Tuesday, 28 March 2017

A Shepherd's Hand

Thanks to Brendan Conway for the tip-off to this excellent film, featuring fell running...

A Shepherd's Hand from No Routes Found on Vimeo.
Lakeland endurance running, the slow game of energy and emotion, anxiety and anticipation: an unfolding physical landscape that you run through and an emotional landscape that runs through you… Set within an attempt on the Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge this poetic film pays tribute to Joss himself and his inspirational status in the world of fell running.

New look to King's Ely Geography twitter

As well as the many blogs that I write, and the various Twitter feeds such as my main @GeoBlogs feed, I also share work and ideas from the Geography department where I teach.
Feel free to follow the @KingsElyGeog feed.
I updated the profile this week so that it is more in line with other Twitter feeds from the school.

Richard Long at Houghton Hall

Richard Long is an artist I've appreciated for many years, and have previously blogged about here several times before. I've come across his art in different locations - recently at Tate Modern, and also at the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
His art is connected with the landscape, and can often be found in it, and was made in it, and from it.
I went to the last big exhibition of his back in 2009.
I came across a piece when going to a meeting at Defra some years ago, in the lobby while I was waiting to be taken to the meeting room.

There is a major exhibition opening at Houghton Hall, a short drive from my home, at the end of April, and going through until October. It will feature many large scale pieces outdoors, including one of his large slate circles.
The exhibition is called Earth Sky.

I'll be going along, and will share some images here...

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Dotstorming - a new collaborative platform for discussions and voting

I've just been introduced to Dotstorming by Karl Donert.
It's a site which allows you to discuss images, and vote on them in some way. You can create up to 5 topics with a free account.

I've made a free account - you just need to choose a nickname and provide an e-mail address to get started.

I then made a Pinterest board with the images that I wanted to use for the Dotstorm vote, and used the URL to insert the images into the board.

The boards that are then created can be shared via a link or embed, or privately via e-mail.  

I've had a go, and will let you know how it works....

Free National Geographic topographical maps

Good for US readers (of which there are many) particularly...

Sign up with an e-mail to access a National Geographic page from which you can create and download PDF maps from locations across the United States.
Click here to find out more.

ESRI StoryMap traces the highs and lows...

Thanks to Bob Lang for the tipoff to this StoryMap... another reminder of the power of this tool for telling stories and bringing an immersive quality to them.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Prince's Teaching Institute Summer Residential

The summer residential organised by the Prince's Teaching Institute has been held at Homerton College for quite a few years now.

Details of this year's event are up on the website, and now is the time to find out more, and book a place if you fancy 3 days of talks and workshops including academics such as Nick Middleton, and Alan Kinder from the GA. The delegate fee also comes with a year's further involvement in the PTI's school support programme.
I've been honoured to be asked to speak twice at previous PTI events, in London and Harrogate and the delegates are always so attentive and interested, and the speakers I've worked with have always been excellent.

As Graham Goldup, one of the organisers says:

“This residential will provide a key opportunity to discuss the new challenges and concepts presented by changes in the national curriculum, 9-1 GCSE and reformed A Levels. We need to share new place-based content and discuss new teaching and learning strategies to better prepare our students for the challenging topics, rigorous linear assessment, compulsory fieldwork opportunities and independent research projects that lie ahead. To be inspirational in our teaching we need to be inspired, so take this opportunity to learn from fellow professionals and re-energise your passion for Geography.”

To find out more, click here. The event is held in late June.

Need an idea?

If so, you need this book. It's written by David Rogers, who has won a number of awards for his effective and creative work.
He references ideas by other creative geographers too.
The book is published by Bloomsbury as part of their 100 Ideas series.
The book is arranged into 8 sections, based on consultation with teachers on social media.
It is available to purchase from Amazon and other sources.

As David says "great geography teachers change the world", but we all need some inspiration from time to time.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Greyhound Diaries

I've been interested to read about the travels of Doug Levitt.

