‘Land of the Free’ for the Geography Classroom

Plenty of geography in the recently released song by ‘The Killers’ – ‘Land of the Free’. Some stunning images of refugees and the proposed Trump Wall – a great discussion starter for the classroom.

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Web Resources for the Classroom – Web Links 3: Rivers & Flooding


Image: Wikipedia Commons

Previous blogs in April and November started this series of web resources for the classroom – outlining lists for the themes of ‘Population’ and ‘Weather & Climate’. This time, for Web Links 3, I have put together a list of web sites under the topic of:

‘Rivers & Flooding’


Great site to check out if locations are at risk of flooding – either from river courses or coastal change. You can investigate a flood history of selected properties, and sign up for flood warnings. Maps can be produced of flood risk areas, and there are good sections on preparing for floods, and advice about what to do during and after a flood – with resources to download.

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Plenty of case study information on the GA web site, including Wansbeck, Morpeth (2016); UK floods (2014), Somerset Levels (2014) – and many others. Search for ‘flooding’ on this site to access information on a flash flood simulation, river Severn and Bangladesh floods.

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Enter a location or river name to gain graph data for river levels and flooding. Great for monitoring a particular river during a period of heavy rainfall and potential flooding.






A sister site to gaugemap including maps to demonstrate flood risk of selected locations.

check my flood risk


International group dedicated to protecting the world’s rivers. Loads of information on threats to rivers across the world, including dams, pollution etc. Also has sections on flood management and resources to download.

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Flood simulation produced by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Players need to make choices to form a plan to protect a small village in Central Europe from flooding and provide relevant services within the budget available.

disasters 1

disasters 2

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Type in your own chosen location, and then set your water level increase to see how the selected area would be affected by flooding.

flood map


Access a wide network of live river cams across the UK. Archived footage is available, along with a dashboard of additional features if sign up to the ‘pro’ version.

web cams


Choose a location to check for current flood warnings, or check out all active flood warnings in the UK.

flood warnings

Another sister site to gaugemap, with maps showing nearby flood alerts for selected locations.

flood alert


River level information and flood alerts by region in the UK. Displays all flood warnings or potential river problems in a region – click on individual cases for maps and more detail.

river levels


Search for waterfalls by using the map or a number of lists, eg by country, tallest waterfalls etc. Home in on an individual waterfall for detailed case study information.



Illustration of the work of a volunteer group to manage flooding issues in Calderdale. Includes a lot of information and ideas that can be applied to other locations.

slow the flow


Flood information for the UK.

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In addition, here are a few apps I have found useful:

Flood Risk Finder

Flood Alert

flood alert app

Digital Mysteries – flood simulation in Bangladesh

For Twitter users, you may want to follow:



(Plus individual county versions, eg @FloodAlerts_DEV for Devon)


Look out for the next compilation which will cover another web sites theme. Ultimately, intend to put them all the blogs together into an e-book for teachers to use. All new suggestions gratefully accepted!

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HSBC Globalisation Advert For The Classroom

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I saw this HSBC advert on TV over the Christmas period, and thought it would make a nice starter for any lessons on globalisation:


HSBC has also produced some interesting posters along this theme:


As well as some that might be useful when teaching about ‘place’:




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Making Paper Globes in the Classroom

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The mapscaping web site (see link below) has a range of globe templates available that can be downloaded and colour printed on A3 or A4 paper. These can then be folded by students to create a great little 3D globe. Great fun!

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Web Link: https://mapscaping.com/pages/folding-paper-globes

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Rapid Urban Growth in India – a Top Ten List for the Classroom


Mumbai Bridge (Image: Reuters)

I’m a sucker for a good geography list, so here is a fascinating one to start the New Year. It has been produced by Oxford Economics, following a study of 780 world cities. It predicts that the top 10 fastest-growing cities (by GDP) between 2019 and 2035 will all be in India.

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Surat, a large city in Gujarat, will see the fastest economic growth in the world, increasing by a rate of 9.2% between 2019 and 2035 – courtesy mainly of its diamond processing and IT industries.

In third place is Bangalore (officially known as Bengaluru) – India’s Silicon Valley with its booming tech industries – which is predicted to grow by 8.5% each year.

Outside of India, Phnom Penh (Cambodia) will see the fastest growth at 8.1%, while Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) will lead African cities with 7.8%.

Further lists produced by the same group show the predicted top ten cities for 2035 determined by GDP, population and GDP growth.

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Are these lists a reflection of the future economic shift from west to east? The Oxford Economics group forecast that as early as 2027, the combined GDP of all Asian cities will exceed that of North American and European cities together. By 2035 it will be 17% higher.

China is leading the way with four cities in the top ten for 2035 – Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

I used to like giving students an atlas to help them make an educated guess at the content of the lists before revealing the answer.

No doubt, more lists to come as we continue through 2019!

