Promoting Reading Across The School

As a contribution to a whole-school policy to promote reading, I have made a number of posters to advertise the books I have been reading recently. Many of them are have a geographical flavour, but the titles also reveal my interest in different sports.
I have displayed the posters in and around my room, and also on noticeboards throughout the school. They have generated considerable interest amongst students, and it has been pleasing when they have come forward to ask questions about the books, and test me on some of the content. The posters have also provided a stimulus to talk to students about their own reading – and some of them have even started making their own posters to display.
I am now regularly asked how I am getting on with my current book, and when the next poster will appear – which has encouraged me to find a bit more time in a busy schedule to lose myself in a good book.
The posters that have appeared to date are shown below:
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Linking With Argentina – A British Council Project

This month’s blog consists of a reflection on a trip to Argentina, made back in November. It was organised through the British Council’s ‘Connecting Classrooms’ programme, which supports teachers who want to try to build sustainable partnerships with schools in different parts of the world. The programme provides an opportunity for partner schools to explore a variety of social, environmental and cultural themes, and is a growing community which now includes over 5,200 schools and 936,000 young people across the world. Connecting Classroomsequips students with a deeper understanding of other countries and cultures, their rights and responsibilities as global citizens, and the skills needed to work in a global economy and build a fairer, more sustainable world.Teachers also benefit from gaining understanding of other countries’ education systems, being better equipped to teach about global issues, and improving their own teaching skills.

The thermometer read 32 degrees as we journeyed from the airport into Buenos Aires, the flowers of the jacaranda trees shining with electric lilac against the grey city streets. This was my third visit to the city known as the ‘Paris of the South’, and it was good to absorb some familiar sights as our taxi picked its way slowly through the dense traffic towards our hotel in the east of the city.

Arg3My room was on the fifth floor, and I drew the curtains to a fantastic view over the famous Recoleta Cemetery. It is said that the real estate within the walls boasts the highest land prices in the city, and somewhere deep in the middle of the cityscape of elaborate tombs and memorials is the final resting place of national heroine, Eva Peron.

Arg1The weather held for the next day, when there was a chance to visit some of the regular tourist attractions, such as the Casa Rosada (Pink House), Plaza De Mayo, and the giant obelisco in Plaza de La Republica, overlooking 16 lanes of busy traffic – allegedly the widest street in the world. I was really pleased to return to the San Telmo area – steeped in the history of the tango – and visit the antiques market that creates itself every Sunday morning, selling coins, old vinyl, crafts and silver cutlery. I also enjoyed a pilgrimage to La Boca, the slightly edgy old port area where the corrugated houses painted in a multitude of bright colours surround La Bombonera stadium (the ‘Chocolate Box’) – the home to one of the city’s leading soccer sides, Boca Juniors. Relaxing Arg2on the tourist street of Caminito with a cold beer at a street table in the sun, while watching the tango dancers strut their stuff, certainly helped to get rid of any remaining jet lag.

Most of the afternoon was spent in the Puerto Madero area – an area of old riverside industry that had been regenerated in a similar fashion to London’s docklands. Much development has taken place her since my first visit around ten years ago, and this part of the city is now a substantial asset to both portenos (citizens of Buenos Aires) and tourists alike. Apart from the old brick warehouses now housing smart shops and exclusive restaurants, one major feature in this area is the reclaimed wetland nature reserve (Reserva Ecological Costanera Sur), which is home to over 200 bird species – and just a few minutes from the centre of the city.

However, with our weekend sight-seeing over, it was soon time to apply ourselves to the purpose of the visit, which was as part of a British Council ‘Connecting Classrooms’ project. I was not looking forward to the 5 hour coach journey to Mar Del Plata, where our school twins were to be found. As it turned out, the journey with the amusingly named ‘Tony’s Tours’, was a pleasure. With a modest speed limit carefully observed by the driver, combined with full reclining seats on the upper deck, it was possible to relax in some comfort and watch the world go by. After we had slowly made our way to the edge of the city limits, we passed huge shanty settlements clinging to the roadside, before reaching the open plains of the Argentinian countryside. The vast expanse of the flat landscape was punctuated by grain silos and giant poly tunnels, with beef cattle grazing in huge numbers, and horses nearly as common, often wading through the often flooded pastures. Although our trip took a full five hours, it covered only a tiny section on our map of Argentina – demonstrating the true scale of this enormous country.