He has spent years criss-crossing the country on Greyhound buses: a form of transport often used by the disenfranchised of America...
He tells their stories, and describes a different view on the USA to many other travellers. A useful resource for exploring the idea of place, and also an idea for a possible fieldtrip - to take a bus across a county, or a large city, and observe and listen...
The website features songs, stories and images.

World Water Day

What do you have planned for this day?

Tuesday, 21 March 2017


Off to see this next month with colleagues. Ventoux is a famous mountain stage on the Tour de France. It's a peak called 'the Beast of Provence', and is almost 2000m high. It is an exposed summit, and the wind can be so strong that the stage has to be shortened.

It's the mountain where Tom Simpson succumbed during the Tour de France in 1967 and it was also the scene of a famous duel between Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani. It also came back into the news last year when Chris Froome was forced to run up part of the way after a crash damaged his bike.

I'm organising a trip with other colleagues to see the 2Magpies recreation of this duel next month.

You can find out more about the performance here, or watch the video below.

Geography Festival at Bedales

Paul Turner has a reputation for involving his students in interesting projects, and producing interesting resources. He has now planned a Geography Festival for June, on the theme of whether geography can avert catastrophe.
There are some interesting speakers coming along, including Professor David Lambert and Carl Lee.

I hope to go along. It's in the last few weeks of the summer term for many. Follow the link above for more details about the event.

Tickets are very reasonably priced at just over £10....  

Thought for the Day

Monday, 20 March 2017

Epsom Geographic

If Carlsberg did student-produced geography magazines, they'd be like this one, produced by the students at Epsom College in Malaysia, in association with the Head of Geography Jon Barker.
Great photography and a range of interesting articles. The 2nd issue has just been published using Issuu.

Sunday, 19 March 2017


This is not referring to the ITV series, which has just returned for another series at the Solana Hotel.

It's the resort and area of Spain, which is featured as part of the resources on this COSTA BLANCA blog.
There are some very useful resources, which are the work of teacher Gareth Thomas. There are iGCSE and 'A' level resources amongst them, but one of the most useful sections is under the tab 'Local Geography'.
These provide a very useful case study of local geographical landscapes within the region.
Browse through for other useful resources and lesson ideas.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Road School

Sue Cowley's book is just 99p for Kindle this weekend on Amazon... worth a quid of your hard earned cash. Some interesting ideas and insights for geographers.


Been out for a while, but not mentioned it here... a site that legoifies maps... It doesn't zoom in very far, and there isn't much detail on the maps once you go beyond country shapes, but the effect is nice.
Nice work by John Nelson and Vanni Zhang.

Over to the seaside...

Over to Wells next the Sea today to let the breeze blow the cobwebs away... It's been a hard few weeks, and now down to the last week and a half before the Easter break...
Image: Alan Parkinson

Charney Primary Conference - Day 3

The final day of the conference dawned early again, and it was out for a stroll in the nearby fields.
After breakfast, it was down to the first session, and as part of that was my presentation.
Jon Cannell, the new Primary Geography leader of the GA talked about the work of the GA, and their support for Primary Geography.
Here is my Charney paper: a potted 'history' of some of the work completed by Mission:Explore / Explorer HQ and the projects we have been involved in. There was also an accompanying presentation, with images of all the projects we've been involved in over the last 10 years. I ended with a request for ideas for where we might 'go' next...

After this session, and a brief break, I was ready to leave. I left a little early, and before the 'team photo' as I had to get back to set up for the week ahead.
This was an excellent CPD opportunity, and I will be back next year if I can be.
Thanks to all those who made me welcome and offered interesting sessions and papers. I came away with plenty of reading material and new contacts.

GA Secondary Geography Handbook - the latest edition...

The latest edition of the GA's Secondary Geography Handbook is now available to purchase from the GA Shop. It promises to be as important a reference as previous editions.

