North East network
The North East fieldwork network is led jointly by Michael Found, geography PGCE tutor at the University of Sunderland, and Deborah Johnson, geography tutor at Newcastle College.
The network was established in March 2009, and the first meeting was held at the University of Sunderland. This first meeting took the form of a day of free fieldwork CPD for 20 teachers from schools in Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham and Northumberland. The aim of this event was to introduce teachers to a range of new opportunities for geography fieldwork on scales ranging from very local (school grounds) to regional. Speakers from the Universities of Sunderland and Newcastle presented their ideas for fieldwork, including the topics of regeneration and social geography. The teachers also participated in some activities on nearby parkland using GPS equipment to collect data for use with Google Earth and field survey techniques.
Six teachers from the network met for a twilight session in June 2009 to follow-up this event, share some of their own local fieldwork ideas and plan some further events in the North East region.
Malcolm Snowball, Head of Geography at The Thomas Hepburn Community School in Gateshead, shared two regional fieldwork activities that he has developed and used with his students; a visit to Broxfield Farm near Alnwick, Northumberland with his GCSE students, and a Year 7 transport enquiry which takes the format of a practice controlled assessment, thus starting to prepare the students early for this new addition to the GCSE specifications.
The GCSE Broxfield Farm fieldwork example covers crop rotation, organic farming and the farmer's monthly task calendar on this dairy farm in Northumberland. The students also have to take digital photographs and locate them on a map using GPS equipment. Back at school, they use this information to create a virtual tour of the farm using Google Earth.
The Year 7 transport study involves the collection of data at three sites in the vicinity of the school. Prior to the fieldwork itself, the students set a hypothesis to study. In the field, they record land use, traffic numbers and type, and the direction of traffic flow, and use this information to write up a fieldwork report following the criteria set for the GCSE controlled assessment, and under similar working conditions. The aim of this is to start to prepare them early for the controlled assessment task.