Mar Del Plata is a large city of 800,000 inhabitants with an interesting history. It is a huge beach resort that has grown around a core of an old fishing port and a military base.  Still the main coastal playground for the citizens of Buenos Aires and the rest of the country, it was once said that if the rich Argentinians were not holidaying in France, they would be found in Mar Del Plata. After exploring the seemingly endless chain of sandy bay beaches, we measured on the map a virtually unbroken stretch of sand covering no less than 50 kilometres.This made the beaches of our own famous ‘golden coast’ of North Devon seem quite insignificant.

Arg7 We had the opportunity to visit a range of educational institutions, starting in a state secondary school before moving on to a private school, and eventually to the city’s university. The educational system in Argentina is divided into four distinct levels, with the preprimary level (kindergarten)  not compulsory and enrolling children from 3- to 5-years-old. This is followed by primary (elementary) level schooling, which is compulsory and consists of 7 grades. Pupils at this level must remain until all 7 grades are completed or, in case of repetition of grades, until age 14. The secondary level is attended by youths from 12- to 17-years-old, or 16 if they are employed and attend night school. Higher education includes private and national universities and institutions that provide teacher training and advanced training in technical careers.

The school year in Argentina runs from March to December and lasts about 200 days. Schools are closed for national holidays, such as Good Friday and Easter, and two weeks in July for vacation. The students we met were all looking forward to their long holiday break between school years, lasting for up to 10 weeks.

One interesting aspect of the Argentinian system is that public universities are tuition-free and open to anyone. However, the hidden costs of education, like transportation and materials, often makes it hard for students from low-income families to enrol.

Arg6The students we met were all delightful. They were articulate in their second language, and gave us a really warm welcome in each school, asking great questions as we exchanged ideas and thoughts on our different countries and education systems. It was something of a surprise to find a shortage of basic classroom resources in all of the institutions we visited. Even at the inspiringly named ‘Einstein Academy’, an over-subscribed state school supported by small fees paid by parents, only a tiny library was available for students, and the small classrooms were virtually empty of textbooks sets, whiteboards and computers. The green chalkboards brought back fond memories from my early days of teaching. At the University, where we spoke at length with a group of trainee teachers, the scruffy decor and aged furniture also provided a surprise. The classroom we used had a hole in the roof which leaked badly in the winter months. Perhaps the luxury of ‘free’ provision at this stage of education meant that there was limited resources left to provide the peripherals we might have expected to find?

Arg4I was interested to find direct reference to the Malvinas conflict in some of the schools. In one, a sign above each classroom door features a photograph and obituary of a young soldier who lost his life in the conflict. Questions from the students sought out our views on this sensitive issue, and we responded honestly, but with a deliberate diplomacy.

The contact with students is always a highlight of a trip like this, but possibly the most productive part is making face to face contact with the teachers. Although we had already exchanged e-mails, projects like this are given a real boost when you meet fellow professionals properly. Students had already exchanged written work and films describing ‘Amazing Places’ in their own countries, and also swapped student views on ‘What Defines Your Country?’ as well as answers to the rather more open-ended title ‘What is Happiness?’ Teachers were able to discuss future developments, and how best to reinforce the links that had been started. One issue I did not anticipate was the difficulty for Argentinian students to gain easy access to technology. I based the work in my classroom around the use of I Pads, and have had to rethink this idea to better fit our mutual circumstances. During our trip, we made plans with the teachers to forge direct links with Skype calls, and also make use of social media and a web site to allow students to manage and control the sharing of their work.. It is hoped that we can reinforce and sustain our links using these ideas before May, when we look forward to hosting our Argentinian partners here in North Devon. Perhaps one day, we will be able to establish a programme that allows for student exchanges as well.

