Saturday, 21 January 2017

Dollar Street in the classroom

I have been using the newly updated Dollar Street quite a lot this week with two year groups: Year 7s have been exploring the food that people with different incomes have access to, and the Year 8s have been exploring the 'stuff' that is owned by the families and whether there are thresholds to owning an object such as a washing machine (see the Hans Rosling video on this topic to see how important it is)

You can see more over on the blog where I share my teaching work: GeographyTeacher2.0 and also our departmental Twitter feed.

As part of preparations for this work, and also to support a Global Learning Programme CPD course that I'm hopefully leading in March if we can get a few more bookings, I've put together a resource for Geography teachers (and others) on how to use Dollar Street in the classroom.

It's not finished yet, but is a collaborative Google Drive document which will hopefully grow...

You're very welcome to add your own ideas to this document...
It's embedded below for your interest...

New housing

A recent report in the i newspaper suggested that many new houses are built in areas that are at risk from flooding.

One of the things that I take photos of is new housing developments with inappropriate names, or names which betray a possible chance of flooding, like Miller's Meadow, or Waterside even...

Riverside Drive is shown below...

P-FLOODS from Granada Reports on Vimeo.

Simon Ross at Solheimajokull

Part of Discover the World's educational materials and added just over a month ago...
Very useful video.

Sign up to Discover Geography, and you can also download the Mission:Explore Iceland pack that I helped create with John Sayers, Helen Steer and Tom Morgan Jones.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Hallsands - January 26th

The village of Hallsands lies on the South Devon coast.
It is along the coast from Torcross and Slapton Sands which I have a range of connections with over the years.

Centenary activities are planned for the anniversary of floods which almost destroyed the village, following the removal of large amounts of sediment to be used in the construction of new dockyards further along the coast.

There is an activity featuring a talking head which Richard Allaway produced for Geography all the Way. I have a vague memory of contacting somebody in Hallsands back when I was writing the GeographyPages website in the early 2000s....

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Global Learning Course - FREE - March 2017 in Bury St. Edmunds

For a period between 2007 and 2013, I ran regular courses for the Geographical Association, including the Living Geography courses, NQT Conferences, GIS courses with ESRI, New Fieldwork courses and plenty of others. In that time, I worked with hundreds of teachers, and learned a lot about my own practice.
When I returned to teaching full time in 2013, I didn't have time to do them, and stopped.

Now, I'm back leading an event for the GA in March 2017, with a brand new course, which has the added advantage of being 'my old favourite price': FREE. 
So you can come along for an afternoon discussing technology and global learning, and networking with other colleagues, and leaving with some new ideas for you I hope.

It's being put on in Bury St. Edmunds, so it's a handy location for those in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and S. Norfolk, and perhaps even parts of Essex.

It's on the theme of the GLOBAL LEARNING PROGRAMME, (which is funding the course) and has the context of a global village.

It also connects with an online course which I wrote last year for the GA, and is called Exploring our GLOBAL VILLAGE.

There is a connection with the golden record that NASA attached to the Voyager spaceships before they headed out to the edge of the universe. I was interested in a recent Kickstarter project to create replicas.

I hope to see some of you there...

Greater London National Park

Dan on the radio... guerrilla geographer...
On Radio 4 Open Country....

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Thought for the Day... and beyond...

Dawlish Warren Coastal Protection Scheme

Some people may find this useful. It's a scheme to protect Dawlish Warren, which will start to be constructed this month...

Mini Metro Maps

Good work by Peter Dovak.
Miniature tube maps from around the world...

Water: an Atlas

A few years ago, we contributed some of our Mission:Explore Food book to a special Food: Atlas, which can be downloaded as a PDF

Today, I was sent a link to check the proofs of a new Water Atlas, which has been made in the same way, but a group called Guerrilla Cartography.
Coming soon....

The Little Book of SPaG

Written by a colleague, and now available to all via the OCR website as a downloadable PDF and some interactive exercises.
All Geography teachers are also teachers of literacy, and this may be helpful for coursework, or ensuring full SPaG marks on extended writing tasks.

New Weapons of Reason coming soon...

Looking forward to seeing this... they are all essential resources, as seen in the GeoVademecum.

Monday, 16 January 2017


If you're of a certain age this theme tune will take you back to the great Carl Sagan...

Sunday, 15 January 2017


The 15th means it's time for the 3rd of my 52 weekly Geo Challenges for 2017

Use a weather app such as Earth Null School, WindyTV and Ventusky to produce a piece of art by capturing a screenshot of an amazing or beautiful pattern.

You might also use a GIF maker to create an animated gif of your pattern.
I used the free GIPHY tool on Mac to make this one.

Please tweet or share with the hashtag #challenGEO3 so that I can collate them....

