The world today is very different from the world of our parents and grandparents. It is this dynamism that makes the study of Geography relevant and exciting. There has never been a greater need to be aware of the changing world around us.
Turn on your TV almost any day and you will see coverage of events such as flooding, storms or earthquakes and hear about issues such as conflicts and wars, poverty, sustainability and global warming.
These events and issues are at the very heart of Geography. Geography helps make sense of our world!
At Key Stage 3 we expand our knowledge and understanding of our world throughout the three years. The focus of our work in Year 8 is Northern Ireland and the British Isles. This expands to Europe in Year 9 and to Global Issues in Year 10.
In Year 8, pupils become ‘Map Detectives’ as they learn how to read a map and they investigate topics such as weather in the British Isles and the growth and development of local settlements.
In Year 9, the context of pupils’ investigations moves to Europe. The year begins with a brief study of the European Union, the reason for its existence, its growth and impact on our lives and considers why some people in Britain wanted to leave the EU. Pupils then start out on their “Journey Through Europe”. On this “journey”, we investigate Physical and Human Geography issues in several European countries such as Norway, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. Some examples of the topics discussed include:
- The role of ice in shaping the landscape of Norway.
- Global Warming in The Netherlands and ways to reduce our carbon footprint
- Migration in Germany
- Tourism in Italy.
The Year 10 scheme of work is focused on “The World” and consequently examines global issues: poverty and development, tectonic hazards and global population pressure and tropical rainforests.
Progress in Geography is monitored through ongoing assessments. These take a variety of forms from essays and structured responses to newspaper reports, projects, posters and presentations. For example, in Year 8, pupils get the opportunity to become weather forecasters using a powerpoint package; in Year 9 they design Ecohouses; and in Year 10, pupils utilise a GIS (Geographical Information Systems) package to decide where to build an earthquake-resistant hospital in San Francisco.
The GCSE course also reflects the changing nature of our world and so its content is contemporary and up-to-date. At RSD we follow the CCEA examination specification; the specification can be viewed by following this link: http://ccea.org.uk/geography/
The course is divided into 3 units:
Unit 1: Understanding Our Natural World (physical geography)
Unit 2: Living in Our World (human geography)
Unit 3: Fieldwork
Units 1 and 2 are both 1 ½ hour papers, whereas unit 3 is one-hour long. There is no coursework.
Topics covered for unit 1 include how water shapes the land, as we examine rivers and coasts. We consider weather and climate and how tectonic forces cause earthquakes and volcanoes. Unit 2 considers population pressures and the role and impact of migration on countries involved. The changing nature of urban areas is examined and this topic forms the basis of work for unit 3. A one-day fieldtrip takes place to Belfast, where pupils are expected to collect data which is brought into the unit 3 examination. Other topics in unit 2 include a study of poverty and development and how we might manage world resources more sustainably. By studying this course, pupils are aware of local, national and global issues and they develop a host of skills. It is for these reasons that employers like Geographers!
Geography at A-Level also follows the CCEA specification and is made up of AS Level (40%) and the A2 Level (60%). Both parts are divided along the Physical and Human lines, with a third paper in each year developing skills. At AS, unit 3 covers fieldwork skills and skills and techniques used by geographers. A2 unit 3 takes a very different form as pupils adopt a role and they must write a report about a controversial issue, deciding whether a planning scheme should go ahead or not.
Physical geography topics over the two years include: rivers, ecosystems, weather, tectonic hazards and coasts, whilst human geography topics include: population, settlement, development, ethnic diversity and cultural geography.
It is clear that Geography acts as the bridge between the Sciences and Arts and so our A Level pupils come with a diverse range of subject combinations, some with Science subjects and Maths, and some with Arts subjects and Languages.
Since Geography is the world around us, we are keen to expose our pupils to the real world. To this end, we run a one-day fieldtrip to Belfast for Year 8 pupils, where they examine the changes that have occurred in the Laganside and Titanic areas of inner city Belfast. This provides an opportunity for pupils to undertake a geographical enquiry from the Planning stage through to the Evaluation stage, something that is of primary importance at Key Stage 4 and beyond. To support our Mapwork, pupils have a go at the Orienteering Course in the school grounds.
Year 9 pupils participate in an environmental workshop called ‘Green up their Act’ which complements the work covered on global warming and sustainability.
In Year 10, pupils have the opportunity to get involved with numerous political and ethical issues through the Poverty and Development unit. They run a Fairtrade stall, in collaboration with the RE and FT departments and they also experience a ‘sweatshop’, as they become workers in a shoe factory. One aim throughout this key stage is that all children realise that they have an important role to play in the decisions that impact the world through their lifestyle choices, and that they can make a difference!
As mentioned above, fieldwork takes on a greater role in Key Stages 4 and 5. A one-day fieldtrip to Belfast is required to undertake data collection for GCSE unit 3, but from time to time, additional one-day trips are organised. These include a joint Biology-Geography trip to Murlough sand dunes to practise sampling techniques, followed by time in Newcastle, County Down, examining coastal engineering methods.
At AS Level, there is a 3-day residential trip to Magilligan Field Centre to investigate vegetation succession on dunes and the changes downstream in a local river. As well as collecting data for the unit 3 exam, these activities build a great sense of teamwork within the department between pupils and pupils, and between pupils and staff.
Geography News Articles
Eighteen Year 13 Geographers went on a field trip to Magilligan Field Centre from 22nd to 24th March. They learned about sand dunes at the Umbra-Magilligan Sand Dune System and fluvial characteristics of the Curly Burn River.
From September through to November, Year 10 had been studying Poverty and Development. We finished the unit of work by looking at the role of aid in raising development around the world.