Updated: Jan 8, 2020
Fieldwork has always been considered a key component of a Geography education and for good reason.
Geographers are investigators, observers and scientists. We feel constrained inside the four walls of the classroom and alive when we are out trying to make sense of the complexities of our world.
7 ways that I have provided out of the classroom opportunities in and around the school grounds include:
1. The School Bench Project.
This involves setting a simple question that can be used to collect a range of quantitative and qualitative data: Where is the best place to locate a new school bench?
Data collection can focus on microclimates by considering temperature, wind speed and direction, sunshine and cover from rain.
Alternatively, students can focus on the aesthetics by conducting environmental quality surveys or questionnaires.
Finally, they could consider placing the bench in the area with the most need by conducting pedestrian counts to develop an understanding footfall. I like this geographical investigation due to its simplicity and flexibility.
2. Sustainability Survey
Students are asked to investigate and report on the sustainability of their school.
Again, this can be adapted to suit your cohort of students. For example, Year 7 students could tour their school taking photographs and describing the sustainable features. This should help to build their understanding of the concept of sustainability. Alternatively, older students may be asked to collect data on energy use and wastage, litter surveys or the effectiveness of recycling initiatives. They could be challenged to generate solutions from their findings.
The Eco-Schools program, found on the link below, has lots of ideas, examples and supporting documentation.
3. Directions and Map Skills
One way to liven up a Y7 Map Skills unit is to create a race around locations in your school using directions, symbols and grid references.
If you have a decent map of your school you can overlay it with a grid and ask students to add the symbol to the correct location on the paper map. It takes some time to set up at first but then it's good to go until the next major school renovation.
4. Crime survey
How safe is your school? How safe does the school community feel? Where are the weak spots? What could be done to reduce the likelihood of crime? Are security cameras in the appropriate place? Could crime be designed out? How much would this cost? These questions could help to drive a project that includes mapping, observation and critical thinking.
5. Infiltration project
This is a great mini project that can use the structure of a scientific investigation. Firstly, students can create a hypothesis e.g. 'infiltration rates will be faster on natural surfaces'.
From this, they can devise a method for data collection, use this to collect reliable data, use graphical techniques to present their findings, and make conclusions focused on their original hypothesis. Students can be asked to make their own equipment from bottles etc.
This process should provide many opportunities for students to evaluate the quality of their findings and to suggest improvements for the future. All of this can be done in 2-3 lessons with groups working together and presenting their findings at the end.
6. The Geography of Me
Another good option for Year 7 students. I usually set this as a homework project.
Students can use Google maps to locate their street, describe their journey to school, describe the key characteristics of their local area, and identify important services.
More challenge can be added by asking students to consider the challenges found within their local area. This could be supported by traffic and litter surveys.
7. Mega map I am fortunate to work in an international school in Asia with a good budget and surrounded by low cost manufacturing. A couple of years ago we had the megamap made in Vietnam. It is huge and covers an area of 15m by 9m.
Our students love being able to work on the map. We use this in Year 7 to look at world geography where students work in teams to locate countries, capital cities, latitude and longitude, highest peak and major biomes.
In Year 9, we map the tectonic plates and in Year 13 we describe and explain the movement of the Intertropical Conversion Zone (ITCZ).
Finally, I would love to hear from you. How do you bring geography to life in and around your school site? I am aware that I have been using the methods presented in this article for many years now so any suggestions for improvements or new ideas then please do comment below!