Sunday, December 18, 2011

Normal service will be resumed in 2012

I'm going to take a couple of weeks away for Christmas (although I probably won't be able to resist blogging if something important happens between now and the 1st of January 2012.)

I'm going to be doing one or two things over Christmas as well as enjoying the festive cheer

  • Writing a GCSE book
  • Completing a major resource pack for the Ordnance Survey
  • Planning out a Children's book I'm going to be writing
  • Preparing for CPD events in the New Year
  • Writing some Online Updates for Harper Collins
  • Edits and proofreading for 2 books I'm editing that are published in early 2012
  • Adding new content to my Vital Geography Portal
  • Preparing some thoughts for new Curriculum consultation
  • Putting together some ideas for Mission:Explore Food

On 1st of January I'll be back with various New Year thoughts...

Please join me on the 5th of January for my Teachshare on New Year New Geography

It'd be great to have your company at 7pm with your plans for the year ahead for New Year New Geography, and if you are tweeting your plans, please use the tag #nyng

Thanks to Rich Allaway for his early contribution to the tag.

Thanks to everyone who's employed me during 2011, or visited this blog and contributed in some way.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mary Portas Review: Saving the High Street ?

Regular readers of the blog will know that I have an interest in the changing fortunes of town centres and have written various posts on Clone Towns, Rebranding and other projects to revitalise town centres as they face competition from out of town retail parks and the rise of online shopping.

This was also part of the 'A' level specification that I used to teach, and some ancient resources from the Cambridge Urban Field Day that we used to run are available via the link.
I also started a Flickr Group called The Disappearing High Street some years ago, and several kind photographers have contributed their images to join mine.

Mary Portas, who has featured in a number of recent TV programmes looking at changing the fortunes of retail businesses, was asked earlier in the year to explore the ways that the fortunes of the High Street could be turned round. The report was published this morning....

There is also a free KS3 resource that you can obtain from the Harper Collins website that I wrote on the changes that have taken place in the High Street: "Shop, or they start to drop". This would sit well with the report, and also the diagram opposite, which is taken from the report.
While you're there, why not subscribe to the other monthly online updates which I'm writing ?

What is important is that they are 'vital and viable'.

The report is now live on Mary Portas' website, or click here to download as a PDF (1.9 Mb)

There are 28 ideas to explore with students, who can research them, and suggest how successful they might be in your local town centre.

Right, I'm off to Tesco Extra....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mission:Explore Food - you can help make it happen

Last night at the Houses of Parliament, Mission:Explore came runner-up in the Educational Writers' Awards ceremony of the Society of Authors. Congratulations to the winner: 'Moon' by Stewart Ross.

We were described as having produced: 'A brave book which encourages children to explore the world around them, developing their curiosity, confidence and courage along the way…’
    We're now all set to do something bigger and better, and we are planning to produce a cookbook- but not the usual type of cookbook of course...

    Mission:Explore Food will be a 320 page exploration of all things 'foody' in our own Geography Collective style, and with the fabulous illustrations of Tom Morgan-Jones. For example, here's our take on the importance of eating locally sourced food...

    The funding for the book will hopefully come from crowd-sourcing, and we are using a website called PLEASE FUND US to co-ordinate this.
    If you are able to support us at certain levels, there are some nice rewards, such as books, posters, an invitation to our launch party, and even the chance to feature in the book yourself.

    Read more on the Geography Collective blog

    When you're ready, please head over to our PLEASE FUND US page. We need a good chunk of money to make this happen, although it's manageable if we take it one bite at a time.
    Look down the right hand side to see the options....

    Thanks in advance for your support and look forward to launching the book at the Hay Festival in 2012.

    Remember that Mission:Explore was a National Trust / Hay Festival Outdoors Book of the Year for 2011

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Culture - the latest Digital Explorer site...

    I've been working with Jamie Buchanan Dunlop over the last few months, adding some new resources to the OCEANS DIGITAL EXPLORER website.

    The Digital Explorer empire is now expanding to CULTURAL matters, linking in with the idea of Citizenship and (as always) a link with real world exploration.

    Check out the new CULTURAL WEBSITE which has some superb resources.

    The FILMS and PHOTOS section looks like being an amazingly useful resource for exploring Citizenship issues.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    New Rorys StoryCubes set

    Regular readers of the blog will know of my love of Rory's Story Cubes. I use these in  my CPD sessions, and link them in with the creation of geographical narratives: geography as 'writing the earth'.
    The latest set of cubes is now available to purchase from the Creativity Hub website, and will be in shops in the UK in a few weeks time.
    Story Cubes Voyages is a whole new set of dice for story-telling which can be used in combination with the previous sets, or by themselves...

    My cubes are on order...

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Olympics Park

    Visited the Olympics Park earlier for a meeting in the area about a forthcoming project....

