Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Geography Collective and Cultural Olympiad

Look at it this Way is very much about the concept of PLACE.
We can now announce a new PLACE based project that I'm involved in...

One of the things I'm proudest of in the last few years is my involvement with the Geography Collective, and our Mission:Explore books, iPhone app and other activities...
We can now announce our latest project, thanks to the project leadership of Daniel Raven Ellison.

We are very pleased to say that we will be delivering a major project for the Cultural Olympiad as part of the Discovering Places programme called Discover Explore. Discovering Places is funded by a grant from Olympic Lottery Distributor (OLD) through the London Organising Committee of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). It is delivered by The Heritage Alliance with the support of key partners.. one of which is us.

We will be working closely with The Workshop to create something very beautiful and cool which will be launched this summer.

“The project aims to inspire young people and their families to discover hidden, extraordinary and important historical sites and stories in cutting-edge and engaging ways. The unique collaboration between Discovering Places, The Geography Collective and numerous small and medium scales historic and natural environment organisations will inspire active participation, animate spaces, raise awareness of environmental sustainability and enhance learning by linking up local heritage assets.” The Heritage Alliance 

‘We are extremely excited to be working on this cutting edge and creative strand of Discovering Places.  This project is going to open up opportunities for children and families to explore and experience places in new ways and have a great deal of fun while thare are at it.  We will be uncovering heritage in ways that will demonstrate how inclusive the Cultural Olympiad is and break new ground on engaging young people with the people, places and stories of not only our pasts but our future’s past.’ Daniel Raven-Ellison, Project Director, The Geography Collective

To read more about the Cultural Olympiad, Discovering Places and our project take a look at the Heritage Alliance newsletter here.

Look forward to meeting the rest of the Geography Collective in May to kick-start the project... 


Monday, 21 March 2011

Rory's Story Cubes for your Landscape stories...

During my lunch-time at the Education Show I took the opportunity to do a quick trip up and down the aisles to make sure that I saw as many of the stands as possible and have a chat to anyone who had a geographical connection, or who caught my eye.

One stand I particularly wanted to see was the CREATIVITY HUB stand, where RORY's STORY CUBES were available.

I have these cubes as an iPhone app and also as the infinitely preferable 'real thing', and have used them with many teachers over the last few years to explore the ideas of geography as "writing the earth".

I have used my cubes with hundreds of teachers as a way of exploring creative writing, including my sessions at various conferences. By using a net for creating a cube such as the one below, taken from MATHSISFUN with thanks, you can also add your own cubes...

Cut out the shapes and add your own words or instructions on the six sides relevant to the subject that you are using them for.

If you were making a set of geography cubes, they might contain instructions. These could be used to add a map symbol or place name, to turn a particular compass direction (to direct a route across an OS map sheet perhaps), or to describe a particular landscape.

I got a set of ACTIONS cubes to mix in with them, and had a chat with Rory - who looks just like his picture on the flyer.

I was also really impressed with the MAX cubes, and a bit disappointed that they were only prototypes and not available to buy - not yet anyway... Follow the link to add your thoughts on whether they should be made more widely available for the particular reasons that are suggested.
Follow Rory and the team on Twitter @storycubes, and read this story from the Belfast Telegraph for some information on what they are planning yet. Some interesting projects to come...

New Zealand: where I'd like to be today...

My earlier blog post about the Christchurch memorial service was a reminder of the many connections that exist between the UK and New Zealand.
My friend Simon Hathaway, who now lives in Wellington (which is a major improvement on Rotherham) sent me a pack of newspaper and magazine articles this week to add to the other resources that I have gathered to help teach about the resilience of a major city following an earthquake. I was interested to read the 'North and South New Zealander of the Year' piece, which awarded the Supreme Winner to the people of Christchurch... and that was following the earlier September 2010 quake...
There was also a really useful piece from the Dominion Post by Chris Kalderimis on the most useful items to have in a home emergency survival kit, and lots of personal stories.

