CPD workshop: Children as landscape detectives


All listening and watching intently!

GlosGeog, our local Geographical Association (GA) branch, was able to run another FREE half day CPD event for local teachers entitled ‘Children as landscape detectives‘ thanks to the support of Peter Vujakovic, Emeritus Professor of Geography at Canterbury Christ Church University and Odyssey Teaching School Hub at Pate’s Grammar School in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire (https://www.patesgs.org/). Due to the format of the workshop and sets of resources available, numbers were restricted to 20.

After formally welcoming and introducing everyone, I handed over to Peter to deliver the session. Peter began by outlining the ‘Mapping our future’ project and its key themes, namely supporting mapwork and fieldwork in geography and history, meaningful mapwork, settlement site and situation, sustainable futures and civic pride and community engagement. We then conducted a site analysis, considering the qualities intrinsic and extrinsic to a site, one of which was ‘woods’.

We later explored ancient woodlands on maps. Peter directed teachers towards Paula Owens’ fantastic ‘progression in mapping’ resource, freely available to download via Digimap for School’s website (https://digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk/learning-resources/resource/progression-mapping.html). We zoomed in on Year 5 and Year 6 to see what pupils of this age were expected to be able to do. Next, Peter shared definitions of ancient woodland. He played a short movie clip to exemplify why ancient woodlands are so important (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mG1NM-iI4g&t=39s). Not only did this explain the conservation and heritage value of ancient woodlands, but it also included evidence of age-old woodland management practices, such as coppicing. Peter discussed how we might determine whether an area of woodland on a map was ancient or not, projecting a slide with the distinct characteristics of each.

Encouraging delegates to think critically.

Knowing what we now knew, we were challenged to complete an activity in pairs or threes; using map evidence to draw conclusions about specific areas of woodland – were they ancient or recent additions? Individuals were keen to have a go despite many not having met previously.

Great teamwork!

Peter demonstrated how we could check our answers using the Natural England and DEFRA open dataset (https://naturalengland-defra.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets/ancient-woodland-england/explore), as well sharing a number of other useful websites and resources.

We paused for refreshments, kindly provided by Odyssey Teaching School Hub, before regrouping to hear Peter talk about how we might detect our hidden heritage using assets, such as the National Library of Scotland’s OS maps and LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) imagery (https://maps.nls.uk/). He projected examples of LiDAR’s Digital Surface Model (DSM) and Digital Terrain Model (DTM), some from Kent and others located within Gloucestershire.

Peter then handed over to Martin Wills and Giles Darkes, our visitors from the Historic Towns Trust, to talk about their roles, the Trust’s work and the resources available to schools. Giles distributed copies of their historic layered maps, which we explored in pairs or threes and then discussed what mapping opportunities these might provide within the classroom. It was lovely to hear teachers sharing best practice and providing inspiration to their counterparts.

Before leaving, delegates were asked to complete an online evaluation form. The CPD workshop was rated as either ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ by all participants. Some of their ‘concluding comments‘ can be viewed below:

Helpful; motivating; interesting; useful; exciting.

A really useful, practical activity-based session with maps that I can use in school.

Very enjoyable with some great information presented in a friendly and effective way.


Really interesting and very engaging!

Informative; hands-on; useful; welcoming and inspiring.

Inspiring, exciting, helpful and informative.

Engaging, fun and inspiring.

Informative; engaging; food for thought.

Fun; informative; lots of ideas; great discussions!

It would be wonderful to see/hear about your ventures in and beyond the classroom. Do share them with Peter and myself (peter.vujakovic@canterbury.ac.uk and emma.espley@gmail.com).

Many thanks to Peter for giving up his time to enlighten and enthuse us and to those at Odyssey Teaching School Hub for their efficient organisation to ensure the event ran as smoothly as possible.

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