You Might As Well Face It You’re Addicted To Maps – GA Conference 2016 Workshop

ScreenHunter_02 Feb. 18 17.49On Saturday April 9th, I ran a workshop at the 2016 GA Conference titled: “You Might As Well Face It, You’re Addicted to Maps”. This session was part of the ‘Student and NQT Pathway’ – aimed at providing NQTs, or others at an early stage in their careers, with a toolkit for teaching quality geography.

The purpose of the workshop was to bombard the audience with a number of different ideas for integrating maps into their teaching. I have my own teaching style, so always point out that the content of my workshops are rather like marmite – some will like them, but others will decide they are not for them. However, by providing a wide range of ideas and activities, I always hope that the people who have given up time to listen to me go away with something they can use themselves.

Link to workshop Powerpoint:

With only a 50 minute slot to work with, I deliberately avoided any lengthy theoretical discussion. I talked briefly about ‘place’ as a key concept, and strongly made the point that all ideas offered need to be given context in a sequence of lessons if they are to have any value. I offered these wise words from Margaret Roberts to back up this point:

“I think that what is studied in geography lessons should be location and places within a wider context. Places, regions, countries and continents do not exist in isolation but are inter-connected; the location of what is studied in relation to other places is significant”

After examining some examples of shockingly awful general world knowledge through a few ‘You Tube’ clips, we got on with the business of sharing ideas about the use of maps.

Picture1The workshop-style at GA conferences tries to incorporate a number of hands-on experiences, so we started with my favourite map exercise – maps from memory, inspired by the work of David Leat in his ‘Thinking Through Geography’ publications. I like to use this technique at the beginning of a unit of work, for example when studying the BRIC countries.



Picture2There was also time to construct some maps on the floor using masking tape – with the suggestion made to ‘map bomb’ the school by producing these in corridor spaces. There is a need here to speak nicely to cleaning staff and caretakers, but I was always surprised by the way students respected these maps – walking around them rather than over them, and replacing any tape that had become unattached. A subliminal love of maps developing here, perhaps? In a longer session, we could have moved on to make desktop maps from crisps, digestive biscuits, M&Ms, strawberry laces, wool and string – but had to make do with some photos from the Powerpoint.


There was time to try a ‘messy maps’ exercise where students draw a real-time map from a story read to them by the teacher – the example used was set in the context of a unit of work on rain forest settlements.

Messy Maps Story

Picture4After looking at a number of different examples of world maps, we examined globe representations, and how simple world maps can be drawn on oranges or inflated balloons. We then moved closer to home and looked at ways to draw maps of the UK – starting with the ‘Witch holding the pig’ that became popular in late 19th Century satirical maps, and moving on to constructing triangle maps, using an idea borrowed from the great David Rogers Esq.


Picture8I only had time for a passing mention of some web resources that can be used in the classroom, and set the audience some homework to check out my list of ‘top thirty’ map-themed web sites which is included below. Many of these have obvious applications within lessons, but some of them like the tracking maps for social media, shipping and animals need the application of a creative brain to make a contribution to student learning. Any new ideas would be gratefully received!

Top Thirty Map Themed Web Sites

Picture6As time quickly ran out, I added more to the homework by highlighting some other key web-based resources for further investigation. I urged new teachers to consider investing in subscriptions to two fantastic products. Firstly, ‘Digimap’, which at around £120 a year (the price of half a dozen textbooks) is tremendous value for money. I found this invaluable in my teaching, and discovered that once the students are familiar with its platform (so simple and intuitive they will pick it up instantly), they will find all sorts of uses for it in their work – not just in the geography classroom. I particularly valued the contribution it made to field studies within all age groups.

Picture9Secondly, I urged the audience to investigate the potential from Esri’s Arc GIS package. A free trail is available, and after that, subscription comes in at only around a hundred pounds. I am still exploring the many possibilities of this software, and have become hooked on the ‘story maps’ function as a way of combining images and text with place maps.

There just wasn’t time to consider some ideas for teaching OS map skills – but perhaps I can return to this in a later blog.

I hope that some (if not all) of the ideas were of use to my patient audience, and perhaps also to readers who did not make the workshop. I look forward to hearing feedback from any ideas used back in classrooms, and would welcome any new activities involving the use of maps in geography teaching.

