Well, what a buzz there was in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at UWE today (https://www.uwe.ac.uk/about/faculties-and-departments/environment-and-technology/geography-and-environmental-management)! I was there to support Simon Ross and John Davidson, the founders of the geography southwest website (https://www.geographysouthwest.co.uk/) and Harry West, Senior Lecturer in Geography and Environmental Management at UWE (https://people.uwe.ac.uk/Person/HarryWest), with the registration process, as well as having the opportunity to listen to some inspiring speakers and network with teachers and representatives from various organisations/companies. It was great to witness over 70 teaching professionals from across the south west of England coming together to enhance their geographical knowledge, understanding and skills, plus share plenty of best practice. There were also a few freebies on offer, which delegates were rather pleased to seize!
Following registration and chatting over coffee/tea and biscuits, it was time for us all to convene in Room 4Q05 to hear Steve Brace, Head of Education and Outdoor Learning at RGS-IBG (Geography: the difference it makes, but for whom?). Steve’s passion for geography and his dedication to one of the leading subject associations really shone through. It was lovely to catch up with him later too and I am looking forward to more fruitful discussions over the next few weeks as to how we might work together to support primary school teachers more.
Next, it was the turn of Dr Chris Spencer from UWE to enlighten us about Flood risk on the Somerset coast: causes and effective management solutions. Chris has a wealth of knowledge about this stretch of coastline and provided many suggestions for fieldwork investigations for local schools. The story map that both he and Harry have created is really enlightening and thought-provoking; well worth exploring further (https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/cb6f7bfdde5a4779bd386d3b420f66a1).
The final lecture of the morning was given by Professor Chris Jackson, now working as a geo-scientist for Jacobs, but still a visiting lecturer at Imperial College, London (Can geology save the world?). Despite never having studied geology as a stand-alone subject, I was gripped by what he had to say. It certainly challenged my preconceptions of geology and clearly emphasised the important role that it has to play relating to sustainability and climate change. He certainly convinced me to answer ‘Yes!‘ in response to his initial question!
After a break for lunch, when many managed to sample the delights of the various eating places on campus with other delegates and explore the exhibition stands erected by publishers, organisations, companies, etc., there was the opportunity to delve into a choice of workshops. The first one I attended was led by Laura Boyall from Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) and discussed a project she was involved with (Antarctic story maps). Towards the end, we were asked to list a number of additional resources that we would wish to see developed in the near future; challenging misconceptions about Antarctica, a focus on the Quaternary and items for use with Key Stage 2 pupils were a few that were mentioned by delegates.
Afterwards, I popped next door to listen to Dr Des McDougall from the University of Worcester. Des’ workshop centred upon using virtual field trips to make in-person fieldwork more inclusive (making geography more inclusive and accessible to all is a theme for discussion during our virtual Primary Humanities Network meeting tomorrow afternoon [https://create2inspire.co.uk/2022/05/25/virtual-primary-humanities-network-meeting-term-6-reflecting-geographies/], so what he had to share was very pertinent and provided me with a few points to relay to attendees). I hope to liaise with Des and Elena Lengthorn, also based at the University of Worcester, over the next month or so to ascertain whether we can create a river-themed virtual field trip for Key Stage 2 teachers and pupils.
Unfortunately, I had to leave just before the end due to my existing tutoring commitments. However, I had previously heard the final speaker, Dr Anjana Khatwa, Earth Scientist and presenter, give the keynote at the Geographical Association’s Annual Conference in 2021 and chatted with her at length in the Wonder Room thereafter. I have no doubt that her talk about The Jurassic Coast was just as engaging and informative as it was a year or so ago.
Judging by the very positive comments both in person and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/geographysw_), I think that this is likely to become an annual event for teachers based in the south west of England. It would be great to be able to offer something similar for Geography Subject Leaders and classroom teachers in regional primary schools too; after all, there is a need to inform, nurture and enthuse such individuals as well. Moreover, perhaps, we have a duty to promote the subject (and geology, Chris!) among youngsters, especially as they will be our geographers, geologists, teachers, etc. of tomorrow? Lots of discussing of next steps needed with Simon, John, Harry and others very soon!