Refugee artwork in Ely Cathedral

Over to the cathedral earlier this week for the regular Wednesday service, and there was a large piece of artwork representing a fleeing mother and child. It was created by Jill Sim, and is only there temporarily, and there was an information board next to it.
 I loved it.

The Ely Refugee Resettlement Campaign website is linked to from above, which reminds visitors of the earlier story of St. Etheldreda who fled to Ely to escape violence and founded the church which still remains there over 1000 years later.

Charney Primary Conference - Day 2 - Part 2

Continuing my reflections on the Charney Primary Geography Conference, for those who may be interested...

After lunch it was into the afternoon sessions which were starting to be a little more social, after the quite pedagogy / ITE focus of the morning. I knew that my paper was a bit less academic - I'll come to that when we move into Day 3.
The afternoon involved some more practical sessions, which I was keen about. I started with Stephen Scoffham's Streetwork workshop on the local Charney landscape. This took some ideas from Townscape analysis, which I was more familiar with, as I used it many years ago while an undergraduate, and then used it in my first school as a way of exploring the local area. It's a way of seeing how the streets and urban environment have been constructed so that there is visual interest to it. It's based on the work of Gordon Cullen.
We wandered through Charney Bassett looking for examples of buildings and other architectural features being arranged in aesthetically pleasing ways.

I then had a difficult choice, as I wanted to attend the session on 'The Machine Stops' which Steve Rawlinson and Tessa Willy had planned, but also wanted to find out about Julia Tanner's place attachment workshop, so went to that one instead. It was then back to the barn for cake and a fine cake it was too.
After the evening meal, there was an interview with Simon Catling, who thought this was going to be followed by a question panel, but it turned out to be time for all the delegates to present Simon with a personal map and story....

This was followed by an 'event' called 'The Spirit of Charney'. This involved music and spoken words, and reflections on a sense of place... and then we had champagne to toast the last 20 years, before heading for the pub where I had an appointment with some Guinness.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Apps for Fieldwork

Rob Chambers has been posting some ideas for apps that he is loading onto devices ready for fieldwork, and will also be posting a review of them as well. For those interested in that aspect of geographical work, it may be worth following Rob's blog, and check the post here, to see some of the apps that Rob is 'recommending'.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Thought for the Day


Washing Machine.... a new setting

David Holmes shared this story in the week about a new setting (or more) that are being added to washing machines sold in India, to cope with the specific stains produced by curry and hair oil. Could this be an example of glocalisation?

It's also a reminder that washing machines were used by Hans Rosling as an example of affordable technology which starts to make a huge difference to people's lives...

You can watch his TED talk below:

Food Security - a growing global issue

I recently put the finishing touches to a unit on Food Security and insecurity to teach in the weeks up to Easter (and beyond) to Year 9 students. This will explore issues relating to food security and insecurity - an issue of growing importance.
It's linked to a unit that I wrote for the Geographical Association here, and also uses a lesson from the CILT resource that I also wrote for the Geographical Association last year.
Feedback so far has been positive from the students and teachers who are using it - thanks for letting me know about that.

There have been plenty of stories in the last few weeks relating to food security... another reminder of the contemporary nature of the subject.
We are also finally getting the hang of remembering the definition, and the implications of it.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Charney Primary Conference - Day 2 - Part 1

Saturday morning dawned bright, and I was able to take a quick early morning stroll before breakfast - a real pleasure to be able to do that.
The first session was chaired by Mel Norman, and the focus was on teacher education for primary.
Clare Brooks from the Institute of Education talked about her work, and the value of involving HEIs. Simon Catling talked about his experiences, and Susan Pike then shared her work. As with Anne Dolan, Susan also works in Ireland, and her recent book on Primary Geography is excellent too.

She shared some recent work, before Marian Blankman talked about her work in research. This was quite relevant to the work of GeoCapabilities, which she referenced, and I was interested to see what she said about the processes of teaching Geography teachers Geography...
After coffee, I had a choice of session, and decided to move to the Solar, where there was a session chaired by Paul Baker.
This featured Shelagh Waddington, Sandra Austin and Susan Pike again, before Imo Sahi talked about her work at Sangam in India.