    Thanks to Bob Digby for the maps and other information on the park that he kindly provided in advance. It was my first view of the Olympics Stadium, although we didn't have time to walk round as far as the View Tube to get a better view...

    Interestingly enough there were quite a few Olympics related things in my Twitter stream over the last few days.
    A nice image from @mrjmutton who was at the Olympics Park yesterday - looking a bit grey then - a lot brighter today.

    A set of Google Sketch-Up models of Olympics buildings, thanks to Keir Clarke.

    Next came an article in the Daily Mail on the security costs of the games - because the venues have been finished early there's now more to look after, especially given the possible terrorist threat. This is apparently costing £250 000 a day.

    And then via @The_GA came a link to a Daily Telegraph article which looks at the way that shops in the area around the Olympics park are looking to cash in on the games. The giant new Westfield shopping centre: apparently the biggest in Europe, was certainly busy today.

    After that there was the story about the new uniforms for the people who are going to be helping people. Each of the volunteers and other people will be getting a range of clothing and other items to wear during the games: apparently they will be swamping the city.

    My question on that was to wonder where these uniforms were made. Did their manufacture support the British clothing industry ?

    And finally there's the Playfair website, with its game, which is about having a sweat-free Olympics, and would be worth a look.

    Photosynth: Alan Parkinson - will upload it to the Photosynth website when I get a moment....

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    Excellent graphics work by Fabian Gonzalez

    A tweet led me to this website via a few intervening clicks and links...

    These images are the work of Fabian Gonzalez.

    I'd like to share tone of them with you here, as they link nicely with the overall theme of the blog. Happy to remove them if requested.

    The image shows Superheroes as FLAGS. The re-presentation of flags is something that geographers will be familiar with...
    Which can your recognise ?

    The images (and others) can be purchased as art prints and on clothing. Would make a good Christmas present for the geographer in your life....

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    New blog by Rob Hindle

    I've blogged about Rob Hindle's poetry before: HERE and HERE for example.

    Rob's based in Sheffield, but has lived in various locations in the UK, and also lived and worked in Spain for a time. His collection on the Sheffield Flood of 1864 inspired a mapping activity that I developed as part of the ESRI / GA GIS courses, where students could identify the locations where victims of the flood may have been found, and trace the course of the flood waters.

    Worth following Rob's new blog to get further insights into the creative process and his sources of inspiration.

    Also check out Mark Jones and Bernadette Fitzgerald's work on creative urban poetry in Teaching Geography in 2010

    Eleanor Rawling's chapter in Graham Butt's book 'Geography, Education and the Future' is also recommended.

    And a final Geography poetry link is the work of Mark Cowan, who wrote the poem that features in Degrees of Change - the programme on Climate Change that I made with Brook Lapping for Teachers TV

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    VITAL Teachshare: Google Earth Placemarks

    My next VITAL Teachshare will be on Wednesday the 16th of November (that's tomorrow if you're reading this today) at 7pm.
    It's on ways of customising Google Earth Placemarks...

    Click THIS LINK just before 7 to join me. You'll need to allow the download of the plug-in to handle the Elluminate session, which will then allow you to see and hear me, and to take part.

    Don't forget to check the KEYHOLE BULLETIN BOARD to get the full range of layers and files shared by  Google Earth users. Use the SEARCH function to unearth the goodness....

    This will be my little contribution to WORLD GIS DAY, which is taking place tomorrow, as part of GEOGRAPHY AWARENESS WEEK.

    What are you doing for World GIS Day ? 
    Why not add a touch of GIS to your teaching tomorrow...

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    VITAL Geography Teachshare 1: Tonight

    I will be running my first VITAL Teachshare TONIGHT

    It's on 'FREE GIS TOOLS for the Geography Classroom' and introduces the basics of GIS followed by 3 suggested websites which can be used to produce GIS-style work with students.

    If you'd like to join me, you'll need to click this link just before 7pm

    This will load up Elluminate on your machine which may take a few minutes....

    For those who haven't been to an online session before, you'll be able to hear and see me going through a presentation and then have a chance to discuss things. You can ask question and I might ask you to click some icons to participate... You'll get the hang of it...

    We should be finished by 7.45, but you can of course feel free to join later and leave earlier if you like: that's the 'benefit' of online sessions like this. Slides and links will be on Slideshare after the event.

    If you haven't already done so, head over to VITAL and sign up for a free trial for the Geography portal too...

    Check out the other subject portals too. For just five quid you can subscribe to 3 of them until March 2012 and access videos, forums, resources, Top Tips and other content.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    First Class Landmarks

    I'm always up for new stamps, especially when they are geographical in nature.

    Some new Royal Mail stamps are out later this week.

    They are the first in a set of 26 stamps, which cover famous places from A - Z

    Which A-Z would you choose ? 

