Adopting a holistic approach to geography
During the last academic year, as an experienced Geography teacher I felt a certain frustration with our geography curriculum as I felt I wasn’t always able to share my passion for the subject with our students. This was because I was attempting to support students to achieve good exam grades, which meant I was focused almost exclusively on exam skills, case studies, mark schemes, etc. It seemed that personally I was experiencing geography in a very holistic way – via documentaries, podcasts, outdoor activities etc – but for most of my time as a geography teacher I failed to communicate that view of geography to my students.
When I started this academic year, I decided I wanted to address this frustration. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just focused on the “prescribed” curriculum, but that I was able to , in some way, impart my own passion for exploring geography with them. Within the focus of the Cultural Capital umbrella I felt this was the ideal time to start exploring new approaches.
That is the context in which I came up with the concept of a geography newsletter, which is one of many initiatives I have implemented in order to adopt a holistic approach to geography. The idea was inspired by my school’s weekly Sports News – which is a similar initiative by the Sport and Health team.
How the newsletter started
I created a student committee that consists of hard working, enthusiastic students of different ages who volunteered. I gave them some overall guidelines but allowed them to pick topics they wanted to write about. The writing pieces are quite short intentionally as we didn’t want to make the newsletter tiring, but we are using a lot of hyperlinks to direct students to interesting websites/videos etc where they can learn more about each topic addressed by the newsletter. This is also a way to make the newsletter interactive and accessible to our diverse cohort of pupils.
What we have learned so far
Even though we have just launched the first newsletter in June, I already see a huge amount of opportunities. We are discussing and learning new topics in geography, of course, but I think we are doing much more than that. We are learning about how to do research, about plagiarism, different geography information channels (e.g. National Geographic, WWF etc), communication, ICT skills and so much more! We are really, I believe, starting to see geography for what it is: an inspiring holistic subject.
Juliana Vianna, Alperton Community School, Twitter @vianna_geog
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