valley along a stream. This locality - both the street and the woods - has taken on a greater significance in the last twelve weeks than ever before. Discouraged from driving, and accompanied by a two-year-old, my horizons have contracted.


Reminds me of a quote I've used for many years in presentations

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Landscapes of Detectorists

"Alright geography degree, where should we be searching?"

I've been waiting for this book for some time, and it's lovely to finally hold it in my hand and flick through its contents before diving in. I didn't quite do a "gold dance" when my lovely postlady left it on the doormat and retreated two metres, but not far off.
'Detectorists' instantly grabbed me when the first episode of the first series was broadcast on the BBC on 2nd of October 2014. The week before I'd watched another wonderful Toby Jones performance in 'Marvellous' about the life of Neil Baldwin, so I was keen to see him in this new series too.
There was something calming about the series as it progressed, with the relationship between Becky and Andy, the banter about 'University Challenge', their random finds and changing relationships. There are so many small moments of joy (many of which make it into the pages of the book)

  • The random curries made from whatever was in the boxes Lance was unloading with his fork-lift.
  • The changing dynamic of friendship and relationship with the arrival of Sophie.
  • The bickering with Simon and Garfunkel.
  • Mr. Bishop and his phantom dogs.
  • Sheila's lemonade - the sharpest lemonade on the planet.
  • The tension-filled pub quiz.
All wonderful vignettes making up a fantastic narrative, and pastoral first series, which was followed by two others. It also had the perfect ending for home-maker Andy and his family. The casting of Diana Rigg as Becky's mum (the actress Rachael Stirling is her daughter) was also a lovely touch.

As I was watching it, Jo Norcup and Innes Keighren were also watching, and later discussing it, and unpicking the themes and identifying a number that were geographical beyond the obvious "sense of place" and "landscape as palimpsest" that were perhaps clearer to the viewer, with the treasures buried just out of sight by people long past. There were also references to reading the landscape, Ordnance Survey maps and Google Earth.
Danebury's OS sheet is reproduced at the start of the book, just as it was glimpsed in the episode where Becky uses her geographical skills to suggest the most likely location for the ship they are seeking. Andrew Harris noticed the connection with verticality: how Andy was always looking at the ground, even when performing, and how he took on jobs whose actions mirrored detecting. They noticed how it was Becky who made the decisions, with gender roles being explored, and how detecting is an act which connects you with the quotidian of yesterday.

Later, Jo and Innes developed their ideas and thinking into a session for the RGS-IBG's Summer conference in 2018. When they published an open call for papers I even started writing one. I visited the filming locations in Suffolk, including Framlingham and Aldham, but didn't get it finished, and it would have been rather less than academic if I had.
I had started to explore how programs like 'Detectorists' can lead to a growth in tourism, with people wanting to visit the filming locations. It also explored how the real place is subtly changed by the film makers, so that its geography is changed. Those living in the place can immediately see the lack of logic to particular scenes when they watch them, those unfamiliar remain blissfully ignorant.

Here's an extract from the RGS session abstract which led to the book:

The BAFTA-winning situation comedy-drama “Detectorists” has, across three series and a Christmas special (2014–17), garnered critical praise for its affectionate portrayal of metal detecting and amateur archaeology in rural England. In its attention to the embodied practice of detecting and to the social worlds of detectorists, the programme has been described by critics variously as “about hardly anything and almost everything” (Lloyd 2015) and “the most accurate portrait of men being men that you’ll find in current popular culture” (Fewery 2015). For one Twitter user (Sumsion 2014), the show is simply “a warm, beguiling, slow-burn meditation on male friendship and prosaic details of Englishness, plus some metal”. Explaining his motivation for creating “Detectorists”, Mackenzie Crook, writer and director of the programme, has said “I wanted to do an exploration of men and their obsessions, and I wanted to do a celebration of people and their hobbies, and a celebration of the English countryside” (Crook 2015).

Jo describes the lead up to the session when they wondered whether they were going to make fools of themselves, but it turned out to be very successful and well received, and the programme's producer, Adam Tandy came along too. Isla Forsyth and Andrew Harris added their own pieces as well.