    A = Angel of the North                      
    B = Blackpool Tower
    C = Carrick-a-Rede
    D = Downing Street
    E = Edinburgh Castle
    F = Forth Railway Bridge
    G = Glastonbury Tor
    H = Harlech Castle
    I = Ironbridge
    J = Jodrell Bank
    K = Kursaal (Southend)
    L = Lindisfarne Priory

    Fits very nicely with Lesson 6 of my GA toolkit book: "Look at it this Way"


    November is also Movember: when men who are men grow moustaches.... Cue Spongebob Movie..

    This year, Richard Allaway, who can grow a mean 'tache, has set up a special group.


    I've joined the team.

    If you'd like to donate to me or the team, visit my MO SPACE page

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011 now LIVE !

    I've just completed my first mission on the relaunched Mission which is now live in BETA
    It's called the DEAD EASY MISSION
    Come and login and find out what it involves...
    It's worth it to go and see Tom Morgan Jones' latest wonderful illustrations...

    Just going to do some missions at home...

    Coincidentally my EARTH SANDWICH Mission Explore t-shirt arrived today - it's cool.

    Why not order your own MISSION EXPLORE shirt to wear while completing the MISSION EXPLORE missions ?

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Subject Knowledge Update: Globalisation

    The RGS-IBG hold regular subject updates for topics that are of relevance to 'A' level topics in particular.

    I mentioned a previous one on water, and will actually be leading one in 2012 on the theme of the Polar regions (of which more to come later...)

    There will be a subject update on the theme of Globalisation held in Manchester on the 5th of December 2011. This will be useful for those who would find it difficult travelling to London.

    Subject Knowledge Updates are a series of evening sessions each focusing on a different theme, covering the basic information for teaching that topic and providing up to date case study material and resources. The next session in this series looks at Globalisation.
    The DfE Schools White Paper 2010 The importance of Teaching highlights a need for subject knowledge to
    be included in CPD: “It is also vital that we give teachers the opportunity to deepen their subject
    knowledge and renew the passion which brought them into the classroom”.

    This Globalisation Subject Knowledge Update will:
     Provide up to date and new case study material and information.
     Give an overview of the key facts and information that should be highlighted when teaching 
     Help teachers who have not taught globalisation for a while, or never studied it, to teach it 
    effectively and confidently.
     Provide some resources and case studies for you to take away for use at KS3, KS4 and KS5.
     Encourage enthusiasm to teach globalisation and give ideas of how to link it with other topics and 

    About the session
    Globalisation is now a core element for some of the new geography A-level Specifications and the
    International Baccalaureate diploma course. It is increasingly a highly popular A2 option for those boards
    where it is not a compulsory topic. But thanks to the fast-changing nature of global interactions, it is
    difficult for students and teachers to always keep up to date with their facts and case studies. Some new
    course text books published in 2008 do not mention the Credit Crunch for instance, yet this is a crucial new development that some experts have even called ‘de-globalisation.’  Effective globalisation teaching for higher grades also requires that students can make good use of important concepts – such as networks, flows, interconnectedness – and that they also have a good understanding of the politics, and not just the economics, of globalisation. This session will provide experienced and newer geography teachers with an opportunity to up-date their globalisation knowledge. Specific themes covered will include TNCs updates, cultural globalisation (glocalisation), global politics, ICT and global interactions (mobiles, Facebook, BlackBerry, etc.), diaspora, global production networks and Credit Crunch geography.
    About the presenter
    Dr Simon Oakes is an A-level Principal Examiner and Chief Examiner for IB Diploma Programme geography.He currently teaches at Bancroft’s School in Essex and is an experienced undergraduate lecture. He has been the lead writer of the Royal Geographical Society’s ‘Geography in the News’ website since 2003, authoring more than 120 articles. Simon is an Associate Editor of Geography Review magazine and is the author of Phillip Allan’s new Globalisation text book and a co-author of several key A-level and GCSE course guides. His doctoral research examined the growth of information technology global networks viewed from a rural perspective. Post-doctoral research includes work on flood hazard management for the Environmental Agency / Defra and climate change curriculum development with DCSF.

    Venue:  Xaverian Sixth Form College, Lower Park Road, Victoria Park, Manchester, M14 5RB
    Time: 5pm – 7pm (registration from 4.30pm for a prompt start). Refreshments will be available.
    Format: 90mins lecture style followed by 30mins of discussion and questions.
    There are 20 places available on this course.
    Please note: this course is for teachers only.
    Members (School Members / Fellows / ECT Members / Young Geographers) £30 inc VAT
    Non Members £40 inc VAT

    Contact Claire Wheeler for more details

    Friday, September 30, 2011

    New Polish migration resource on GA website

    A new resource has gone up on the GA website.
    It's a short unit with associated resources which explores the issue of Polish migration and the decisions that people make about where to live.