This is the second British Council project I have been involved with, previously hosting a group of visiting teachers from Saudi Arabia, before travelling to Riyadh to see schools there. The visiting Saudis made quite an impact in North Devon, their national dress being a really unusual sight for local people. Their interactions with students proved a really interesting and valuable experience for all concerned, and we were incredibly well looked after on our reciprocal visit. The value of exchanges such as this as a focus to breakdown stereotypes and develop global citizenship cannot be overestimated. We are currently involved in establishing another British Council project with a partner school in Nepal, as well as contributing to Neil Emery’s Amazon project which uses I Pad technology to establish links with village schools in the Ecuadorian rain forest. This, along with our regular visits to Ugandan schools as part of our cooperative work with the Amigos charity, puts us well on the way to my goal of establishing school connections in each of the continents.

Finally, I must express my sincere thanks to Nick Langmead from Braunton Academy and John Davies from Pilton School for their leadership, guidance and hard work in helping to establish the British Council connections for a group of north Devon schools. I hope they have enjoyed the benefits of their labours as much as I and my students have!

If there are any other teachers out there who have ideas to share about establishing international school links, I would love to hear from you!


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December (Final) WARP

I made a New Year promise to include a regular slot in my blog for 2014, called my ‘monthly WARP’. This is based on an acronym where the ‘W’ stands for a web resource, the ‘A’ for an app, the ‘R’ for a reading resource, and the ‘P’ for a photograph or image.
My final WARP – for the month of December – consists of the following:


My final web site offering of is a playful one, although I have found a use for it in school. The site is jam-packed with a range of interactive quiz questions, the answers to which leading on to a light- hearted conclusion. If you sift through the masses, there are some tests that can be completed with minimum embarrassment by students – as well as some for parents and teaching staff. The link above takes you to the quiz which asks ‘What country bets fits your personality?’, and asks a series of questions about lifestyle, diet, hobbies etc. I have asked fellow teachers to complete the test to provide a range of answers for students to map and research. It provides a great ‘pair the answer with the teacher’ lesson! Students then took control, and wanted to gather results for their parents and carers, and friends of the family. It proved a useful resource to keep in the locker for emergency lesson cover or bad weather days.
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My test results matched me to New Zealand – a country I was not disappointed with. The final conclusion states: “You are an adventurous individual who enjoys being outdoors and spending time being active. You are a risk taker and have no problem striking up a conversation with a total stranger. When you travel you love to get to know the locals, and their customs, and are always up for a challenge. You thrive in a culture where others share your deep appreciation for land, and believe life is best lived outdoors.” I can live with that without embarrassment. Try it for yourself, and see which country you are matched with. What country in the world would you most NOT want to be associated with?


The final app I have chosen to highlight is ‘SloPro’ – which started as a ‘ phone app, but is now fully functional on a tablet. This piece of magic software allows you to use the film function on your device, and then slow the action (or speed it up) as is required. I have used it for fun in the speed up mode, but the slow motion tool has really helped students and myself create more meaningful explanation films of things like river flow and wave action. The end results are easily uploaded onto You Tube – really useful if your department has its own You Tube channel.
Slo Pro is free (‘my favourite price’ as @GeoBlogs taught me) to download, but for a £2.49 upgrade, you can free up extra functionality like the ability to export your movies to the camera roll, the absence of watermarks, and ability to e-mail videos. Modern ‘phones like the I Phone 6 now include much of the functionality of programmes like this.


worst journey My final book offering returns me again to my love of polar environments, and is ‘The Worst Journey in the World’ by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. This is a version of Scott’s last expedition to the Antarctic, from its departure from England in 1910 to its arrival in New Zealand in 1913. Cherry-Garrard was himself a member of the expedition, which was plagued by bad luck, poor weather conditions and disappointment. This is an ‘inside story’ to one of the most famous and tragic journeys in the annals of exploration.
“If sufficient momentum was gained the ship rode upon the thicker floes, rising up upon it and pressing it down beneath her, until suddenly, perhaps when its nearest edge was almost amidships, the weight became too great and the ice split beneath us. At other times a tiny crack, no larger than a vein, would run shivering from our bows, which widened and widened until the whole ship passed through without difficulty. Always when below one heard the grumbling of the ice as it passed along the side. But it was slow work, and hard on the engines. There were days when we never moved at all.” (page 74)


This month, I offer some of my favourite photographs from a trip I made to the Falkland Islands – a birdwatcher’s paradise!

