Well, it was, once again, time to venture down the M5 to Bristol for geography southwest’s Annual Conference. It was a rather early start for me as I was supporting the organisers, Simon Ross, John Davidson and Harry West, with the welcoming and registration of delegates … and there were quite a few! In fact, tickets were sold well in advance of the event and there were a number of names on a reserved list should anyone be unable to attend at the last minute. It was great to meet individuals at all different stages of their teaching careers and from across the south west region of England too.
As can be seen from below, the programme for the day addressed some very pertinent and topical themes, e.g. sustainability; climate change; Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), as well as including several workshops led by recognised individuals within their field. It was hard to decide which workshops to opt for as they all appealed. In the end, I decided to use this as an opportunity to catch up with two individuals that I regularly e-mail, follow or send tweets too, namely Karen Corfield and Darren Bailey.
Once all had registered, I joined everyone in the main lecture theatre for the welcome. It was then time to hear from Rebecca Nesbit, author and New Scientist Book of the Year 2022 winner. Her lecture, entitled ‘Tickets for the Ark – conservation, ecological stewardship and environmental justice‘, had some clear messages. Conservation is not just about saving the bigger species, such as the panda, elephant and tiger, but should also consider smaller parasites. We cannot view things in isolation; instead we have to think about ecosystems and food chains. Rebecca also emphasised how much we can learn from indigenous people, something that resonated with me as a result of my collaboration in the ‘Step into the Amazon’ project and the links that we have established with the Kambeba community living in the heart of the Amazon (https://stepintotheamazon.co.uk/).
Harry West, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of the West of England (UWE) spoke about ‘A tale of two rivers: the water cycle and what affects river catchment hydrology‘. This brought back many memories of my student days at the University of Durham, where I specialised in, and centred my dissertation upon, fluvial geomorphology. Harry had his audience captivated, leading them through an enquiry to discover why two neighbouring river catchments, namely the Ock and Lambourn in Oxfordshire/Wiltshire are so very different. This approach could easily be replicated in the classroom and would certainly faciliate higher-order questioning and stimulate discussion.
Next up, was a representative from the Landscape Institute South West (https://www.landscapeinstitute.org/south-west/), who gave a little background information about the chartered body for the landscape profession and some of the careers that geography students may be equipped to consider pursuing.
Afterwards, Dr Liam Saddington from the University of Cambridge took to the helm to share his knowledge and experiences of the South Pacific (‘Beyond sinking islands: resisting climate change in Tuvalu‘). He challenged several misconceptions that we might have had of Tuvalu. Liam enhanced our place and locational knowledge, highlighted some of the problems that the community face, explained how they are adapting to climate change and emphasised that there is now a degree of hopefulness. Tuvalu is frequently referred to at GCSE and A level, so it would be great if Liam could present at a future GlosGeog event; do not worry, I am on the case!
With rumbling tummies, we were allowed some time to explore the campus and find its eating haunts. In addition, within the lunch hour, delegates could visit the Publishers’ Exhibition if they had not managed to do so at the start of the day. I also displayed a slide about our next GlosGeog event (see the below for further details).
The afternoon session resumed with delegates having the opportunity to participate in two workshops of their own choosing. Karen Corfield from Discover the World Education demonstrated how to explore the world beyond the classroom. She promoted the value of organising foreign trips for students and provided some insight into Discover the World’s offerings. Several in the room had already undertaken trips to Iceland and were keen to find out about other options; a few were first-timers to considering taking a school trip abroad.
Later, I joined Darren Bailey‘s session, which explored the potential of using OS maps and GIS in the classroom. Darren explained what GIS actually implied and stressed that it can be as simple or as complex as you wish it to be. We had a play with Digimap for Schools together so that we could appreciate the scope of the tool. Darren also showcased a number of cross-curricular opportunities, particularly between geography and history and maths.
Following a short break for refreshments, we piled into the lecture theatre to listen to Iram Sammar, a geography consultant and PhD student at King’s College London. She outlined the RGS ‘Geography for All’ project and posed the question, ‘Who am I? Exploring personal geographies‘. Iram is so open, honest, passionate and has a great sense of humour. Her talk was gripping and hugely thought-provoking, She really encouraged us all to reflect on our professional practice and question our actions. Iram asked us all to slow down and find time to discover more about our students’ personal geographies as it is such a powerful exercise. I would love to invite her to lead a GlosGeog event for secondary school pupils and their teachers next academic year as I feel it could be hugely revealing and impactful for everyone involved.
All in all, a thoroughly worthwhile, very interesting and enjoyable day.