    Download the FREE RESOURCE as a PDF

    Coincidentally this resource has a link with Torun, where I shall be next week.
    I'm going to see what the Polish delegates make of it :)

    If we can get some additional Polish perspective I think that would make a useful resource for colleagues with Polish students in their geography class or form group...

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    Geography Collective in the USA

    As I may have mentioned before on the blog, I did some work a few months ago for the Geography Collective on the theme of 'the local area'. This was for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC education in the USA, and Dan from the collective went over to Portland to speak to educators from all over the USA.

    Now there have been some videos released from the National Council for Geographic Education for the session that Dan Raven Ellison did for the conference, and they are on the GEOGRAPHY COLLECTIVE blog.

    Here's the first one and the other two are on the blog...
    This is very fine work, and explains the origins of the Geography Collective and our recent work, ideas of geography and showcases projects that Dan and the Collective have been involved with....

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    The new Geography Curriculum - the latest development...

    I received an e-mail today from David Lambert about developments towards the new curriculum...

    The Department for Education, through Nick Gibb has asked Alex Standish (some of you will be familiar with the name) to write a national curriculum for geography. The final draft has been made available to the GA, and shared on the website.

    Alex Standish is an assistant professor of geography at Western Connecticut State University and author of "Global Perspectives in the Geography Curriculum: Reviewing the moral case for geography", published by Routledge.

    The draft curriculum has been added to the GA Website Curriculum Consultation page as a 17 page PDF download. (Click to download)
    Before you read the document, you should first read Alex's 'position statement' which sets out his thinking as he approached the task:

    "This geography curriculum was compiled at the request of the Department for Education as a contribution to the national curriculum review. It has been written with input from teachers, department heads, and geography faculty. At secondary level it in part reflects the content of IGCSEs. Nevertheless, it remains my personal interpretation of what children should learn in geography at different key stages so that they become capable students of geography.
    There are of course other ways of organising the geography curriculum, but one of my aims is to raise expectations of what pupils are capable of learning. If private schools are able to teach geography in the depth and breadth demanded by the IGCSE then so should everybody else. I believe that all children are capable to being educated to a high standard and it is time we started raising our expectations of how much children in the state sector can learn.
    I also recognise that writing a curriculum and implementing it are two different things. To offer this curriculum would mean adding more geography in primary schools where there are fewer specialists. Nevertheless, there is nothing here that could not be taught by a primary teacher supported by suitable materials. At key stage one and two pupils should be using their local environment as a primary resource. Teaching about the UK in years 5 and 6 would require more work and ideally the production of some new teaching resources. But by age eleven, children should have learnt about the geography of their country, the physical and human environment and be capable of making and using maps. If this is not possible today, it is something we should work towards.
    Another aim of this curriculum is to re-introduce regional geography to the English curriculum. This should be taught not by cataloguing facts about different regions, but rather to enable children to understand and interpret the range of cultures and landscapes that exist across the surface of the globe. Regional geography went out of fashion in the UK with the decline of Empire. It is high-time it was re-introduced to the curriculum so that children leave school having been introduced to all the major regions of the world. Surely this should be a primary aim of the geography curriculum?
    In writing this curriculum, my objective has been to make a contribution to the conversation about what knowledge and skills children need to learn in geography. How this is taught in the classroom is the prerogative of teachers, as it always should be."

    I note the link with iGCSE. Having been involved with the development of a new iGCSE book which is due to be published at the start of 2012, I know that any content can become engaging with the right treatment.

    Once you've read the document, it would be great if you could LOG IN to the GA website (this will ensure that you are logged as a member and your statement will have more impact), and HAVE YOUR SAY on the Curriculum Consultation Page.

    This is NOT the final curriculum (YET), but we need as many opinions as possible. If you don't express your opinion in the right place, it may not make a difference. You may be thinking YES, Regional Geography is back ! Please go to the GA's page and add a comment...
    It's important that you also read the GA's suggested documents so that you can compare the approaches...

    I haven't had chance to read the document, but will post some thoughts about it in a day or so....

    I'm off to find my notes on Benelux and Denmark that I used to teach back in the late 80s.... my Head of Department at the time said that they would come in useful some time as education goes round in circles....

    Image: Thingvellir, Iceland - Alan Parkinson (where the USA meets Europe...)

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    A new update to the VITAL website has been launched recently...

    It's the new website of VITAL: the Open University's CPD programme.
    One of the main aspects of the website is access to a series of subject specific PORTALS.

    The Geography Portal is yet to be launched, but it will be managed by me, and I am working on the content already. Expect there to be a range of useful content for geographers and geography teachers...
    This will include:

    • short video guides to explain how to use key websites and web tools
    • suggested Top Tips
    • resource ideas
    • Twitter feed
    • details of events
    • fortnightly online meetings to discuss a particular topic
    I'll let you know when the portal launches, so that you can pop along and see me...