So little time – so much to cover ……..



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GA TeachMeet 2016 – Emotional Mapping

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 19 00.07The first GA Conference Teachmeet was an overwhelming success last year, so I was really pleased to get the opportunity to be involved again at the 2016 event. I find it quite difficult to limit myself to a short six minute slot, but decided this time to share some memories from the many fieldtrips I enjoyed during my 35 year teaching career.

I began with the following figures that summarise my commitment to fieldtrips over the years:

 7 Ski trips to Europe

20 Lake District fieldweeks

18 Lundy Island fieldweeks

6 whole-year Dartmoor residential trips

4 Uganda trips

3 Iceland trips (on behalf of Rayburn Travel)

 TOTAL: 2100+ students – 380 full days

So, over a year spent on trips away with students!

In addition, I have organised any amount of day trips for students through all age groups to various parts of the UK. I am unashamedly proud of this contribution, and it brought back many happy memories to tell some stories of experiences and events from some of my trips.

However, the real purpose of a Teachmeet should not be so self-indulgent – and should be a forum to share ideas that can be easily taken back to use in the classroom. So, in apology, I finished my slot by offering a simple fieldwork exercise that can be carried out within the school grounds. This consists of an ‘affective mapping’ inquiry, and is summarised below.

If any reader attended the Teachmeet this year – I would welcome any feedback, along with any fieldwork resources that they have used successfully with students.

Looking forward to 2017 …….. ?


Some of the best fieldwork can be completed in the local area – it does not always have to include exotic or far-flung locations.

IMG_1654This exercise is an ‘affective’ or ‘emotional’ mapping task that I have used with year seven students soon after their arrival in their new school. I have a feeling it might also work well as part of a transition programme, when students make the challenging shift from primary to secondary school.

“The human landscape can be read as a landscape

of exclusion …. The simple questions we should be

asking are: Who are places for? Whom do they

exclude and how are these prohibitions maintained

in practice?” (Sibley, 1995)

 The purpose of the inquiry is to allow students the opportunity to identify areas of their school in which they feel safe, secure and happy – as well as those areas in which they feel other emotions.

An introductory lesson can explore different emotions – see the Powerpoint presentation below – and devise a suitable key for recording. Maps of the school and surrounding grounds are then provided for the students, although working with the tablets, many of them preferred to access their own maps from ‘Digimap’ – a wonderfully versatile classroom resource.

Emotional Mapping at SMCC

IMG_1655The students then explore the school grounds in small groups, and use coloured stickers or their own chosen symbols to plot their emotional responses to different areas and locations. Other observations can be recorded as annotations on the map, photographs, sketches, video, audio narration, and interviews. I use I Pads to help do this – they really are ‘swiss army knives’ of data collection – but the process works just as well as a paper exercise.

After making their observations and collecting their data, the students then spend time putting their presentations together and drawing some conclusions. Some did this as a giant wall display, some made use of programmes like ‘Explain Everything’ and ‘Thinglink’ on the I Pads, while some added all of their data to Digimap. After a discussion of all of the findings in class, they then present their findings to the School Council and also to available members of the Senior Leadership Team – nice bit of ‘student voice’ input. Many of the conclusions will offer some surprises, and more importantly, ask some serious and thoughtful questions that need addressing. There were also usually a number of suggested changes to consider.

If anyone has any suggestions to improve this exercise, I would be pleased to hear from them. Also, if anyone uses it in their own school – let me know how you get on.

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Iceland in March

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I returned to Iceland at the beginning of March with a group of geography and photography students from Teign School in South Devon. We experienced a typical mix of Icelandic weather – starting with a biting east wind when we arrived, and moving on through rain, and then snow – but thankfully mixed with a lot of bright sunshine.

aThe group visited most of the usual haunts, and many looked different in the spring weather conditions. At Thingvellir, we walked to Oxarafoss – only to find the waterfall (left) totally frozen. The students were shocked when I showed them some photos of it in full flow earlier in the year.