More photos from my travels can be seen at:

Although I do not intend to continue with my monthly WARP in 2015, I will continue to highlight interesting web sites and tablet apps I come across in monthly blogs. I am always happy to receive ideas and suggestions from other geographers – so if you come across anything special, give me a shout!

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November WARP

I made a New Year promise to include a regular slot in my blog for 2014, called my ‘monthly WARP’. This is based on an acronym where the ‘W’ stands for a web resource, the ‘A’ for an app, the ‘R’ for a reading resource, and the ‘P’ for a photograph or image.
My eleventh WARP – for the month of November – consists of the following:


ScreenHunter_01 Nov. 24 20.16‘What Three Words’ (w3w) is a funky new way to locate specific points on a map. It consists of a giant grid of the world made up of 57 trillion squares of 3 metres x 3 metres. Each square has been given a 3 word address comprised of 3 words from the dictionary. what3words is a unique combination of just 3 words that identifies a 3mx3m square anywhere on the planet. It’s far more accurate than a postal address and it’s much easier to remember, use & share than a set of GPS co-ordinates. It’s a tiny piece of code that works across platforms & devices, in multiple languages. It also works offline, where there is no data connection and it works too with voice recognition.
ScreenHunter_02 Nov. 24 20.16Poor addressing might seem no more than “annoying” in some countries, but it costs businesses billions of dollars, and around the world it hampers the growth and development of nations, ultimately costing lives. The founders of this new method of geo-location claim that around 75% of the world suffers from inconsistent, complicated and poor addressing systems. This means that around 4 Billion people are invisible; unable to report crime, get deliveries, aid or simply have a name for where they live. It is their intention to give everyone in the world the ability to talk about a precise location as easily as possible. It is their mission to be the world’s address system; the universal standard for communicating location.
ScreenHunter_03 Nov. 24 20.18Each square’s address contains totally different words to its nearby squares – an example might be: Each w3w shortlink uses the w3w address in the link, such as: This can be embedded in a web site or blog, or e-mailed to a friend. By clicking on the link, you are taken to the specified location on a map on the w3w website.
It is also possible to reduce the 3 word code to a single word to make life even easier – at a cost of £1.49 a year.
If you want to check it out, try clicking on the links below to take you to my school:
I opted for a One Word Code:*Dreamland as I wasn’t too keen on the three word code: for my place of learning!


Real Chalk HD

chalkThis fun app satisfies my nostalgia for working with chalk! It is a simple programme that can be used to make display posters, leave messages on the whiteboard or make slides for presentations. The adverts are annoying, but these are lost when you upgrade from the free version.
chalk sample
There is another similar app called ‘Chalkboard’ – but it doesn’t have the quite the same chalky effect as this one!


AttentionMy selected book this month is “Attention All Shipping” by Charles Connelly. This is an extremely funny travelogue based on the different zones listed in Radio Four’s shipping forecast. These names are firmly planted in our subconscious, but do we really know where these places are, and what secrets they might reveal? Connelly sets out on a tour of the forecast to discover the answers – and along the way, discovers some of the history and culture of one of Britain’s best-loved broadcasting institutions. A must-read for all geographers!
Extract: (Describing Viking, North Utsire and South Utsire) – useful to support one of the classic coastal case studies on many a GCSE syllabus: “The North Sea. For me, the name itself conjures up swelling mounds of black water crested by foam and pockmarked by rain. It carries none of the attractions of the Caribbean Sea, with its clear, light-blue water scattered with shimmering sunlight, nor any of the mystery of, say, the Sargasso Sea. No. This is a sea, and it’s in the north. No mucking about.
It’s a stroppy old sod, the North Sea. Stormy and heavily tidal, it’s also shallow. Only north of the Shetlands does the depth reach a hundred fathoms. Over Dogger Bank the depth subsides to as little as fifty feet, and by the time you get to the Strait of Dover, you couldn’t sink St Paul’s Cathedral, even in the unlikely event of you wanting to. The North Sea pounds the east coast of Britain, knocking great lumps out of it when and where it can. Two and a half miles of coastline have disappeared since Roman times, accounting for some 30 towns and villages. Take Ravenser, a town that stood at the mouth of the Humber and was once so significant it returned 2 MPs. Gone. Claimed by the North Sea sometime in the early 16th century. Dunwich in Suffolk was once a thriving town and one of the most important ports in England, boasting six churches, a monastery, and even a mint. All gone, a new village having sprung up further inland. Half a mile of Suffolk has been pilfered by the North Sea since the 14th century.” (pages 35-36)