Saturday, 14 January 2017

AGTA Conference

Resources can be downloaded from the website for this conference, which is the Australian Geography Teachers' Association conference. I've been following from a distance, via social media, and even set one of the delegates the task of getting a selfie with my old boss Professor David Lambert.
He was there with Michael Solem from the AAG to present on the GeoCapabilities project, which explores the notion of powerful knowledge within the geography curriculum, and which I have been involved with by helping to create some of the curriculum vignettes that show the process...

Worth following some of these links....
Also search on Twitter under #AGTA2017 in the next few days to see some of the other sessions and comments made by delegates...

Flood surge

The bad weather of the last few weeks has caused problems for various locations around the country. This has meant a range of snowfall, ice and strong winds. A few centimetres of snow has caused the usual chaos in some places.
On Friday night this week, thousands of people were evacuated, or advised to evacuate from properties along the East coast, from Northumberland round to Essex. In the end the combination of factors didn't all happen at the same time to raise the level of the tide. These included:
- high spring tides (full moon)
- strong northerly winds (which didn't turn out as forecast)

This morning, I headed for Sheringham to see the results of last night. Much of the promenade was cordoned off, and there were smashed up beach huts and other cobbles and debris on the sea front. Fishing boats had been pulled up into the village and parked outside houses, and the fences had been damaged. We visited our favourite Funky Mackerel Cafe and had some chips in the sun. Always good to get a bit of fresh air. Some of the pictures I took are in the show below. They may be of use or interest to someone...

Heading up the tower

Every day at work, I am overlooked by the glorious presence of Ely Cathedral. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to climb to the top of its wonderful Octagon tower, with a tour, along with students taking part in the school's Ely Scheme program.
Here are some images taken during the tour. A great chance to see the city from 50 metres up... the highest point for many miles around...

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Mass Consumption

SAMSARA food sequence from Baraka & Samsara on Vimeo.

Via Matt Podbury again... this is worth watching, but some people may want to look away at certain points.
If you eat meat... these are some of the realities behind the contents of the cling-film wrapped polystyrene trays on the supermarket shelves.

Some of the #challenGEO2 responses so far..

Thanks to all those who have submitted a map of the countries they have visited.
Still time for plenty more.
Use this Map Maker or a similar one and use the hashtag #challenGEO2 so that I can add your map to the Storify...

Sunday, 8 January 2017

ChallenGEO2 - Where in the World

Here's the 2nd of my 52 weekly Geo Challenges for 2017.
The first was an image challenge.
The 2nd is a map-based challenge. It's just been launched on Twitter.

Where in the world have you been to?

Your second challenge is to make a map using the Big Huge Labs Map Maker, which is a resource that I've used many times for many years, and which is part of a bigger suite of tools which you may find useful....
The maps that have been created are also embeddable as below...

Make yours @
Make yours @

If you manage to make one please share with the hashtag #challenGEO2 

Thanks to those colleagues who have already responded via Twitter.

Which part of the world haven’t you visited, and which would you like to visit?

Ladybirds and Landscapes

This is JUST my sort of thing. From a talk back in October 2016.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Thought for the day (for AK)

There will be times on this journey

All you'll see is darkness
But out there somewhere
Daylight finds you
If you keep believing
So don't run
Don't hide
It will be alright
You'll see
Trust me

'Look through my eyes' - Phil Collins

Paul Nash at the Tate

There are places, just as there are people and objects and works of art, whose relationship of parts creates a mystery, an enchantment, which cannot be analysed
Paul Nash, Outline, 1949

I had a good two days in London over the Christmas - New Year period, and ahead of my birthday...

One of the things that I enjoyed was the Paul Nash landscapes exhibition at the Tate Britain. This explores the development of Paul Nash's style, and his early landscapes, which were then transformed by his experience as a war artist. This was described in a room called 'We are making a new world'. There was a room which had the title 'Places', and described how important a sense of place was to his work at the time, and the landscapes that he painted repeatedly, close to where he was living. Some of these images were familiar, but there were many others which I saw for the first time.

There's also the way that those early landscapes were then altered by the impact of war: the shattered trees, and the sea made from downed fighter planes, and a modernist interpretation of these landscape elements. I wasn't so taken by his later surrealist work, which developed and abstracted elements of these landscapes, and added in new features, but these earlier works were wonderful, and offered a particular perspective on the representation of the English landscape. Would be interesting to connect some of these ideas that artists use, with the new GCSE specifications, with their focus on distinctive landscapes, and landscape elements.

It was also interesting to see the response of my children, aged 15 and 17 to the images.
I've finished teaching about landscapes with KS3 students, but colleagues teaching the new GCSEs are getting to grips with the UK's distinctive landscapes.

Levison Wood Walks the Americas

Following his journeys along the Nile, and through the Himalayas, Levison Wood's latest journey starts on Channel 4 tomorrow.
He's Walking the Americas.
He's also doing a range of talks in February and March.