Following the session, Jo and Innes were approached by Colin Sackett of Uniformbooks and asked if they would like to turn the session papers into a book.


The book is beautifully presented and has the added value of a foreword written by Mackenzie Crook who professes himself surprised at how the 'readings' of the authors of each essay have revealed to him some things he never noticed himself - reminding us how geographers see the world with 'a different view', to add to the views of archaeologists and detectorists to interpret the landscapes of anywhere, not just the Landscapes of Detectorists.
Crook has since turned his talents to a resurrection and new interpretation of ‘Worzel Gummidge’, drawn from similar themes of folk tales blended with warnings of climate change and the seasons being out of balance - other geographical themes. A series is apparently forthcoming.
I appreciated the references to some relevant geographical scholarship and others such as Joe Moran, who has written on the quotidian (a personal interest of mine as well), and Tim Edensor, both of whom also consider the creation of the landscape and the role of artefacts to connect us with the lives of those who have occupied the landscape before. The third series introduced more images of the previous occupants, alongside the family of magpies that have been collecting gold in their nest in the tree beneath which Andy and Lance sit to eat their lunch and reflect on their hobby.

The text is accompanied by plentiful black and white stills from the series.

Reading the book gave me a desire to rewatch key scenes from the series to spot things I hadn't noticed. I'd forgotten one scene at the start of the third series, for example, where the solar farm developers Photon Harvest are talking about a new development and unroll a large aerial photograph on the desk in a London highrise. It shows Church Farm outside Danebury.
The camera zooms down into the landscape, 'Powers of Ten' style, to reveal a yellow TVR and Lance and Andy walking out to start the day detecting...

Lance looks up, and says: "Look at that, not a cloud in the sky"....

Reading this wonderful book has given me a desire to visit the church at Aldhouse again.
Now that the pubs are open I'll also head for Great Glemham and raise a glass to Innes and Jo in 'The Two Brewers'.
I'm also going to finish off my 'paper' on the landscapes explored in the series. This book is very much a book by and for geographers, for those interested in place-making and cultural geography, such as the sub-culture of detectorists and their practice. It's also about the construction of a narrative which has hidden depths, just as any ploughed field has. One particular field on the edge of the village in Snettisham in Norfolk where I lived for 12 years yielded up a golden treasure which, like Lance's brooch is now on display in the British Museum.
https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/H_1951-0402-2

Some details on how the book came about, and the development of the essays can be seen in this interview here.

Full disclosure: I was sent a review copy of the book by Colin Sackett of Uniformbooks, but would have purchased a copy of my own.

Uniformbooks have always been supportive of, and receptive to, geographical thinking, having previously published books featuring the work of former GA President Geoffrey Hutchings and also David Mattless.

P.S: Jo, I'm still hoping to get my pin badge from the finds table :)

Images: Screengrabs from iPlayer - copyright BBC

Thought for the Day

"I think imagination needs a precise geography"

Robert MacFarlane

Thursday, 2 July 2020

OFQUAL Fieldwork Consultation


“Fieldwork is the best and most immediate means of bringing the two aspects of the subject (i.e. a body of knowledge and a distinctive method of study) together in the experience of the pupil. Therefore, fieldwork is a necessary part of geographical education; it is not an optional extra”  

(Bailey, 1974)

Over the years I've been part of many consultations and responses to consultations from the GA and also in a personal capacity. 
Over the years the GA and other bodies have had to fight to keep aspects of the subject, indeed the whole subject itself, on the curriculum.
Many consultations receive a low number of responses.
This often plays to those who want to skew the result in a particular way by saying "look, there's no real opposition to this in the responses to the consultation".
OFQUAL has a consultation running until the 16th of July. TAKE PART!

This consultation is on the content and running of the 2021 Exams for GCSE, AS (which nobody really does anymore) and A levels. There are some suggested changes which are being consulted on.

Image

Here is the bit that is important for us as geographers.