This month, I offer some more of my favourite photographs from a trip I made to Antarctica. Some of the ice scenery there was breathtaking:

More photos from my travels can be seen at:

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October WARP

I made a New Year promise to include a regular slot in my blog for 2014, called my ‘monthly WARP’. This is based on an acronym where the ‘W’ stands for a web resource, the ‘A’ for an app, the ‘R’ for a reading resource, and the ‘P’ for a photograph or image.
My tenth WARP – for the month of October – consists of the following:


ScreenHunter_02 Oct. 31 10.39We all use Google as a search engine, but how many make use of Google’s ‘reading age’ tool when performing a search?
This can be a useful tool for teachers wanting to cut through the mass of resources available on the web, and highlighting appropriate resources for their pupils. It should also speed up student searching for relevant materials.
To use this tool, enter a search term, click on return, and then open the ‘all results’ tab. From here, choose ‘reading level’ and all of the resources for the chosen search term will be sorted into three reading levels – basic, intermediate, and advanced. If you then click on one of these, the search will home in on the reading level of your choice, and filter out the rest. Magic!


Comics Head

ScreenHunter_04 Oct. 31 10.54Comic Life is a popular tablet app that allows easy construction of comic strips so that pupils can explain a concept or represent an issue in an interesting way. But in recent times, I have preferred to use a similar site called ‘Comics Head’. At a cost of only £2.49, this app has a much wider range of backgrounds, characters and props to pick from – and is incredibly easy to use. A great tool for storyboarding and creative classroom work – highly recommended!
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untitledMy selected book this month is an old favourite – “Into the Heart of Borneo” by Redmond O’Hanlon. This hilarious travelogue was published back in 1984, and has received more re-reads than any other book in my library. It traces O’Hanlon’s journey with companion James Fenton into the interior of a tropical jungle aiming to reach the Tiban massif. It tells of their battle with insects, discomfort and setbacks in a real adventure-story style full of humour – but at the same time a serious natural history journey into one of the last remaining unspoilt paradises.

“On the tarmac, crossing to the airport sheds, the heat of the equator hits me for the first time. It squeezed around you like the rank coils of an unseen snake, pressing the good air out of your lungs, covering you in a slimy sweat. Fifteen yards of this was enough; a mile would be impossible; five hundred miles an absurdity.” (Page 11)

“I looked at my legs. And then I looked again. They were undulating with leeches. In fact, James’ leech suddenly seemed much less of a joke. They were edging up my trousers, looping up towards my knees with alternative placements of their anterior and posterior suckers, seeming, with each rear attachment, to wave their front ends in the air and take a sniff. They were all over my boots too, and three particularly brave individuals were trying to make their way in via the air-holes. There were more on the way – in fact they were moving towards us across the jungle floor from every angle, their damp brown bodies half-camouflaged against the rotting leaves.” (Page 117)


This month, I offer some of my favourite photographs from a trip I made to Antarctica. After the horrors of crossing the Drake Passage, the ice scenery in the tranquil waters off the Antarctic Peninsula was a welcome relief!