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Google Earth visualisations...

    Thanks to Matt Podbury via the SLN Geography Forum for the tip-off here...

    The MERKADOR blog which I think is based in Belgium has shared some great work for geography of sport units.

    There are 2 Google Earth related projects...
    The first refers to the English Premiership.

    This content overlay shows the origin of the first team players of the 4 biggest clubs: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.

    You can see the geographical composition of the teams in 3 ways:
    • click on the team emblems to see a pie chart of the players nationalities
    • check out the lines connecting the team emblems to the players countries of origin. Broader lines mean more players come from that particular country. Enable and disable the clubs you want to visualize in the table of content
    • click on the flag icons of the countries to see what players originate from a particular country

    The second one is more ambitious and targets all the clubs that were involved in the World Cup 2010

    Every country is represented by the country border outline and an icon with the country flag. Clicking the country icon will open a balloon with the squad list of the country. For every player a link is provided to take you to the stadium of the club the player is affiliated with. Lines connecting the country to the clubs of the members of the countries national team are also provided.

    The data comes from the GLOBAL FOOTBALL DATABASE which is a useful site for those teaching about global sport.

    Also check out the one for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHY

    There's also - rather nicely timed this find - of HIV / AIDS PREVALENCE rates.

    There's also a GOOGLE EARTH FEATURES QUIZ so that you can get to know Google Earth....

    This is all excellent work !!

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    JigsawGeo App - with free offer for US visitors...

    I was contacted recently by Steve VanderLeest to let me know about the JigsawGeo app for iPhone.

    It's produced by SquishLogic and is available on the App Store.

    Steve told me about the apps, which are for a range of different continents and areas.

    They would be good to have on a class iPod Touch (or set if they were available)

    The apps were developed with feedback from a Grade 5 class studying geography.  The students took their review seriously and gave us many great comments, which we implemented in revisions to our app.  The result is a great game that provides beautiful maps, teaches elementary kids (and adults) the geography of important areas of the world, and is fun too.  
    High scores get posted to our website so you can see how you stack up against the competition.  We take privacy seriously, especially for kids, so we ask that they only post their first name and we only indicate the state or region that the player is from (nothing more specific).   

    You can find more info on the website:   

    Your readers can find the whole line just by searching for JigsawGeo in the Apple iTunes app store.  The apps work on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. They cost 69p.

    For readers of this blog who are in the United States only, Steve has made available a special offer to readers of the LIVING GEOGRAPHY / CULTCHA blogs.

    There are three free PROMO CODES below, which are available on a first come-first served basis. They are for the Jigsaw GEO Europe game.

    The first US reader to use a code gets it, then it expires at that point, so first-come, first-served. 

    These codes (only available in the US) expire on 3 Oct 2011.


    Who knows - when the new Curriculum review is published, this sort of knowledge might be the basis for a whole year's work !

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Some VITAL work

    Later this month, the Open University and e-Skills UK's VITAL professional development programme is launching a range of subject specialist portals for a number of key subjects, including English and Literacy, History, Maths and Numeracy, Modern Foreign Languages, Music and eSafety.

    I am delighted to announce that from later this month, I will be the manager of the Geography portal.

    I shall provide more details of the URL and other aspects of the work later this month when they start to go live.
    I'm delighted to be associated with VITAL, and will be serving up a rang of services for visitors to the portal.

    For those who are unsure of Vital's role.

    Delivered by the Open University and funded by DfE, Vital provides:

    • inspiring ideas to inspire your learners
    • materials you can use in your own classroom
    • opportunities to share expertise with your peers

    What does Vital offer?

    • flexible, cost-effective courses that fit with your busy schedule
    • case studies of how other teachers are using ICT in their own lessons
    • collaborative spaces to share ideas, experiences and materials
    • guides to key technologies and ideas on how to use them in the classroom
    • interviews with leading practitioners
    • advice and support from ICT specialists
    • useful links
    • Information about opportunities using Vital learning activities as a basis for gaining academic awards and credit.

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    Discovering Britain - new from the RGS-IBG

    Thanks to Jenny from the RGS-IBG for letting me know about the imminent launch of a new site which offers a fresh look at the UK.

    The site is called DISCOVERING BRITAIN.

    "We are developing an exciting series of geographically-themed walks across the UK that aim to bring these stories alive and to inspire everyone to explore and learn about our different landscapes."

    Look forward to seeing the full site when it appears in just over a month's time....

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    National Geographic : Geography Awareness resource

    Earlier this year, I was involved in an exciting project with National Geographic Education in the USA as part of the Geography Collective. This led to my friend and colleague Daniel Raven Ellison spending a week at the National Council for Geographic Education conference in Portland, Oregon, and working with educators from across the USA.

