Wow, what a weekend! The variety of sessions over the two days of the Geographical Association Annual Conference allowed for an invaluable mix of teaching and learning ideas for the classroom, subject knowledge updates, and engagement with the wider discipline of geography.
I took away far more from this conference than I’ll be able to summarise in this blog! However, below are my top picks from a fantastic Geographical Association Conference:
- A previously untapped resource: The UK Census
In her session ‘The Census: representing the real world of work?’ Alice Griffiths (@alicelouisegrif) opened our eyes to the opportunities of using the UK Census in the classroom. Whilst the Census is mentioned in lessons across all age groups throughout the year, I’ve never stopped to consider how it could be used in the classroom.
As Alice so well explained, the Census is, of course, a product of its time and so the nature of the questions included in the UK Census reflects the changing geography of the UK over time. For example, in 1981 the sole question about ethnicity, nationality, and race asked for your country of birth and gave the options of: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic, or Elsewhere.
If we fast-forward to 2011, the country of birth question (with the same answer options) remains yet several others have been added. We were asked in 2011 ‘How would you describe your national identity?’ and ‘What is your ethnic group?’ and were given over 10 different options for ethnic groups. This is just one example of the many discussion points that can be considered if we analyse the changing Census questions against the backdrop of the changing geography of the UK. Personally, I plan to build reference to this, and other examples of different questions, into our GCSE teaching of changes to the UK population.
- An updated resource: The new World Mapper
The well-known (and much loved!) World Mapper website has been updated and went live during the conference on Saturday. The updated website sees lots of changes but perhaps most useful to teachers is the new series of maps.
The visualisation of ‘Carbon Emissions Decline 1990-2015’ is of great relevance to discussing actions towards tackling climate change, whilst the map of ‘Epidemics 2001-2017’ is a vital tool for teaching of the A Level Health option. The distribution of the donkey population in 2016 raises some interesting questions about the use of these domesticated animals, whilst the ‘global spread of open defecation in urban areas 2015’ is perhaps a map title that students won’t guess!
As you will see when you explore the website, there is a huge array of new resources waiting to be embedded into lessons.
- A subject knowledge update: M&S Plan A
Friday afternoon saw a lecture given by two project managers from the Property Plan A department of Marks and Spencer. Titled ‘The business of geography: from the River Gwash to M&S’, this lecture firstly reminded us of the variety of careers that a geography degree opens up – using the diversity of roles that geographers fill within M&S as just one example.
In my teaching of A Level Globalisation, I use the example of M&S Plan A in order to fulfill the following key idea of the specification: ‘Ethical and environmental concerns about unsustainability have led to increased localism and awareness of the impacts of a consumer society’. For this reason, it was fantastic to hear of the continued work of M&S towards a sustainable future. Their website is a vast source of information about their work and I recommend taking a look to include it in your teaching of sustainability.
- A reminder: The importance of the wider geography network (and online community)
One of my favourite parts of the weekend was the time just spent enjoying geography. There was a real sense that despite all the challenges faced in schools at the moment, we’re all here for the same reason: we love our subject and we (generally!) love our jobs. Therefore, a key take-home from the weekend was the reminder that we are not alone – something particularly stressed by Catherine Owen (@geogmum) in her TeachMeet presentation. We are not alone in our struggles to resource good lessons, to update schemes of work, and in the pressure for the best possible results – and ample help is available! Through the GA, the RGS, online Facebook groups, and things like the #geographyteacher and #geogchat networks on Twitter (to name just a few) – we are a thriving community who do collaborate fantastically! We need to remember this and work together to rise to the challenges we face.
For more information, see the @OxfordEdGeog Twitter feed for the live tweets that I completed over the weekend. Alternatively, contact me on Twitter (geography_kes) and I’m more than happy to share ideas / information gained from this weekend.
Kate Stockings is Head of Geography at Roding Valley High School having completed her PGCE at the University of Cambridge 2014-2015. She is an author for OUP and is currently completing her Masters in Education.