More photos from my travels can be seen at:

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September WARP

I made a New Year promise to include a regular slot in my blog for 2014, called my ‘monthly WARP’. This is based on an acronym where the ‘W’ stands for a web resource, the ‘A’ for an app, the ‘R’ for a reading resource, and the ‘P’ for a photograph or image.
My ninth WARP – for the month of September – consists of the following:


ScreenHunter_01 Sep. 21 11.23This site is arranged in a very simple and accessible way, and allows students to examine population pyramids at a world, regional, and country scale. ScreenHunter_02 Sep. 21 11.24
It is easy to search for a pyramid of any individual country, and it is also possible to compare pyramids of different dates from 1950 to 2010. Neat!



get-attachmentThis free IOS app displays ‘real time’ data by either: year, month, week or even by a single day. Data includes – total population, births, deaths (and reasons), oil production and so on. It can be used as an interesting starter – and its on screen accumulation of data for one single day will surprise many students. There might be some questions to ask about the accuracy of the figures as they display, but it is still a thought-provoking tool for any geography lesson.


LongitudeMy selected book this month is “Longitude” by Dava Sobel. This easy read covers the problems faced by sailors in the eighteenth century in accurately locating their position by using longitude. The author writes a brief history of astronomy, navigation and horology to help describe the problem, and at the centre of the story is John Harrison, the self-taught Yorkshire clockmaker, whose forty year obsession with building a perfect timekeeper helped lead to a revolution in navigation at sea.

“The equator marked the zero degree parallel of latitude for Ptolemy. He did not choose it arbitrarily but took it on higher authority fromhis predecessors, who had derived it from nature while observing the motions of the heavenly bodies. The sun, moon, and planets pass almost directly overhead at the Equator. Likewise the tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, two other famous parallels, assume their positions at the sun’s command. They mark the northern and southern boundaries of the sun’s apparent motion over the course of the year.” (page 3)
“Harrison spent the next five years piecing together the first sea clock, which has come to be called Harrison’s No. 1, for it marked the first in a series of attempts – H1 for short. His brother James helped, though neither one of them signed the timepiece, strangely enough. The going train ran on wooden wheels, as in the pair’s previous collaborations. But overall, it looked like no other clock ever seen before or since.
Built of brightly shining brass, with rods and balances sticking out at odd angles, its broad bottom and tall projections recall some ancient vessel that never existed. It looks like a cross between a galley and a galleon, with a high, ornate stern facing forward, two towering masts that carry no sails, and knobbed brass oars to be manned by tiers of unseen rowers. It is a model ship, escaped from its bottle, afloat on the sea of time.” (page 77)
“Sauerkraut. That was the watchword on Captain James Cook’s triumphant second voyage, which set sail in 17772. By adding generous portions of the German staple to the diet of his English crew (some of whom foolishly turned up their noses at it), the great circumnavigator kicked scurvy overboard. Not only is sauerkraut’s chief ingredient, cabbage, loaded with vitamin C but the fine-cut cabbage must be salted and allowed to ferment until sour to be worthy of the name. Practically pickled in brine, sauerkraut keeps forever aboard ship – or at least as long as the duration of a voyage around the world. Cook made it his oceangoing vegetable, and sauerkraut went on saving sailor’s lives until lemon juice and , later, limes replaced it in the provisions of the royal Navy.” (page 139)
“”I am standing on the prime meridian of the world, zero degrees longitude, the centre of time and space, literally the place where East meets West. It’s paved right into the courtyard of the Old Royal Observatory at Greenwich. At night, buried light shines through the glass-covered meridian line, so it glows like a man-made midocean rift, splitting the globe in two equal halves with all the authority of the Equator. For a little added fanfare after dark, a green laser projects the meridian’s visibility ten miles across the valley to Essex.” (page 165)


This month, I offer some photographs from a trip to Costa Rica, part of a tour of Central America:

More photos from my travels can be seen at:

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Monthly WARP – August

I made a New Year promise to include a regular slot in my blog for 2014, called my ‘monthly WARP’. This is based on an acronym where the ‘W’ stands for a web resource, the ‘A’ for an app, the ‘R’ for a reading resource, and the ‘P’ for a photograph or image.
I managed to miss my eighth WARP – for August – as I was away on my holidays, so to catch up, here it is in September! The belated August WARP consists of the following:

