Thursday, 27 November 2014

A Special Day for A level Geographers

The Botanic Garden competes with many other providers of science enrichment activities for schools.  Teachers are bombarded with offers from museums, science centres and departments within the University.  Science Oxford trains a huge team of STEM ambassadors that are willing to take their research into schools.  Getting an audience for secondary science activities can be difficult.  The opportunities for geographers are much more limited.  If geography teachers take students out of the classroom it tends to be for fieldwork.

Over the summer Sarah Lloyd met with researchers from the University's School of Geography, the Department of Earth Sciences and local geography teachers to plan special events to support the geography curriculum.  The first A level geography day took place in October with 170 attendees from 10 local schools.

The format for the day was quite similar to A level days for other subjects areas with a programme of talks, workshops and self-led activities.

Speakers included:

  • Dr. Sallie Burrough from the School of Geography, who talked about some of the world's best known deserts and the way they are explored using new tools and technologies.
  • Prof. Paul Smith described Arctic processes, landscapes and ecosystems and the impact of climate change on fragile Arctic environments.
  • Kevin Wheeler from the School of Geography talked about the formation of rivers and described the complex historical and contemporary issues surrounding the Colorado River and the Nile.
  • Professor David Pyle from the Department of Earth Sciences spoke about the challenges of living on or around active volcanoes.

Later in the day students had the opportunity to play a game based on the impact of climate change on farming.  This game was developed by the Environmental Change Institute, the Red Cross Climate Centre (University of Reading) and the Africa Climate Exchange.  Dr. Jeannie Scott from the School of Geography also led a role-play activity based on the impact of volcanoes.

Students also visited the Botanic Garden. They discussed biodiversity, production of food, ecosystems and invasive species using a number of structured activities.

Comments from teachers were positive and constructive, and the two comments below give a flavour of the feedback they gave.

Superb introduction to University experience.  Reinforced information to year 13, good experience for year 12.  Level of lecture challenging but not pitched too high.  What is the date for next year?!!

Excellent day.  Informative and content linked to student's exams as well as giving them an insight into geography careers.  Keep me posted with dates for next year.

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