    This project has been an exciting one to be involved with. It offers a range of activities which can be carried out in your neighbourhood, and earn points for completing them. Would be good for exploring local areas, local wildlife and ideas of community. These will be used across the USA for their Geography Awareness Week later in the year.

    You will need to have registered with TES Connect, which is free and takes a few moments.
    You can then DOWNLOAD THE BOOKLET as a 34 page, 13 Mb PDF and check it out.

    Please take a look and let me know what you think...

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Superb VIMEO films

    Via Al Humphreys and Victoria Ellis

    MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

    Watch full screen...

    First minute of the new school year SORTED....

    Also follow the links to LEARN and EAT...

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011


    Spending a few days barn & dog-sitting in a rather fine barn in the Dartmoor National Park.
    It's stocked with shelves full of books, WiFi for Spotify and a wine cellar... So it's got pretty much all I need.
    One of the books is Ian Mercer's 'Dartmoor', which is published as part of the Collins New Naturalist Library with a lovely cover by Robert Gillmor.
    I liked the description of Ian Mercer as "a geographer and naturalist at heart, never happier than when revealing the secrets of a landscape".

    The author's foreword begins:
    "This book is about my perception of a landscape, and what knowledge is needed as a foundation to that perception..." which is an interesting statement, as it links with some of the ideas in the GA's current CURRICULUM consultation.

    He goes on to say "the attraction of true local geography is that it depends upon the wielding of a broad brush much of the time, but allows the display of intricate detail to illuminate corners of the canvas wherever necessary."

    Dartmoor has a number of interesting landscape elements: the geology is complex and age-old, there are the tors crowding the skyline with their slopes of clitter below, the mires in the low-lying areas, scarps and plateaux, the 'passes' cut through the peat by early travellers, lines of reaves, the china clay and kaolinite, the leats that were used to drain water towards mills and as urban drains, the commons and forests and the reservoirs.

    As soon as I drove up onto the high moor from Moretonhampstead earlier today, over the sheep track (cue the old joke about breaking wind as the car drives over it...) we were into ponies, sheep and shaggy faced cattle with Dutch and German tourists parked up nearby with long lenses.

    Opening the OS map of the moor provides plenty of other factors that have changed the landscapes.
    The National Park designation, the battle to preserve the commons that has been going on for hundreds of years, and even the military. Large areas of the moor are designated as "danger areas". The military have been using the moor for over a hundred years, often to practice firing weapons.

    There were also the tin miners and the stannary towns including Chagford, which I popped into earlier (more shops should be like the Aladdin's cave of Webber and Sons)

    There were also the turnpike roads, which converged at Two Bridges. A fine pub garden to sit in, and the track starts from there to Wistman's Wood, which I shall return to later.

    There is a lot of useful detail in the book on the role of National Parks and the NPA

    There are mentions of some management of visitors and the landscape, including the DARTMOOR VISION (from 2008) and also the TAKE MOOR CARE campaign, which reduced the speed limit to 40 mph on the unfenced areas of moorland.

    There are some useful FREE DOWNLOADS. These include some really useful resources - check them out...

    There is also a link with past glacial activity, and periglaciation. This is an important period in the UK's history, and you'll find patterned ground, stone stripes and other evidence of frozen ground on the border of glaciated landscapes.

    Dartmoor was also a case study that I used for Edexcel 'A' level as there was a section on a landscape that was the result of GRANITE.
    Chapter 2 explores the importance of granite to the landscape, and the volcanic intrusions into the country rock that shaped the prominent features. Also introduced me to the metamorphic rocks such as hornfels.

    Later chapters explore the weather and the importance of water, flora and fauna and the various farming practices that have shaped the moors. The moor is an Environmentally Sensitive Area, and has a number of SSSIs.
    There are also a few locations where climbing is possible. These include Hound Tor, below which is the famous snack van (popped in there last year): "The Hound of the Basket Meals".

    Finally, there is mention of one of my favourite mysterious places: the fern covered ancient oaks of Wistman's Wood. The trees are contorted, and grow amongst a clitter of boulders to a height of around 4 metres. They have beards of ferns and other plants, and lichens. A place of real mysterious power....

    All images: Alan Parkinson

    Was also reminded of the album cover to the Yes album "Tormato", which features a map of part of Dartmoor, particularly the area around Yes Tor. Check out "Release, Release"...

    A recommended read...

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    A-Z of Tourist Misinformation

    Thanks to Russel Tarr for tipoff to this resource - warning: some other sections might be a bit risque...

    It's an A-Z of Tourist Misinformation...

    Might make an interesting cultural geography task...
    Would be useful to try to write them for other locations too...

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Geography of Disease

    This is another one of those blog posts aimed at uncovering a 'hidden' resource on the GA website that is freely available to anyone....