We then had lunch....

Images by Alan Parkinson

Charney Primary Conference - Day 1 - Part 2

After the evening meal, it was back to the barn for the evening session. This was chaired by Simon Catling, who had been behind the Charney book. We were going to have the official launch of the book the following evening, so it was just a mention and a thanks. I have a chapter in this book, and very pleased to have been involved with the project.

The after dinner talk was being given by Professor Danny Dorling, who is the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at Oxford University. Halford Mackinder was one of the founders of the Geographical Association, so this was an important and significant role, and great that he was speaking at the conference. He was joined by Dr Mary Wells, who is a Primary educator.
Danny and I had met quite a few times previously, while working on the LondonMapper project along with Ben Hennig, and at a previous GTE conference.
He was talking about a new project which he has just started to think about, which connected with Primary geography. It was interesting to see the early thinking from Danny and Mary, and I will try to suggest some ideas as the project develops. It was a good way to end the first day of the Conference, and Danny and I chatted before I headed for the pub... where I had the chance to talk to quite a few colleagues, before walking back in the dark to Charney Manor.

Charney Primary Conference - Day 1 - Part 1

Two weekends ago, I was in the Vale of the White Horse, south of Oxford for the 20th Charney Manor Primary Conference.
This has been organised by Simon Catling for the last two decades. I taught in the morning, and then drove over to Oxford, arriving in plenty of time to get my room in the old Manor House, and settle in before the first lot of sessions. There were over 40 delegates, the largest attendance, and there were people from a large number of countries.
After tea, it was time for Session 1. After a welcome from Simon Catling, I heard Anne Dolan talk about Place-based learning. She has a book on 'Powerful Primary Geography' coming out in June 2017.
I first met Anne when I was presenting GeoMedia courses at Salzburg University, which I used to do with Karl Donert.
After Anne's session, it was time for Sharon Witt, who has been a big influence on work that I've done over the years. She was talking about miniature play and children's narratives.
Fran Martin and her Canadian colleague Fatima Pirbhai-Illich talked about places, spaces and boundaries in geography classrooms.
Stephen Scoffham talked about Young People's ideas of different nations and cultures, and Takashi Shimura shared a Japanese perspective, showing how the ideas from this conference have influenced Japanese education.
Rachel Bowles finished by talking about half a century of education. An excellent start to the weekend. And then it was time for the evening meal...

Introducing ScotlandVR

Thanks to Louise Jones.

London as a National Park City - half way there?

Excellent steady progress on wards declaring their support for the idea... Will we see this accelerating now?

GeoCapabilities at EuroGeo

Good to see colleagues from the GeoCapabilities project presenting at the EuroGeo conference in Amsterdam last week. I have previously presented at this conference, which is an excellent event.
The GeoCapabilities website is up and running, and there are plenty of resources on the idea of powerful knowledge in Geography.

Next year's conference is in Cologne, Germany and I hope to be there if I can, to reconnect with some of the people I saw in the tweets from the event, and whom I've worked with in the past.

Palm Oil campaign video

This came via Facebook, rather than my usual social marketing campaign favourite Osocio.
It's a movie which was made a while ago, but gained new publicity to coincide with Dorito's marketing around this year's Superbowl. It explores the sourcing of palm oil, which goes into processed food products like Doritos (but also many others)

Watch the movie here. It obviously provides one side of the story, and the large company that produces the snacks has already responded by sharing information about their sourcing of palm oil. There are plenty of Palm Oil infographics, and other resources that I've also used with students, again often sourced from Osocio.

This would also connect with the work we do on Palm Oil later in the year as part of our Endangered Biomes work.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Dan's Wild Cities Walk

Dan Raven Ellison completed many changes last year, but one of them was to walk across all the cities and National Parks in the UK.
This involved over 2.4 million steps.