Beginning in the north-eastern tip of Mexico, Levison will walk the entire length of Central America, through eight countries before attempting to cross the treacherous Darien Gap into Colombia and South America.
Walking the Americas, co-produced by October Films and GroupM Entertainment, will see Levison return to Mexico, where he lived for three months and Belize - where he trained as a soldier with the British Army - before stepping into a part of the world he’s never visited before and some of the most diverse, beautiful and unpredictable regions on earth.
Levison's expedition will take in ancient Mayan ruins still lying unexplored in the jungles of Guatemala and Honduras, the incredible wildlife diversity in Costa Rica's cloud forests, Nicaragua's active volcanoes, the Panama Canal and the Darien Gap on a sometimes brutal journey.
As well as exploring the spectacular landscapes, Levison will spend time with the people living throughout the region – in both its modern cities and areas of the countryside where traditional life for farmers and indigenous tribes remains largely unchanged. He will join pilgrims as they trek to remote ruins, shamans holding eye-opening ceremonies to connect with the spirit world, Mennonite farmers living traditional lives, and go hunting with the extraordinary Bribri tribe – a matrilineal society living isolated from the modern world. Along his route south, he’ll meet migrants making the journey in the opposition direction as they head towards the border with the US.
He will meet English speaking Belizeans, Garifuna communities of African descent, proud Nicaraguan revolutionaries who defeated the US military machine and pacifist Costa Ricans, whose country is one of the only in the world without an army. And in the region’s urban areas he sees at first hand the effects of gang violence and drug trafficking in some of the world’s most violent and dangerous cities.
At the end of the journey, before he can reach his destination, Levison will attempt to cross Darien Gap. Billed as 'the most intense and brutal 90km of terrain anywhere on earth' few have made it across, let alone even attempted it. It will take every inch of Levison's guile, tact, strength and resilience to make it to the other side and into Colombia and the end of his journey.

What are your views on landscape?

This was the title of my KS3 Landscapes Toolkit book on Landscapes. A few copies are still left, and you can buy one from the GA website.

A view is something which can add so much to a person's well being, and also add value to a property: a view of the sea adds tens of thousands to the value of a house for example.
This article describes the potential damaging of a view of London that has been in existence for hundreds of years, and which was thought to be protected: a view of St. Paul's Cathedral.
If one goes to the top of the new Tate Modern extension, one can see a wonderful view across to the Cathedral.

But you can also see the proliferation of tall buildings, some of which are not to everyone's taste.

There are some views of St. Pauls Cathedral, the Monument, Tower of London and other buildings which can't be blocked as they are protected.

The views and directions can be seen on this map, and there's also an interactive version on the link above.

I also wrote about this idea for the work that I did as a way of using GIS, but it never really got developed to the same degree as was originally planned.

Here's a statement from St. Paul's cathedral.
The Leadenhall Building's 'cheese grater' shape was apparently so that a classic view to the cathedral was not impinged upon.
This is shown in the London View Management Plan.

Image: Alan Parkinson

ChallenGEO1 - final day

Final day of the first week of the year, which means a chance to get involved in the first of my 52 geographical challenges for the year.

Head out to somewhere within 5 minutes of where you live and capture its sense of place in an image.

A new challenge will appear here tomorow.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Follow your clothes

It's the time of year when many people are wearing new socks and underpants that Father Christmas brought them. Or perhaps a Christmas jumper.
Do you know where these would have been made, and by whom?
Are they ethically sourced?
Made by people earning a good wage?

There are some ways that you can find that out, and I've been working with some of those people for some time now. I'm gearing up to teach our unit on the Geography of our Stuff. Where does it come from?
Jo Salter has set up a company where she is able to follow the origins of the cloth and the other materials that go into her ethically made clothing.
There's a good report in the East Anglian Daily Times on this local company.
Where does it come from? is the name of the company, and you can also check out their social media work on Facebook and elsewhere. Connects with my work with Follow the Things.
Here's the traceability function that the company offers.

Each garment has a label with a code, which tells the story of the garment when entered into the website.

Thursday, 5 January 2017


Dug this one out of the collection earlier... one of the best... and 30 years old...

Sweet the rose - sharp the thorn
Meek the soil and proud the corn
Blessed the lamb that would be born
Within this green and pleasant land.

Twig work - Google Expeditions

A few years ago, when I was freelance, I spent quite a few months writing the resources to go with their Geography film - it ended up being a fairly mega project with tens of thousands of words written for it - film scripts to edit, and various other work to create the package which accompanies Twig's Geography Films. They have won quite a few awards for this supporting content.

