Not quite the weather that I had hoped for, but we managed!
The theme for our final meeting of this academic year was ‘Taking learning outside the classroom‘. After welcoming individuals, I shared the aims and format of the session. The intention was for majority of this session to be held outside at the Tom Roberts Adventure Centre (TRAC) (https://www.tracnewent.org.uk/); however, the very wet weather meant that we had to base ourselves in the Conference Centre and nip outside when the rain was only slight to trial some of the suggested activities.
I made sure that teachers were kept on their toes from the start! I challenged them to think about ‘What makes a great geographer?‘. I had brought along my box of ‘goodies’ to stimulate their thinking, e.g. a rucksack, local OS map, binoculars, magnifying glass, ball of string, disposable gloves, digital camera, waterproofs, walking books and thick socks (clean, of course!), notebook, clipboard and paper, pens/pencils, long ruler and bag of dog biscuits (always confuses children and teachers!). Not only is this useful in highlighting how well-prepared a geographer must be, but it also introduces many components of the ‘geographical skills and fieldwork’ section within the National Curriculum programme of study for geography at Key Stages 1 and 2.
I decided to refer to Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework (EIF) very briefly, partly so that I could gauge how much it is being talked about in schools and partly as its focus on ‘quality of education’ and the ‘3Is’ (intent; implementation and impact) really does set the rationale for fieldwork/taking learning outside the classroom. Some schools have clearly had in-depth discussions about this new documentation and are currently reviewing their whole school curriculum. Others, especially those who have recently been through an Ofsted inspection, have more pressing issues to deal with first or are reluctant to propose further change/s right now.
Next, we ‘unpicked’ the National Curriculum programme of study for geography at Key Stages 1 and Key Stage 2, concentrating on ‘geographical skills and fieldwork’. Both coverage and progression were emphasised and I drew their attention to the Geographical Association (GA)’s fantastic ‘assessment and progression framework’, which was written when the new National Curriculum was introduced, but is still widely recognised as a key document today (https://www.geography.org.uk/Assessment and https://www.geography.org.uk/download/GA%20Assessment%204pp%20flyer-3.pdf).
I had allotted much of the session to providing ideas and web-links for quick, easy and cost-effective fieldwork. This included links to enquiry-led, outcomes-driven learning, of which David Weatherly’s ‘Primary Connected Geography’ (http://davidweatherlyeducation.co.uk/images/collins-history-and-geography-connected-brochure.pdf) and the GA’s publications, such as ‘The UK: Investigating who we are’ by Stephen Scoffham and Terry Whyte (https://www.geography.org.uk/Shop/Geography-Plus-The-UK-Investigating-who-we-are/9781843772712) are great examples. I also suggested two easily accessible sites within the Forest of Dean for a local river study, shared various activities from ‘geography days’ that I have led at both Key Stages 1 and 2, showcased Andrea Mosaic (http://www.andreaplanet.com/andreamosaic), Digimap for Schools (https://digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk/), ‘Go the/that Extra Mile’ (https://www.geography.org.uk/Journal-Issue/a8a0969d-9a97-4266-be04-b292ae0f6b79 and https://www.teachitgeography.co.uk/resources/ks3/maps-and-map-skills/fieldwork/go-that-extra-mile/17915), ‘Do we like it?’, The Geography Collective and Mission:Explore (https://twitter.com/geocollective?lang=en and https://www.sustainablelearning.com/resource/missionexplore-geography-collective), Save the Children’s Den Day (https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/how-you-can-help/events-and-fundraising/den-day), literacy-based local enquiries, further ideas from the GA (https://www.geography.org.uk/Geography-fieldwork), Rising Stars’ new geography offering (https://www.risingstars-uk.com/subjects/historyandgeography) and Oddizzi’s local area section (https://www.oddizzi.com/teachers/help/topic-planning/local-area-studies).
The Frederick Soddy Trust Schools Award Scheme is now bring overseen by the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), as opposed to the GA (https://www.rgs.org/in-the-field/in-the-field-grants/teacher-grants/frederick-soddy-schools-award/). I displayed copies of previous applications and evidence from schools that I have supported … to date, all schools that I have worked alongside have received funding to enable additional fieldwork to take place, which is brilliant. It is well worth having a go!
We ventured outside at various points to test a number of the suggested activities too.
Some of the most impressive ‘geographical glasses’ and an exemplary ‘journey string’ can be found below:
On our return, it was time to think about drawing the meeting to a close. The plenary involved a couple of activities:
A few of their ‘next steps’ are visible below:
The poor weather conditions did not seem to ‘dampen’ the feedback from participants:
‘Wet! Useful resources. Lots to think about.’
‘Informative. Practical. Exciting. Do-able. Pertinent.’
‘Useful ideas to use with children. Inspiring. Engaging ideas for pupils. Fun.’
‘Useful resources. Interesting. Emma is lovely. Very enjoyable and helpful. Can we have a longer session, please?’
‘… really enjoyed the session yesterday.’
Suggestions for future themes, which I will endeavour to centre our future meetings upon, included:
- Practically run through an exemplar scheme of work as if we are the children – help us to deliver staff training and lessons back at school.
- Curriculum development in light of Ofsted’s EIF.
- Progression in planning.
- Assessment and moderation.
- Subject leadership, e.g. what to do; things to know.
- Linking geographical skills to other topics.
- Whole school geography/history planning.
Many thanks to Sarah Burtwell, the Manager at TRAC, for her warm welcome and plentiful supply of fresh coffee, hot drinks and yummy cookies. My freshly-baked lemon drizzle cake was paid a few compliments as well!
I look forward to witnessing the efforts of teachers and their colleagues as they ‘take learning outside the classroom’ during Term 6 and Terms 1 and 2 of the next academic year.
Our next meeting is scheduled for the afternoon of Friday 27th September 2019 and will take place at the new Heritage Hub (former Gloucestershire Archives) in the centre of Gloucester. A blog post with further details will appear shortly.