ScreenHunter_11 Sep. 15 21.05This site has been around for a while, and provides a really thought-provoking collection of animated graphics describing our use of water. Angela Morelli is an Italian information designer based in London. Her love of design led to a long journey through industrial, communication and information design, while her love for the planet led to a strong passion for global water issues.
The site presents an interactive visualisation explaining how much water we consume indirectly through eating and drinking different foods and drinks. Coffee and beef have two of the most water-intensive production processes, with thousands of litres used to provide the amounts of food and drink you might consume in a typical day. Scroll down through the graphic to watch the story unfold. Figures displayed in this graphic come from the Water Footprint Network.
Angela has also produced a TED video called ‘The Global Water Footprint of Humanity’:

Guardian Eye Witness
This free photo-journalism app ceased to be offered as a stand alone app in September, but the service still exists as part of the Guardian newspaper ‘mother app’ – which is also free, and offers an excellent news resource. Eye Witness is a great tool that can support work in any classroom, offering a daily high quality and often thought-provoking image that can be projected onto a whiteboard and used as a starter.
Displaced people queuing for food in the Central African RepublicFor example, I recently started a lesson on ‘development’ using a ‘step into the photograph’ exercise with the recent image below of displaced people queuing for food in the Central African Republic:
Students were given speech bubble post its, and after paired discussion, chose a character in the photograph to bring to life. They thought about what the character might be thinking or saying, wrote this on the post it, and then added it to the photograph on the whiteboard. We then discussed some of the comments as a class – and it could quite easily have filled the whole lesson or led us into new directions with the chosen subject.

Some other recent Eye Witness images shown below were used at the beginning of a year seven lesson on ‘Amazing Places’ (see August 2013 blog):
Eyewitness: Migingo Island, Kenya


fatalshoreMy selected book this month is “The Fatal Shore” by Robert Hughes. The Fatal Shore was first published in 1987, and follows the history of convict transportation from Georgian Britain to Australia. It describes Australia’s painful transition from prison camp to open society, and tells the vivid story of the 160,000 men, women and children who were shipped off the face of the known world to suffer, to die, to succeed, and to go on to found a new nation. A gripping read that is hard to put down – great background to one of history’s great forced migration case studies.

“The effort to perceive the landscape and it’s people as they were is worth making, for it bears on one of the chief myths of early colonial history as understood and taught up to about 1960. This was the idea, promulgated by the early settlers and inherited from the 19th century, that the First Fleet sailed into an ‘empty’ continent, speckled with primitive animals and hardly less primitive men, so that the ‘ fittest’ inevitably triumphed. Thus the destruction of the Australian Aborigines was rationalised as natural law.” (page 7)
“As Mary Gilmore would write in 1918 of the prisoners who built Australia:’I was the convict sent to Hell, to make the desert a living well: I split the rock, I felled the tree – The nation was because of me.’ ” (page 128)
“One. Convict, Thomas Milburn, would later describe the voyage in a letter to his parents, later printed as a broadsheet in England:’We were chained two and two together and confined in the hold during the whole course of our long voyage … We were scarcely allowed a sufficient quantity of victuals to keep us alive, and scarcely any water; for my own part I could have eaten three or four of our allowances, and you know well that I was never a great eater …When any of our comrades that were chained to us died, we kept it a secret as long as we could for the smell of the dead body, in order to get their allowance of provision, and many a time have I been glad to eat the poultice that was put to my leg for perfect hunger. I was chained to Humphrey Davey who died when we were about half way, and I lay beside his corpse about a week and got his allowance.’ ” (page 145)

This month, I offer some photographs from my most recent trip abroad. In August, I travelled to Mauritius for a golf break – but still managed to fit in some geography!
These images were taken at a place called ‘The Seven Coloured Earths’ at Chamarel in the south west of the island. No-one has been able to categorically state why these undulating, dune-like knolls vary so widely in colour. Some believe the seven shades of earth were formed from volcanic ash deposits cooled at different temperatures, while others would suggest the colours of the mounds can be attributed to the differing quantity of metal oxide they contain. They are especially breathtaking first thing in the morning, when the sun is at its brightest and the colours deepen.

More photos from my world travels can be seen at:

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