One of the ways the Society demonstrates the relevance of geography to young people is through its flagship Geography Ambassador scheme.
Launched in 2005 and kindly supported by Esri UK, the scheme harnesses the knowledge and passion of undergraduate, postgraduate and graduate geographers from universities and the workplace, who act as advocates for the subject in the classroom and beyond.
Each year, Geography Ambassadors complete more than 1,100 school sessions, engaging around 30,000 school children with material that can be based around any aspect of geography. Prior to leading sessions, the Ambassadors receive a five hour training session from the scheme’s coordinator, Simon Faulkner, who visits around 30 universities throughout the academic year.
Views from the Geography Ambassador scheme
Dan Flanagan, a Geography Ambassador currently studying for a BA in Geography at the University of Lancaster, emphasises the importance of demonstrating the relevance of geography to students:
“Helping kids make the connection between the geography they study in the classroom and their own lives is what we aim to do during school visits. Lots of children see geography in a set way, and it’s important to show them how, through its ability to make them think differently about the world, the subject is very relevant to them.”
This includes where the subject can take them. Rebecca Joss, a geography teacher whose year nine students recently attended the scheme’s Going Places with Geography event, highlights the importance of this:
“Coming into this event, when asked what jobs you could get with a geography degree, most of the students would have suggested one of a small number of stereotypical positions. Their minds are definitely being opened up to the different directions geography can take them. It’s so important to catch them at the right age.”
The scheme also benefits the university students who take part. Some, such as Juliette Smith, an undergraduate at the University of Leicester, are considering a career as a teacher, others are not; but all are enjoying sharing their passion for the subject while gaining new skills:
“When Simon came to Leicester the year after I became a Geography Ambassador, he asked me to talk about my experience of being involved with the scheme. I was on the spot, and I was able to talk confidently for five minutes on why it is such a good scheme. I couldn’t have done that a year before. It’s definitely helped me improve my verbal presentation skills.”
Geography is an increasingly popular subject at GCSE and A Level: Over 225,000 pupils took a GCSE geography exam in 2014 and over 33,000 took a geography exam at A Level.
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