A look at the annex shows that the History GCSEs have had their content slimmed down - sometimes losing quite a lot of content, but Geography has just had the fieldwork element removed.

If fieldwork goes, then there is a great possibility that it will be lost forever, and if we have "done without it" the expectation will be that we can continue to "do without it".

The wording could perhaps be adapted so that the requirement to carry out fieldwork "beyond the school gates" is removed - there are options for fieldwork on the school grounds, or in the immediate area, or using secondary data more substantially. Or remove the requirement for it to be assessed in quite the way that it is currently, or perhaps as an alternative to a part of the course, that those schools who had already carried out fieldwork could opt for.

It is very important that fieldwork is retained. Remove other course content to free up time but keep one of the key elements of geographical study, and one which so many other former and indeed present Geographical Association Presidents have championed and fought for in decades past.
From Geoffrey Hutchings, to Patrick Bailey, to Nick Lapthorn and Gill Miller (and others) the GA has led on a whole range of fieldwork projects. The GA has a stategic partnership with the GA, showing the value placed on fieldwork. August 2015-16 saw the Year of Fieldwork.
During the summer the 2nd edition of my new book on 'Fieldwork through Enquiry' - a 2nd edition of the popular book co-written with John Widdowson will be published.

Virtual experiences are not fieldwork...
Chris Durbin's quote remains important here: "virtual fieldwork is like a virtual pint of beer~....


Add your voice to keep fieldwork.
For ideas for local and school-based fieldwork check out the GA's Geography from Home section of the website.

This blogpost represents my personal views.
The Geographical Association is also responding to the consultation and recommending to other geography teachers that they do the same.
Here's Alan Kinder's view in the TES



Thursday, 18 June 2020

In search of Moominland

"It was a land of lush meadows, dark woods and dazzling rivers, flanked on one side by “the Lonely Mountains” and on the other by cave-studded coves where “every wave that dies on the beach sings a little song to a shell.”



A lovely piece on Finland and the search for Moominland by Dan Roberts.

In the Economist's 1843 magazine section.


“I only want to live in peace, plant potatoes and dream,” Moomintroll

Monday, 15 June 2020

500 posts

Just passed 500 posts on this blog. It was created in 2007, ahead of the publication of my KS3 Toolkit book called "Look at it this Way" which had ideas for teaching about landscapes. I still use a few of the ideas in my own teaching. The book is still available to buy from the GA shop.
The blog has had almost 90 000 views which is OK for the length of time it's been around. Hope you've found some of the contents useful.

Geography SW has launched

A new website for those who are in the SW, and those who aren't.
Launched by Simon Ross, John Davidson and Emma Espley, and supported by a team of geographers including Harry West from UWE.
The site already includes resources for all key stages and also advice for those wanting to visit the SW, those studying at University, and teachers requiring CPD in the area. Plenty of links through to GA support materials and resources are included.


The site will continue to grow over time. There are already some interesting GCSE case studies added for example.
Of course, we could now have other groups of geographers stepping up to produce similar portals for other parts of the country.

Guidance on how to contribute to the site is here. This could be a way for those who want to share their work and ideas to have them publicised so that others can easily access them.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Slow Ways - logo design competition

Earlier in the year, I joined the team of people who has been creating Slow Ways routes: walking routes to connect up the UK's towns and cities and other large population centres. These follow public footpaths and bridle ways and avoid busy roads.

The idea is another initiative from Daniel Raven Ellison.
The project now needs a logo.

The Slow Ways will be a network of 7,000 walking routes that connect Great Britain’s towns and cities as well as thousands of villages. People will be able to use the Slow Ways to walk between neighbouring settlements or daisy-chain them for longer journeys.
The first draft of the Slow Ways routes have been imagined and created in lockdown by hundreds of volunteers from across the country.
We now need a strong visual identity for the Slow Ways. In the future this might be used on signage, waymarkers and maps. For now, it will be used on the website we are creating as well as t-shirts, posters and in other places.
That’s why we’re organising this competition. We’re looking for a strong symbol for the Slow Ways that will give them a clear identity. You can see some examples of symbols used on trails around the world on this Twitter thread.