    Geography of Disease was a project that was led by John Lyon, and was funded by the Wellcome Trust

    Wycombe High School shared the resources that they produced as a result of their participation on their excellent website (on the Moodle platform...)

    The resources are excellent ! You need to check them out if you are proposing to teach something about disease.
    There are resources on Disease in Society - with a focus on Myxomatosis, the Black Death, HIV/AIDS, Cholera, Malaria, Bilharzia and Avian Influenza.

    Check out Durham University's disease spread simulations too...

    Great resources if you are teaching IB Geography, particularly the FOOD and HEALTH module of which more to come later in the year !

    NQT Conferences in November 2011

    The flyers for the latest GA CPD events have been published on Scribd.

    I am leading two NQT Conferences in November 2011

    NQT Conference: Making a difference in the classroom

    If you are going to be an NQT Geographer or you are going to have an NQT in your department, and you'd like to book a place, contact Lucy Oxley on 01142960088

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Westward Moving House - updated post

    I was contacted by Josh from Places Online Journal today.

    "Places" is an online journal of architecture, landscape, and urbanism.

    "I'm pleased to share the news that we've just republished J.B. Jackson's classic essay "The Westward-Moving House," originally published in Landscape in 1953, which traces the evolution of the American house over three centuries and across the continent. It's a big text -- 10,000 words -- and a big moment, as we have the pleasure of introducing a new generation of readers to Jackson. 

    Geographer Paul F. Starrs and photographer Peter Goin at the University of Nevada, Reno, have purchased the archive of Landscape and plan to digitize the archive and make it fully accessible. Fewer than a dozen libraries have a full set of the magazine, so this is great news for scholars. 

    "The Westward-Moving House" was last anthologized 15 years ago and is now out of print, so we are very pleased to partner with Paul and Peter to make it available online. 

    Read the WESTWARD MOVING HOUSE here... on the Places / Design Observer website
    A good read...

    Thanks for the latest addition: a response to the above piece that is called the EASTWARD MOVING HOUSE.

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    GA CPD events in November 2011 - hope to see you there...

    Well, one perhaps as I doubt you'd come to both...
    These are the first of the GA CPD events that I shall be doing in the new academic year that have so far been scheduled, and thanks to Lucy for sending me the flyer...
    The events are NQT Conferences.

    Look out for a mailing coming into schools shortly, and also inserts in GA journals....

    If you'd like to secure your place, or find out more information about the events, there are several different prices depending on the status of your GA membership. Call Lucy Oxley at the GA on 01142960088 for more information.
    I look forward to seeing some of you in November !
    And I'll be mentioning this event once or twice between now and then....

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Young Geographer of the Year - now with added teacher prize for NQT / PGCE

    The annual Young Geographer of the Year Award has been launched by the Royal Geographical Society in association with Geographical magazine.

    This year there has been a slight change of format for the awards which I think makes it a stronger opportunity, and will result in more "useful" and insightful responses...

    Geography surrounds us: on the world map on your classroom wall, in events on the news, or the changes taking place in your local area and further afield.  Geographers strive to better understand the connections between the world’s people, places and environments and the interactions taking place between them. 

    To help us understand our world we ask questions such as; Where is this place? Why is it like this? How is it connected with other places? How is this place changing? and Why are these changes taking place? We like to zoom between the local and the global scales and are fascinated with maps, not just to find out where places are but to also show how places are connected, their human and physical characteristics, and the differences between them.
    So if you’ve ever wondered where your ipod was made, where the plastic in your recycling bin ends up or why climate change is on the news you’ve already been developing your geographical understanding. 
    Without geography we’d be lost and this year’s Young Geographer of the Year gives you the chance to answer the question:
     'What should every good geographer understand?'

    Visit the website to download the application / entry forms and give it a go.
    There are 4 age categories, which correspond to KS2, 3, 4 and 5...

    This year there is also a new award for PGCE / NQT teachers too.....

    The Rex Walford Award for PGCE students and NQTs
    The Society is also delighted to announce a new element of the competition - The Rex Walford Award for PGCE students and newly qualified geography teachers. Reflecting Rex Walford’s passion for training new geography teachers, this award will be given to a PGCE student or NQT who creates the best set of teaching resources, scheme of work or lesson plans linked to this year's Young Geographer competition. The winner will receive a Society Fellowship for one year plus a cash prize of £150 and their materials will be hosted on the Society’s website.
    Get your geographical thinking caps on - you have to be in it to win it....

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Richard Long exhibition

    There's a new Richard Long exhibition at the Haunch of Venison in London.
    I am in London next week and will make time to go and see it. Seen Richard Long's work in a range of locations over the years: from the Guggenheim in Bilbao to the foyer of DEFRA on Millbank, and various other places...

