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Showing posts from 2020

RIP Barry Holstun Lopez

  " Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion." Barry Lopez I heard yesterday evening via  Robert MacFarlane  that the author  Barry Lopez had died on Christmas Day at his house in Oregon: somewhere he and his wife were renting after the house he had lived in for decades had been affected by wildfires earlier in the year, which had also tragically destroyed a building containing an archive of his writing and documents. Barry Lopez passed away yesterday evening, making his last great journey. His work –– graceful, meticulous, ethical, compassionate, from Arctic Dreams to Common Ground to Horizon & far beyond –– shaped & will go on to shape countless lives, hearts & landscapes... 1/9 — Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane) December 26, 2020 I have blogged about Barry's writing numerous times here, and on my other blogs. I bought his 'Arctic Dreams ' book back in e

Fens Biosphere Project

  I am currently putting together an updated unit on the Fenland landscape. Elements of this will be used in 2021. This image here is of the 'famous' leaning tree in Ely which I've photographed many times over the years. The Fens Biosphere project has received funding to support its work and has a new website. It aims to have the Fens declared as a biosphere. A Biosphere is a special status awarded by UNESCO to a unique and valuable landscape. Biospheres connect people, economies and nature to create a secure future we can all look forward to. They are about developing new ways of living, exploring new ideas and working together. The key characteristics of the area are suggested below: The geographical boundaries of the Fens Biosphere have been built around the following key aspects of this landscape: The peat soils, the ‘black gold’ of the Fens. Within the proposed boundary the dominant soil type is peat, intermixed with silt soils. Peat has become a scarce resource du

South Georgia - major landscape change case study

South Georgia at risk...  I've been following this story for the last few months. The huge iceberg called A68a which broke off the Larsen C Ice Shelf in 2017 has been drifting northwards since then.  It is now being pushed by the Antarctic circumpolar current and is on a collision course with South Georgia. This would cause environmental catastrophe for the ecosystems, including a massive penguin colony and other activities including scientific work. A68a now sliding into view on the edge of latest @CopernicusEU Sentinel-1 image (11 Dec 2020). Zoom into the detail at . @BAS_News — polarview (@polarview) December 12, 2020 Full details are here in this excellent Reuters Graphic website  resource , which includes some great images naturally. Notice the inclusion of Manhattan for scale on the image above. This is not going to be pushed out of the way... If the berg lodges at the island’s flank, it could remain a fixture for up to 10

'Why Study Geography?' - now available

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 sev

Geography Fieldwork Academy

Chris Webster of the Geography Fieldwork Academy has teamed up with the Norfolk Broads authority and brought his video making, resource creation and drone flying skills to bear on one of our National Parks, and the nearest one to where I live and teach. He told me: We've teamed up with the Broads Authority as part of the lottery funded Water, Mills & Marshes project to create a series of unique and engaging geography lessons for KS3 students. These lessons are designed to prepare students for GCSE geography by developing maths, fieldwork and GIS skills in addition to increasing their ability to interpret landscapes and analyse data. The end product is here. There are 6 lessons with all the relevant resources in word and PDF format, and they are rather good resources as well, which I am thinking of slotting in to my own KS3 scheme. Powerpoints are available for download, and also some videos. The final few lessons explore the planning of a route for a Broads triathlon , which

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 p

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 ter

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 f

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

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

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.

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 t

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.   Yo

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.

Thought for the Day


A lovely poem... by Elizabeth Bishop. 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 L

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:

Literary Landscapes: maps from fiction

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 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....

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, , 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 av

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. We're committed to geography education. With most children now being asked to stay at home, we have made all our teaching resources f