The #blog4nz campaign is encouraging bloggers the world over to focus on New Zealand for a while, and this post is part of the effort.

Although my work involves me in translating a range of media into resources which can make a difference in the classroom, there is also a lot of personal interest in exploring these distant places, and one area to develop is the impact of tourism in New Zealand.

One of the potential longer term impacts of the Christchurch earthquake is the effect that it might have on the tourist industry on both islands, but particularly the South Island.  New Zealand has been on my must-visit list for ever, and I still fully intend to visit one day, although the current financial situation is not making it any easier...

Image shared under Creative Commons license by Boston Public Library
When I was asked to produce a KS3 book for use in the geography classroom, I was determined to get a little bit of New Zealand in there. I chose an iconic landform to focus on: the distinctive Mitre Peak in Milford Sound.

My contribution to the GA's toolkit series included two lessons called "Mountains on my Mind". They involved students applying for a job with a fictional tour company which operated flights into Milford Sound. Students needed to prepare themselves for the job interview by researching answers to the sorts of questions that tourists would have as they flew over the mountains.

Below is a slideshow of images taken by Simon Hathaway, which were used to introduce the lesson - the music is by the band "Suns of the Tundra" - with thanks to Simon Oakes for the remix music track :) - warning: it could get loud !!

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

When clicking on the Dominion Post link earlier to create the hyperlink, I noticed a few tourism related stories straight away:

Preparations for the next Rugby World Cup later this year are already well underway, and there was also the story about the filming for 'The Hobbit' movie.

This reminded me of a the tourism benefits of the filming of "The Lord of the Rings" which resulted in a major surge in visitors, and the publication of several guides to the filming locations.

So what would my top priorities be for our family visit to New Zealand, which was going to be 2012, but now looks like being later... My interest in some parts of the country date back to 2007. At the time I was supporting Val Vannet as she followed Mark Beaumont around the world on his record-breaking
I took over from Val over the Christmas and New Year period 2007-8 and followed Mark through New Zealand and therefore spent a lot of time using Google Earth and other sites to trace his route and identify some geographical highlights....
Here is a 'top ten', which provides a taster.... There'll be no bungee though, or white water rafting. I prefer more sedate pleasures...

1. Wellington
We'll be based in the city as that's where friends who've offered us a bed for as long as we want live. But from there we'll branch out. Wellington has plenty to offer the visitor, and we'll explore the hills and the city itself. Plenty of interesting food and cultural highlights... We can get over our jet lag here before exploring further afield in a motor home...

2. Ferry to the South Island (and back)
Looking forward to this trip. We enjoy boat journeys and this is one of the more spectacular ones.

3. Christchurch
As a geographer, I'd be interested in seeing the city for various reasons, but not the least to show that it is as safe to visit as anywhere else along this fault-line. This would not be "disaster tourism", but a genuine desire to support local businesses as well as publicise for geography teachers and students back home some of the longer term ways that 'resilience' manifests itself....

4.Mt.Taranaki / Egmont and the surrounding area
Egmont / Taranaki is an amazing mountain, and the surrounding area has plenty of interest. I am particularly keen to visit places that are as 'different' to the day-to-day as possible.

5. Rotorua
Having visited Iceland recently, including a trip to Geysir and other hot springs, I've had my fair share of sulphurous water, but this is one of those places where the thin shell of the Earth's crust becomes obvious, and for that reason I need to take a look...

6. Milford Sound - I'm torn between driving in, and flying in - perhaps I could do both ? This is one of the great places of the world. When I was younger I visited the Hardangerfjord and other fjords of Norway, and I'm always impressed by huge cliffs and deep water. The waterfalls and jagged peaks are stunning.

7. Moeraki
Always wanted to see the Moeraki boulders, looking like dinosaur eggs on the beach. Moeraki is not too far from Christchurch. The family might not be too impressed if I dragged them a long distance to see "a few rocks", although they are beautiful rocks...