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    Special crabby ale...

    For Cromer festival...

    I'll have a half please...

    Very flat, Norfolk... allegedly

    Jennifer Watts posted on her blog about a nice collaborative effort which she has set up...
    She had just finished a book "50 writers on 50 states", where the USA was described in a range of different 'voices'... and thought that this might usefully be adapted for the UK, and ask lots of people to

    If anyone is reading this and would like to get involved in writing a short chapter, around 3-5 A4 pages on a county they know well in the UK, please get in touch. Chapters could typically include things you value about the county: places, highlights, traditions, changes, features found in the county that maybe overlooked, or just how you feel about the county, what does it mean to you, and why?

    I've volunteered to write the chapter on Norfolk.
    I'll base some of it on the session that I put together for the GA Norfolk branch when I was the president of the Norfolk branch in 2010 - this had lots of ideas for teaching about Norfolk and the way that the county was described...

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    I dreamed of David again...

    I blogged a few weeks ago about the success of David Rogers: the Chair of the GA's Secondary Committee in the Jamie Oliver Dream Teachers competition on YouTube...
    You can watch his £10 000 winning video below - it's now been seen over 13000 times !

    Also listen to him from earlier today on BBC Radio SOLENT - via Audioboo....


    David is off to Google London today for an awards ceremony so have a good day David....

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Food Geographies

    GA subscribers to Teaching Geography have the chance to use a really well put together unit of work which has been written by Suzie Farmer.
    It is called "Planning for Progression: making sense of famine and feast" and explores issues of food production.
    There are downloadable documents on the GA website which accompany the article.

    BBC report earlier this week looked at the contents of an FAO report also identified the shocking figure that a third of the world's food is wasted...

    Image: Alan Parkinson

    Click to download Tim Hess's excellent GA Conference presentation on the water that is involved in food production too. (PDF download)

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    What I bought at the supermarket...

    For a food-related project I'm planning...
    Everything I bought on my last trip to the supermarket.... (I went to Waitrose on this occasion, but normally go a lot more down-market...)

    Could be used to explore issues like:

    - sourcing: local or worldwide
    - production methods: freedom foods, organic, Red Tractor, PGI
    - packaging
    - health: convenience or home cooking ingredients
    - seasonality (they were bought in May... which of them are "out of season")

    Other ideas, please add them below...

    Oh, and I forgot the kitchen roll...

    Saturday, May 14, 2011

    South Downs National Park

    All schools that lie within the newly designated South Downs National Park will soon receive an education pack which was put together by the Geographical Association.
    It features a range of activities to explore the geography of the National Park, and the idea of landscape as a palimpsest...
    It matches nicely with some of the ideas in my KS3 Toolkit: "Look at it this Way", which is available from the GA's online shop.

    The pack will also be available to download from the South Downs website from Monday 16th of May....

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Geography Media Blog

    The Geography Media blog is a new discovery for me via Tony Battista....

    Some really interesting posts broadly in the area of geography and culture...

    The blog is written by Ben Cotton an AST from St. Katherine's school in Bristol, and is involved in the new RGS-IBG Bristol network.
    A quick browse has revealed a number of really interesting and stylishly presented ideas... also approve of the Jonsi and Alex clips :)

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    MyFarm - National Trust project...

    My Farm is an ambitious project that has been announced by the National Trust within the last week (this blog post was ready on the day but has been sitting in draft for a while), and has been getting quite a lot of press and media coverage.
    It extends the idea of virtual farming with very popular online games like Farmville (which has tens of millions of players) to an actual farm, part of the Wimpole Hall estate near Cambridge. I have been to the farm myself some years ago when my kids were much smaller...
    The website provides some background detail as to how the scheme is going to work. The National Trust are looking for 10 000 people to invest £30 in the scheme, which will allow them to take some decisions relating to the farm. They will vote on a range of issues relating to the management of the farm, although given its organic status and location, there are obviously going to be limits as to what those decisions might be...
    I am tempted to go for it, and may well do so in the next few days if I can get £30 together from somewhere....
    Here's a map of part of the estate where the farm is located.

    All a long way from the old Herefordshire farm game of the late great Vincent Tidswell....

    The virtual farmers come from a range of backgrounds judging by the messages that are already appearing on the forum site that goes with it...

    The £30 to take part could perhaps be raised by a teaching group / year group, or even taken from a departmental budget as an investment in curriculum engagement.

    There are already some farmers who are geography teachers such as this person here:

    There is a YouTube video here, one of several from the MY FARM CHANNEL which sets the scene for the first few decisions which will be made once the virtual farmers have been recruited...

    A similar sounding project (by name) is FROM MY FARM which provides information about seasonal produce for consumers...

    This links through in turn to the BRING BACK SUNDAYS website and campaign which is aimed at getting us eating a Sunday roast again.