Manchester calls for the Geographical Association (GA) Annual Conference 2024!

CPD For Me

A long drive, but well worth it to catch up with many individuals and have my spot of immersive CPD! Well done to all at the GA, who work tirelessly to ensure that things run smoothly and there is something for everyone. I am already looking forward to the next one, which has the bonus of being a little closer to home. Many congratulations and good luck to Catherine Owen for her new Presidential role; we will be in very capable hands!

I certainly managed to cram in a lot during my two days at the conference. On arrival, I explored the Exhibition whilst it was relatively quiet, and chatted with several of my frequent e-mail recipients. It was soon time for the GA’s Awards Ceremony, followed by the Public Lecture, this year given by Joycelyn Longdon, PhD researcher at the University of Cambridge and founder of ClimateInColour. Her talk entitled ‘Listening to the forest, listening to the people: bioacoustics, machine learning and justice-led conservation‘ opened my eyes to the use of technology in research, the overlapping of so many disciplines and the importance of involving local people. Afterwards, we headed over to Manchester Museum for the celebratory reception and dinner; a venue with a difference. We were served a delicious array of locally-produced, seasonal food and drink and attempted to tackle a rather challenging anagram and mapwork activity!

Friday began early and finished rather late as I needed to take in as much of the varied programme as I could. Following Denise Freeman’s entertaining and thought-provoking Presidential Lecture (‘Geography for Everyone‘), I went to a Teacher-to-Teacher session led by Elena Lengthorn centred upon ‘Nature for everyone‘. My gifted miniature pine cone made it back to Gloucester in one piece! Unfortunately, due to the current train strikes, Professor Klaus Dodds, Executive Dean and Professor of Geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London, was unable to be here in person, but the GA managed to connect with him via Zoom. His lecture, ‘Learning with the Arctic: a case study of and for ‘passionate geopolitics’‘, was delivered impeccably and certainly increased my knowledge and understanding of the region and its future. I squeezed in another Teacher to Teacher session before a late lunch; Anna Freidenfeld, Teacher of Geography at Meadowhead School Academy Trust and winner of the Rex Walford Award 2024, spoke about ‘Using graphic novels to support ‘non-beginner’ EAL learners in developing their curiosity, focusing on the climate crisis‘.

It was great to have a quick chat with Iram Sammar over lunch before I was enlightened about ‘Troll wisdom: geographical curriculum making for all‘ by the wonderful Dr Sharon Witt, Dr Helen Clarke and Colin Walker. Think Barnaby Bear taken to another level! I tried to persuade them to take part in our forthcoming GlosGeog virtual Primary Teach Meet in late April too … fingers crossed! The amazing Katie Marl, Programme Lead (delivery) and Primary Specialist at Oak National Academy, and Graeme Schofield’s workshop, ‘Do you get the picture? Using maps, images and illustrations to support explanations in geography‘ really made me reflect on the materials that I create, either in my role as a presenter/deliverer or author. I loved the interactivity and chance to discuss thoughts and ideas with fellow educators too. The Rex Walford Memorial Lecture, given by the extremely competent Dr Alun Morgan, provided plenty of food for thought and took me back to my days sat in geographical thought and practice lectures as a third year undergraduate student at the University of Durham. His talk. ‘The world encompassed: navigating the stormy seas of exploration or exploitation‘, was mentally challenging at the end of a busy day. I now need time to digest its content and key messages and contemplate how I might weave these into my future work.

Last call for the day was the infamous Conference Teach Meet, adeptly chaired by Hina Robinson and Kit Marie Rackley. Eight speakers, including myself, shared best practice, useful websites and resources, to support educational professionals at both primary and secondary level. Take a peek here if you missed it, perhaps? https://youtu.be/uIuTlgKaa6I

I had intended to stay for The Big GA Quiz and buffet too, but, unfortunately, tiredness won and my hotel bed called (with a takeaway from Tortilla enroute!). I hear the competition was fierce and the audience were put through their paces by the hugely experienced quizmaster, John Lyon. We will aim to put together a strong Gloucestershire contingent next year, I promise!

Saturday’s long drive home gave me the opportunity to reflect on my time spent in Manchester. Being there in situ, as opposed to watching virtually, is so much more impactful. If you have yet to go to a GA Annual Conference, then I urge you to be brave and do so. The geography community is extremely welcoming and supportive.

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