8. Mt Ruapehu and Tongariro
In the same area of the North Island, I used to teach about the eruption of these volcanoes for many years. I like the idea of seeing the peaks and snow fields, and making the link with the 'Lord of the Rings' locations...

9. Franz Josef Glacier
Again, my recent trip to Iceland allowed me to walk on a large glacier, but this has a much different feel to the Solheimajokull ice cap, with its steeper gradient and dramatic crevasses...

10. Shackleton connections
Sir Ernest Shackleton has always been an inspiration of mine, and the chance to visit some of the places where he prepared for his journeys would be a good reason for heading South... Two places on the list would be the grave of Chippy McNeish in Karori cemetery, Wellington, and the port of Lyttleton.

Picture by Simon Hathaway - Chippy McNeish and Mrs Chippy...

I am keen to trace some of the connections with the early Polar explorers, as we prepare for the centenary of Scott and Amundsen's race to the Pole next year. I have no doubt that someone somewhere is planning to tweet their journeys day by day (and if they aren't I though of it first... ;)  )

See you there !

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Urban Landscape News

There were 3 or 4 "urban-related" tweets in my overnight feed that I caught up with earlier 'today' while having my breakfast...
Part of my daily routine now is to look at what has happened while I slept, and e-mail any interesting tweets to my e-mail account, so that I have a record of the links, and can follow them up when I have a moment...

This weekend, there has been an urban theme to many of the updates. Several of them were from the excellent @urbanphoto_blog stream... You need to follow them if you don't already.

One led me to the Twisted Sifter blog, from which I got this remarkable image, which apparently shows the suburbs of Mexico City marching into the distance, irrespective of topography.

The images were from Pablo Lopez Luz

I haven't explored the site further, but it seems to have a range of interesting images and other content.
The second site, which was equally arresting is a description of the development of a new (or perhaps not so new it seems) 'city' stretching out into the Caspian Sea from Baku, and called Oily Rocks.

The Liquid Infrastructure blog has the story and more amazing pictures of this complex structure.

Next was the news of a fire in the Garib Nagar slum in Mumbai. One of the houses affected was the home of an actress who featured in the film "Slumdog Millionaire". Of course there were thousands of other people affected too...
This was followed up by another newspaper article on the slums of Mumbai, and plans to bulldoze Dharavi. One to extend into the idea of local politics and ownership of land...

This was followed by a tip-off from Bob Digby to an article on the increased threat that coastal settlements in the UK are likely to face
A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation relates to the idea of Social Justice, and looks at the impact on disadvantaged UK coastal communities.
Click HERE to download the report as a 1.4 Mb PDF file

The possible impacts on East Anglia (as featured in the report) are summarised below...

•  Weakening and collapse of cliffs due to desiccation as a result of higher summer temperatures and lower precipitation; also cliff destabilisation as a result of decreasing vegetation cover.
•  Weakening and collapse of cliffs due to increased precipitation in winter, which causes more water to penetrate into desiccated cracks.
•  Higher rates of coastal erosion from higher sea levels, more frequent storm surges and weakened cliffs.
•  High erosion will cause enhanced rates of longshore drift which may pose threats to the major ports of Great Yarmouth, Felixstowe and Harwich.

And finally, was an article by Rick Poynor on the book "Edgelands", which I am reading via Kindle app at the moment, along with some images of these peripheral areas.

So basically, Twitter - thanks to the Flipbook app - has replaced the need for me to buy a Sunday newspaper...

Pylons in the Landscape

As featured in Lesson 3 in the book...

There are plans for more pylons in East Anglia to connect proposed power stations to the National Grid to improve infrastructure.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has been opposing these developments in some areas of Norfolk.
My local paper has some more on this issue...
It costs 10 times as much to place cables underground as it does to put it over ground.

Check the plans and have your say here.

And don't forget you can also join the Pylon Appreciation Society