‘Tis the season to do geography

Mince pie

I find my school a very exciting place to be in the run up to Christmas. Whilst the concerts, plays, presents, and games all add to the atmosphere, I think it is also important to strike a balance between fun Christmassy lessons and worthwhile learning, especially during the last week of term. I would like to share my top 3 ideas for the festive period.

  1. How far does Santa have to travel?

With my KS3 classes I will be using the website ‘Free Map Tools’ to get students to analyse Santa’s journey from Lapland to their home.  It’s an excellent opportunity to practise mapping and basic GIS tools: students enter their home’s location to show Santa’s route on Google maps. The website also tells you how far the journey will be, as the crow flies and by land transport. I will then get students to write a description of Santa’s journey describing the countries, cities and modes of transport that he will use (other than his sleigh, of course!).

  1. Christmas geography news

A recurring activity I like to use throughout the year is newspaper article analysis. It shows students how topical geography is and how we are studying the real world. This Christmas, I will be finding Christmas and geography themed articles to discuss. I usually ask students to summarise the article in three sentences, explain how the article relates to geography and give their own opinion on the issues raised. Some examples I will be using discuss the issues of sustainable Christmas trees, the effect of global warming on reindeer and food production on Christmas Island.  Typing ‘Christmas’ into Google news will provide you with a multitude of articles to choose from.

  1. Christmas geography quiz

The activity that I am saving for my very last lessons is a Christmas geography quiz – general geographical knowledge interwoven with Christmas. Here is a selection of my favourite questions:

  1. What country does Lapland belong to? Finland
  2. Which country won the race to the South Pole? Norway
  3. What can scientists use to measure past levels of CO2 in the atmosphere? Ice cores
  4.  How many films have currently been released in the Ice Age film franchise? 5
  5.  What type of animal is herded by the Sami people of Northern Europe? Reindeer
  6.  Father Christmas is known as Pai Natal in which European country? Portugal
  7. Which country traditionally gives London’s Trafalgar Square Christmas tree? Norway
  8.  Bethlehem is a tiny village in which UK country? Wales
  9.  Which country gets Christmas first? New Zealand (New Zealand’s Balleny Islands)
  10. Which country does Christmas Island belong to? Australia
  11. Why is it named Christmas Island? It was discovered by an English sailing captain on Christmas Day

So, as the excitement is building and the time left before the Christmas break becomes shorter, I hope that these ideas have provided you with some inspiration for your lessons. Do you have any other ideas for fun Christmas-themed geography?

Rebecca Priest photoRebecca 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.