This year, my holiday unintentionally enabled me to witness and think about some excellent geography. I believe everything can be related to geography in some way! This gave me the idea for a lesson for my KS3 classes. ‘The Geography of my Holidays’ asks pupils to think carefully about either a holiday or a day trip that they have been on and identify the ‘geography’ within them. Whilst they may struggle to see past initial ‘mountains and coastlines’, or state that their holiday had no geography at all, presentation of stimulus material such as textbooks, websites such as ‘Geography in the news’, and lists of GeoActives begins to get them thinking deeper about the multifaceted nature of geography. My pupils then produced a piece of extended writing using the prompt questions below:
- Can you give a geographical description of your holiday destination this year?
- What geography did you encounter whilst you were there? Think about environmental, economic, social and political aspects of your location.
- What have you learnt about this concept or topic now?
I modelled the task using the example of my holiday to the Norwegian fjords.
Norway is part of a group of countries which constitute Scandinavia. With its capital being Oslo, it is located in Northern Europe, bordering Sweden to the East as well as Finland and Russia in the North. I spent a week cruising around the Norwegian fjords, which can be found on the western coastline.
Fjords are glacial valleys, carved out of the rock from the pressure of moving ice. They have been filled with water as sea levels have risen and glacial ice has melted, creating impressive narrow inlets, with steep sides and impressive rock formations. One stop on my cruise was the beautiful Geirangerfjord. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Norway. This may be to do with the famous Seven Sisters waterfall 6 kilometres into the fjord. Tourism is the dominant industry for this part of Norway, with many of the small towns and villages nestled in the fjords suffering economically outside of the main cruising seasons.
Since returning from my holiday, I have discovered that Norway has the highest HDI in the world and the fourth highest GDP per capita, evidenced in my holiday by the expensive cost living. Further research has taught me that the high GDP is largely due to it being the largest producer of gas and oil outside of the Middle East. Whilst Norway is not a member of the European Union, it is a member of the European Economic Area, granting access to the single market and is also part of the Schengen area, allowing unrestricted movement for its citizens around the other European nations.
This exercise made my pupils look more carefully at their recent geographical experiences. Travelling to new places is a valuable way to discover the most exciting and interesting parts of our subject and it is important that this is not overlooked. I hope that my pupils continue to analyse the geography around them, both locally and globally. Even if you don’t get the chance to do this with your classes, I encourage you to at least think about your own experiences and marvel at the varied subject that we teach!
Rebecca Priest is a Geography Teacher at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham. She is currently studying for a MA in Geography Education at the Institute of Education and presented a session on ISM at the GA’s 2015 Annual Conference.