Dan wore a special headset as he was walking which was able to record his emotions, and the data from those trips is going to be released later this year.

I'm looking forward to Dan visiting my school later in the year.

If you're in Cardiff on April the 19th, why not go and see Dan speak... An Eventbrite page is here

What would it be like to walk 1,686km across all of the UK’s 15 national parks and 69 cities while wearing a mind-reading EEG? That’s exactly what Daniel Raven-Ellison did last year to explore how his emotions changed as he explored different kinds of places. Join us for this inspiring talk as Daniel shares stories, thoughts and ideas from his adventures before making the case for a surge of public geography activism. Daniel will go on to share his biggest public geography project, a campaign to make London the world’s first National Park City. You can connect with Daniel in advance of the lecture on Twitter at @DanRavenEllison.’
Wine reception (Viriamu Jones Gallery, Main Building) - 18:00
Keynote lecture - 18:30

Stuff on stuff coming out of our ears...

At the moment, there is a plethora of stories connecting to the unit that I'm teaching on the Geography of Stuff. I've been tweeting them on my department's twitter feed at @KingsElyGeog - feel free to follow that account for the stuff that I get up to in my classroom (and other colleagues at school too)

Earlier this week, Sky News reported on the children mining cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo


Mapping tool which turns world maps into Lego... really excellent...
Nice work by John Nelson and Vanni Zhang.


Volcano exhibition at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
Some great items from the eruption of Vesuvius...

The True Cost

A movie I might consider adding into our 'Geography of My Stuff' unit...

Follow the link to the website for more details on the background to the film.

A curriculum artefact: Ewen and the Gold

For all the gold Ewen Gillies ever found

Could not buy him peace or freedom

From the memory of the sound

Of the waves on St. Kilda's rocky shore

Inspired by the work of David Lambert, and the GeoCapabilities project that I've been working on for part of the last couple of years.
I remember hearing this song many times over the years, including live when seeing Dick Gaughan perform live, particularly at the Rockingham Arms folk club in Wentworth, near Rotherham, but also in various pubs in Sheffield.
The song is about Ewen Gillies, who left his home island of St. Kilda. 

St. Kilda is a place where in the history of the island is very much tied to the families that lived there.
Only five surnames have been used by families living on the islands.
Ferguson, Gillies, Mackinnon, MacQueen and MacDonald

There are many stories told about the families and how they survived on these remote islands, which lie far out to the west of the Hebrides. The islands are a Nature Reserve, and also have other protection, including World Heritage status. It's a place that I've longed to visit for decades, and probably never will now.
The artefact is a song, which is called 'Ewen and the Gold' and was written by Brian McNeill

The lyrics and details are here.

Listen on YouTube too...

Lyrics: copyright Bryan McNeill

A story of the evacuation of St. Kilda featuring Norman Gillies, presumably a relation of Ewen.
Download the lyrics, and play the song, and annotate with the story of Ewen, and also the

Coincidentally, one of the last news stories I read in 2016 was the discovery of a new Census document, which put the details of the families back earlier than was previously known about. Even back then, there were the same families that lived on the island.

I've also seen St. Kilda used as an example of a remote place for the new Changing Places unit for 'A' level Geography.

It's worth reminding yourself of what we mean by a curriculum artefact. It's something which is a little more involved than a classroom resource, and which the teacher works with to bring out its relevance. It's often an authentic, actual physical item which students might be able to touch, or taste. Christine Counsell refers to such elements as part of our "curriculum repetoire".

In my early years of teaching, I used to teach about coal mining, and many of the students in Norfolk had never seen coal, so I brought some lumps and talked about the work of my maternal grandfather, who was a pit deputy, and how many of the friends in my form group at school went down the pit when they left school.
I also had the Silverwood Colliery token that I blogged about here.

What's the last curriculum artefact that you integrated successfully into your teaching?