Source article: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/12/all-of-the-world-s-top-10-cities-with-the-fastest-growing-economies-will-be-in-india/

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Your Diet Footprint and How Different Foods Impact on the Environment


Image: BBC

A lot of people (but not me!) will be making New Year Resolutions that involve a change in their lifestyle. These may well be centred on changes to their diet – perhaps giving up (or reducing) intake of alcohol or consumption of meat as part of ‘Dry January’ or ‘Vegan New Year’.

Anyone interested in taking a closer look at their diet might want to check out the BBC web site that was released before Christmas titled “Climate Change Food Calculator: What’s Your Diet’s Carbon Footprint?”

Web link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46459714

This site allows you to enter different foods you eat along with the frequency you consume them. The site then calculates how your food choices impact on the environment.

For example:




Apparently, food production is responsible for ¼ of all greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing meat and dairy products can cut down a diet’s environmental impact as meat and other animal products produce more than ½ of food related greenhouse gas emissions despite producing only 1/5 of the calories we consume. The site’s calculator allows you to compare the climate impact of 34 different food items, while helping you pose questions like “What is the difference between beef and chicken?” “Does a bowl of rice produce more greenhouse gases than a plate of chips?” And “What is more environmentally friendly, wine or beer?”

The web site also examines how the same food type can have a range of different impacts, and how the different places where food is produced can have different environmental impacts.




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Burgernomics – Using the ‘Big Mac Index’ to Compare Countries



Many economists believe that exchange rates should eventually adjust to make the price of goods the same in different countries. However, a basket of goods bought in say, the USA is in reality quite different to the same basket of goods bought in, for example, China.

So, the Big Mac Index was devised by Pam Woodall from The Economist in 1986 as a light-hearted guide to study if currencies are at the correct level. By replacing the shopping basket with a Big Mac hamburger, the Index was devised as an informal illustration of PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), the notion that $1 should buy the same amount of goods in all countries. As a Big Mac contains virtually the same ingredients in different countries across the world (it is produced in over 100 countries), it can be used to show if any currencies are over or under valued.



The Big Mac PPP exchange rate between two countries is obtained by dividing the price of a Big Mac in one country (in its currency) by the price of a Big Mac in another country (in its currency). This value is then compared with the actual exchange rate; if it is lower, then the first currency is under-valued (according to PPP theory) compared with the second, and conversely, if it is higher, then the first currency is over-valued.

For example, if the price of a Big Mac is $4 in the USA as compared to £2.50 in the UK, we would expect the exchange rate would be 1.60 (4 divided by 2.50 = 1.60). If the exchange rate of dollars to pounds is any greater the Big Mac Index would state that the pound was overvalued; any lower and it would be undervalued.

The Economist has published data for the Big Mac Index annually since it was first outlined in 1986.





However, the idea does have flaws. For instance, the Big Mac differs across the world in size, some ingredients and availability. Some ingredients like sesame seeds might be cheaper in one country, although the price of transporting them to other locations may eliminate any profit, and there might also be import taxes to consider. Also, it is not just the price of ingredients that matter. Prices for things like labour and ground rents may vary greatly from country to country. Geography also has an influence – for example, the demand for Big Macs is not as large in countries such as India as in the United States. Also, in Africa McDonald’s is only present in Morocco, Egypt and South Africa.

Incidentally, there has been an alternative index created solely for Africa called the KFC Index to compile data. In 2007, an Australian bank tried a variation the Big Mac index, called the “iPod index”, working on the idea that since the iPod was manufactured at a single place, the value of iPods should be more consistent globally (however, this theory ignored shipping costs, which varied depending on how far the product was delivered from its “single place” of manufacture in China). In the same year, the comparison platform Versus came up with a version called The Starbuck’s Chai Latte Global Index, to compare prices worldwide.
Perhaps more usefully, a Swiss bank expanded the idea of the Big Mac index to include the amount of time that an average local worker in a given country must work to earn enough to buy a Big Mac.


I recently stumbled across this connected indicator on the excellent ‘Statistica’ web site ( https://www.statista.com) which looks at the comparative costs of a night out in selected cities across the world. It seems that Saturday night escapades are the cheapest in Mexico City whilst your pocket is hit hardest in  Zurich, Miami or Stockholm. I wonder who got the fun job of researching this data?


In 2018, McDonalds celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Big Mac by issuing its own currency – the Mac Coin. Each Mac Coin was to be redeemable for one free Big Mac the world over (well, over 50 countries anyway) , but only up to the end of 2018.

So, what is the Big Mac Index useful for? Economists can use it to consider how exchange rates will move in the long term, while consumers can use it to compare prices in different countries, and work out how far their money will go when they are travelling. Geography teachers can use it to compare living costs in different countries, and observe changes over time as countries develop at different speeds.


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