GlosGeog speaker session (Stroud High School, Gloucestershire)

GlosGeog

Well, it was, once again, time to head off to Stroud High School (SHS) in Gloucestershire (https://stroudhigh.gloucs.sch.uk/); not to conduct an Online Safety Mark assessment today, but to partake in GlosGeog’s final event of this academic year, which they had very kindly offered to host.  Thanks to their technical team, we were also able to coordinate a live stream and record the session, so that many more students and teachers, who were unable to attend on the day due to prior commitments or located further afield, could engage with the event as well.

Our speaker for the afternoon was Dr Chris Spencer, a Senior Lecturer within the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of the West of England (UWE) (https://people.uwe.ac.uk/Person/ChrisSpencer).  Chris’ teaching and research focuses on coastal geomorphology and management and also in reconstructing past environments and managing future climate change.  In addition, he has a role within the Faculty for widening participation and diversity.  Chris has been keen to support GlosGeog’s development from its establishment in March 2023 and offered to talk to local Key stage 4 and Key Stage 5 students and their teachers about ‘evaluating coastal flooding in Somerset using GIS (a systems approach is employed to understand coastal problems and how we might use this to make coastal zone management decisions)’, followed by a Q&A session.  This is a case study that many GCSE and A level geography students are familiar with.  It is also reasonably close, so some youngsters and their teachers had previously visited the area under review as part of their fieldwork activities.  This made it very relatable and more meaningful.

Chris began by posing the following questions: ‘Sea level rise, time to abandon the coast? Or do geographers have the answer?‘.  He outlined the aspects that he would be covering over the next 45 minutes or so, then delved into each one in turn, often via a question, thus promoting enquiry-led learning:

  • What is the coast and what does it do?
  • Sea level past, present and future.
  • What influences sea level?
  • Case study of Somerset.
  • History/causes of flooding here.
  • Future risks.
  • Options for coastal management.
  • Conclusions and resources.

There was a rather lovely decision-making exercise linked to coastal management strategies here too, which many teachers may well pinch to utilise in the classroom!  In addition, he shared a link to a number of videos that have been created in conjunction with Time for Geography (https://timeforgeography.co.uk/videos_list/coasts/).

Chris displayed a great rapport with students.  He encouraged them to think about their future, e.g. they may not believe that sea level rise is relevant to them now, but it may well affect the decisions that they make in 15 years’ time when they are contemplating buying their first home.  He also emphasised that there will be plenty of jobs out there for geographers particularly in the future.   In fact, he concluded by adding that ‘Only with a detailed understanding of the physical environment and also the human pressures that are placed on it can we manage this coastline into the future … and … geographers are very well placed to deliver this … ‘.

An attentive audience comprised largely of Year 10 and Year 12 students.

The audience listened intently and later posed several challenging questions to Chris, which he answered confidently and comprehensively.  His knowledge and expertise of coastal geomorphology and management, as well as this particular stretch of coastline, are outstanding.

Chris also found time to incorporate an introduction to studying geography at university and how to decide on courses.  He relayed some clear, general messages, as well as talking specifically about what was on offer at UWE, which older students took note of.

Some ‘concluding comments’ from both our in situ and virtual participants can be viewed below:

Informative; engaging; well-presented; useful.

Useful and enriching content for the Coasts AQA specification.  The students found the case study interesting as it was relatively local to them.

The lecture was really interesting and engaging.  The talk was informative about the next steps to university with some good advice given.

Yesterday, I went to a talk on coastal geomorphology, which I found very interesting to listen to.  Chris talked about how geography is being used to solve real world issues, such as what is being done to stop motorways and major infrastructure from being flooded.  I also found it interesting as to how many job positions you can get into with a geography degree, from national parks to multi-national corporations, like Unilever.

An insightful afternoon for many, it seems.

Many thanks to Chris and those at SHS, especially Marie Wells and the hugely competent technical team, for their input in facilitating this afternoon’s speaker session.

Many exciting GlosGeog events are currently being planned for the next academic year.  If you would like to host an event, then do get in touch (emma.espley@gmail.com).  Keep your eyes and ears peeled for promotion of our future events via social media and e-mail from late August onwards too.

Have a restful and enjoyable summer break.

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