Just before Christmas I spent a few days working indirectly for Twig again, as part of a team of people creating Google Expeditions lesson plans. These involved me writing about a range of geographical topics, including the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef, and the conquest of Everest.

They can be viewed on the TES website along with others written by other colleagues. Not all of mine have been added at the time of writing.

Good to see I'm also still mentioned on the Twig website as part of the Twig team. Always happy to help guys!

Options leaflets

It's coming close to Options time when students choose their courses for the next few years...

The GA has some leaflets, which are an updated version of the original, which I put together while working for the GA.

They can be ordered from the GA shop.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017


A lovely monograph to start off a new year of reading.

The book shelves in my house are groaning with unread books, but I can't resist something as attractive as this Little Toller edition, and have already finished it as one of my first reads of 2017. I'm taking part in the #52books2017 challenge on GoodReads, so I've fulfilled my first week's quota at least. It's a little too late to be added to the GeoLibrary, but can definitely go on the overflow shelving.
Some lovely quotes about the ability of snow to transform a landscape.

Structural Learning Research Project at King's Ely

As part of the Teacher Learning Communities (TLCs) which we are involved in at King's Ely, we have termly meetings of our groups. We are now at the point where we are pairing up and, about to start using the STRIDE coaching model to develop one aspect of our teaching.

STRIDE (Strengths, Target, Real Situation, Ideas, Decision and Evaluate)

I have chosen to focus on the work I've been doing with Google Expeditions as my focus, and in the meantime I have been writing some of the lesson plans that can be found on the TES Resources page.
As part of this work, we welcomed Shailey Minocha from the Open University.

One of the other Teacher Learning Communities was teamed up with Paul from Better Thinking. 
He has produced a set of blocks and some means of using them to explore topics by 'building' structures. These resemble mini whiteboards which are on Lego-like bricks. The blocks are the idea of Paul Main, and are used to scaffold thinking and communicate ideas.

Structural Learning is the name of this approach, and we will be sharing more of the outcomes as the research project develops.

Inequality - the world's greatest threat?

I've just been reading Stephen Hawking... not the 'Brief History of Time' but a piece in The Guardian on the 2nd of December.
He talks about how he lives in a privileged 'bubble' in Cambridge, and how this connects with ideas of inequality, which he sees as being the world's major threat.

"We need to break down, not build up, barriers within and between nations. If we are to stand a chance of doing that, the world’s leaders need to acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many. With resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, we are going to have to learn to share far more than at present".

Check out Unlimited World

This has been launched with some new content, including a good article by Ben Saunders.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


Out last night, and the sky was remarkable as the temperature dropped. There was the added attraction of the planets either side of the crescent moon, which could be seen very clearly in my village, which is a long way from the nearest town and has very few street lights.
Peter Gibbs and Tristan Gooley explained some of the science behind the phenomenon.

And that reminded me of this Rush song 'Earthshine'

New Natural disasters book: The Cure for Catastrophe

Just arrived.
Looks excellent...

ChallenGEO1 - an update

We're in the third day of the first week of the year, which means there are 4 days left to get involved in the first of my 52 geographical challenges for the year. I spent some time today working out the next 10 or so challenges to take me through to March, and trying to connect them with key events in the calendar.

Here are some of the images that have been taken within 5 minutes of home and kindly added to the Flickr group.

You can also catch the first few days of my new Geography Vademecum blog, where I'm turning the clock back 30 years to when I was a trainee Geography teacher...

Hans Rosling - Nature profile

It's customary at this time of year to reflect on the year that has just passed, and some of the highlights and lowlights, as well as looking forward.
Hans Rosling is one of the people who has most influenced my work during 2016.

This Nature piece on Hans describes his work. If you haven't used Gapminder or Dollar Street you need to check them out.

New VR article in Independent Education Today journal

A few months ago, I was asked to write an article on the visit that Shailey Minocha and colleague Ana from the Open University, as part of their work with Google Expeditions.
I submitted the article and forgot about it.

It's now available to view online as it's been published in the latest issue of 'Independent Education Today'
They got my job title a little wrong, but otherwise the article was just about as I wrote it.

I've also been working on some of the resources that I mentioned in the final paragraph of the article. Good to be writing for Google Expeditions.

UK Blog Awards

Thanks to those people who nominated me for the UK Blog Awards.
Sadly, I wasn't shortlisted, but it's great to see that Victoria Hewett's 'Mrs. Humanities' blog has been shortlisted.
She has shared a wealth of resources, and also coordinates the BuddyBox scheme which I participated in last year.

Good to see a geography-related blog making the short list. 
Fingers crossed for later in the year.

Monday, 2 January 2017


Spent a few days before Christmas writing some resources for Google Expeditions.
There was also a chance to revisit some previous work with Digital Explorer, where I came across this clip of someone jumaring... perhaps a word to challenge students with on your return, whenever that may be...