We are looking for a symbol that:
  • is a snail or snail inspired
  • is clear, bold and timeless
  • can be stencilled
  • can be easily adapted to one colour, but you can be as colourful as you like
  • would look good big or small, on a map, waymarker, sign, pin-badge, t-shirt or poster

A snail was suggested by a Slow Ways volunteer and this has turned into a much-loved idea. Snails are slow and humble explorers that carry their homes on their backs, leave trails, are found nearly everywhere and, unknowingly, will actually share the Slow Ways with us. They also have a very distinctive and identifiable shape.

As well as having their symbol used for the Slow Ways, there will be a prize of £250 for the artist(s) of the winning design.

A judging panel will shortlist designs and pick the final winner. The panel will be made up of volunteers who have helped to draft the Slow Ways network and relevant experts.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

IB DP Webinars on 'Place'

During this term of lock down, Richard Allaway and Matt Podbury have been doing a double act to support the global IB DP community.
Think 'Reeves and Mortimer' rather than "Laurel and Hardy'....

Richard's site: Geography all the Way has a fantastic range of materials for teaching a whole range of age groups. Most areas of the site, which has built up over many years, remains free, and the IB area is one of the few areas that is subscription based, but well worth the small amount to gain access - think how much money you're saving by not using glue sticks, photocopier etc.

Similarly Matt Podbury has a wonderful site: GeographyPods which is largely free, but has a relatively new IB area which is behind a paywall to help support the development of further new materials for the wider teaching community.
Both sites are well worth paying the small subscription fee from departmental budgets.

You can watch a repeat of each webinar on this link here. 
You will also see that there are links to the earlier webinars and associated references.

It was good to see so many people joining in. I managed to speak to colleagues from France, Switzerland, Guernsey, UK, Brazil, Poland, Canada, Qatar, North Cyprus, Hong Kong, Singapore, Netherlands, Philippines, Cambodia, Norway, Switzerland, Ghana, India, Poland and Kazakhastan.

For ease, here's the first run through of the slide deck, which I think was the best one.
I didn't realise I'd be seen alongside the slides on the recording so excuse any gurning...



Feedback welcome.

The Slides themselves can be viewed here.

Full disclosure: as I contributed resources / ideas to both sites, Rich and Matt have kindly given me a free subscription to access their sites, which has allowed me to see their contents and comment on their usefulness for IB colleagues.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Aftenlandet ('Evening Land')

Never seen this before until it appeared on a Facebook group earlier.
Jan Garbarek and Mari Boine with a piece of music from Jan's 'Visible World'
Powerful Sami singing and the Norwegian landscape along with Jan's Sax...

Apparently made for the Winter Olympics.

AFTENLANDET (the Evening Land) by Erik Poppe. (1994) Music by Jan Garbarek and Mari Boine. from Erik Poppe on Vimeo.
Made by comission for NRK and the Winter Olympics in 1994. Scripted and directed by Erik Poppe. Music written and performed by Jan Garbarek and Mari Boine.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Sandpiper

A lovely poem... by Elizabeth Bishop.
https://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/kmcneill/BISHOP.HTM

The beach hisses like fat, On his left, a sheet
of interrupting water comes and goes
and glazes over his dark and brittle feet.
He runs, he runs straight through it, watching his toes.
 
-- Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them,
where (no detail too small) the Atlantic drains 
rapidly backwards and downwards. As he runs,
he stares at the dragging grains.

Michael Palin on post-Corona travel

Michael Palin was on the Andrew Marr Show this morning.


He was asked about what travelling might be like in the future as we come out of lockdown and lose our holidays. How should we cope with that.

"I think you can travel less and travel better.
If we have to be confined to travelling in the UK, it's not a bad place to travel - there are all sorts of wonderful places - and different landscapes and different sorts of atmospheres - Northern Scotland, Cornwall.
Go to places and learn more about them, enjoy them more.
Find out more about your own country.
It's going to be very difficult for people right across the world to actually travel again as we did before until we find a vaccine. Nobody is going to pack people into aeroplanes as they did before.
No cheap and cheerful flights around the world.
It's going to be very difficult to see the rest of the world. So narrow your horizons is not necessarily a bad thing.
Look more carefully
Look more thoroughly
Learn to enjoy your own country. 
Travelling is not necessarily as exotic - it can be local but can still be as interesting and inspirational."

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Matterhorn - illuminated

For the last few weeks, the Matterhorn has been illuminated each night with the flag of a different European country, or Swiss Canton, or occasionally messages of solidarity with other countries, or a reminder to #stayathome

Last night it was the turn of the United Kingdom.

Images can be used as long as you follow the terms which are outlined when you download one from the site.

Photographer
© Light Art by Gerry Hofstetter / Foto Gabriel Perren

Must be a fairly powerful projector...

Source: https://www.zermatt.ch/en/Media/Media-corner/Pressebilder-News/Illumination-of-the-Matterhorn

Literary Landscapes: maps from fiction

Ll

This exhibition took place in 2015, but is available virtually.

Maps of imaginary places have accompanied literature for centuries. 
Visualizing the fanciful worlds described in works of fiction sets the stage for events taking place in a story, and often provides insight into the characters themselves. 
In this exhibition of forty items, visitors will discover maps from a variety of fictional genres, learn how authors create imaginary worlds, and appreciate why descriptive geography is essential to the story. People and creatures, even those who exist only in tales, are related to place, and maps of their imaginary worlds allow readers to be transported into the geography of fantasy.

And this is just one of several exhibitions which can be visited virtually at the same venue.

This one on Geography in the Classroom is particularly good.
I like the look of this game
Loto des 5 parties du monde

Thanks to David Cooper for the tipoff.

Sleep - a landscape for the sleeping mind to inhabit...



I have this on my iPhone at low volume every night, and now it is being broadcast live this evening through until tomorrow.
An 8 hour instrumental piece...
"...made as a kind of landscape for the sleeping mind to inhabit..."



Radio 3 link here. It's a beautiful relaxation, and when I wake part way through the night I am then able to go back quickly....

Friday, 27 March 2020

Geograph - now available in Welsh

The Geograph project has appeared here numerous times over the years. It played a big part in my first trip up to the SAGT Conference.

When it was first launched, I publicised it over on GeographyPages and contributed some early images of the Norfolk area and bagged a few squares along the coast.


The Geograph Project Ltd is a small national charity – an online community and project that maps the British Isles with photographs and information, “to advance the education of the public in geography and heritage”. They have over 6 million moderated, geo-located and dated images on www,geograph.org.uk , made available through a Creative Commons Licence.

Many people use the website to learn about where they live or areas they might visit.
Don't forget that there is also a schools area providing some activities and games that can be played to explore the millions of images.

After a lot of hard work, the site has been translated into Welsh.

The Schools Area is also now available in Welsh.
Take a look if you haven't been before, or haven't been for a while.
The site is supported by the Ordnance Survey.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Geographical Association website now free access for the next three months

Work has been going on behind the scenes to make this happen for the last few days and earlier today the necessary changes to the website were made for open access to the GA website to be enabled.

There are numerous resources on here which non-members will not have been aware of.
The work that we did for the Action Plan for Geography had to be made freely available, but a great deal of extra resources are provided on the website behind the members' paywall.

I am very pleased to say that I had a part in quite a few of them during my time working for the Association, and before and since, including numerous resources, teacher support and CPD courses.

I am also currently working on some extra guidance for teachers and resources which I hope will be added to the site in time for the Summer term, when we shall still probably be locked down.

Please consider joining the GA during the next six months or so

If you think, for example about the amount of photocopying, green pens and Pritt sticks youll save on that makes sense. Also think of your personal commuting costs, Costa coffees and other things you are going to be saving by working from home too.

Perhaps order something from the shop too. The new digital fieldwork series are available as instant downloads.

My new book Fieldwork book with John Widdowson was due to be available but that won't happen for a while now.