Thingvallavatn Lake (right) – the largest in Iceland – was visible again following a spring thaw, and we were able to carefully pick our way along the slippery path around Kerio crater – although the crater lake was frozen solid (below).


dGulfoss looked impressive against a background of snow and ice, but the lower path that takes you right up close to the waterfall was still closed because of the weather.




We stopped to view the waterfalls at Seljalandfoss and Skogafoss, and I enjoyed experimenting with the panorama setting on my camera to capture the impressive scenes.



However, my favourite photo using this operational setting was the one I grabbed at Hellisheidi geothermal power station in the bright sunshine of our final day:


hThe Teign School geography students were keen to visit Eyjafjallajokull as they were using it for a case study in their exams. We called at the Visitor Centre to watch a documentary film about the 2010 eruption, and enjoyed chatting with members from the family who were evacuated from their farm directly below the volcano.


We were able to get our coach to the car park close to the Solheimajokull glacier, and the path to the snout of the glacier was safe enough to navigate. Here we had great views of the moraines, kettle holes and meltwater lake, as well as some of the tourists who had donned crampons to venture onto the ice surface itself.


jAt Reynisdrangar, we were able to walk onto the black basalt beach and get a good look at the columnar basalt cliffs – but with a high tide and a strong wind whipping up some impressive waves, we were not able to venture into any of the cliff caves. Since my last visit, a number of new signs had appeared on the path to the beach warning visitors about the ‘sneaker’ waves that can be exceptionally dangerous at this spot on the south Iceland coast. This followed the unfortunate incident here only a few weeks ago, when a tourist paid insufficient attention to the dangers of the sea, and was washed off the rocks to his death.


This group was booked into the Hotel Cabin in Reykjavik – and this gave us chance on the last day to explore the city, including a visit to the fantastic Harpa concert hall, a wonderful piece of modern architecture. We also make use of the thermal baths at Laugardalslaug, just ten minutes walk from our hotel. I was pleased that we managed to get to see and do virtually everything we had planned on our programme, and it was a fitting end to the trip to have the chance to enjoy a great view of the Northern Lights on the penultimate night. I checked the aurora forecast at the beginning of our stay, and although it was encouragingly listed as ‘active’ on that night, I didn’t expect to see much through the light pollution of the city. However, a short walk of a couple of hundred yards across the road from our hotel gave us a view over Mount Esja where there were few lights to break the darkness of the night sky. We had the pleasure of a good hour of green bands and streaks dancing and playing in the sky.

** One of the Teign students sent me this link to a You Tube presentation of some of his photographs. Thankyou, Sam Crowe for sharing this!












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Iceland In February

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I knew things were going to be different this time in Iceland, as I was greeted by a heavy snow shower when I arrived at Keflavik airport. I was flying ahead of my group (Sir John Deane’s College from Cheshire) for a trip organised by Rayburn Travel – and by the time they arrived, a decent covering of fresh snow had settled over the south part of the island.

IMG_1475As we travelled across the young lava field of the Reykjanes Peninsula, the uniform black of the basalt rock had been replaced by a blanket of white. At the Bridge Between the Continents, instead of drawing my explanation diagrams in black basalt sand, I drew them in relief using the fresh snow.

I have never been able to decide which is the best time of the year to visit Iceland. Summer months provide longer days and easier access to parts of the island, but lose out on the chance to see the Northern Lights. But in winter, although it can become difficult to visit some locations, the seasonal sprinkling of snow certainly adds a different atmosphere to the place.

IMG_1517On this visit, the main attractions of the Golden Circle all looked rather different under a cloak of snow and ice. At Thngvellir, Thingvalavatn lake was frozen over, while at Geysir, the white steam spouting from Strokur was beautifully framed by a clear blue sky. The majestic waterfall at Gulfoss seemed to have shrunk in size, with giant sections of the water mass now frozen solid. We were unable to visit Kerid (a small explosion cone) as the paths around the crater rim were too slippery to navigate – this was the only item on our itinerary we failed to complete.



The time we had gained by missing Kerid was put to good use though, and we added an excursion to Sjelandfoss as a replacement. We had to make do with a view of the waterfall from a distance of a few metres, as winter ice had blocked up the path that allows access behind the cascading water.

IMG_1481 It is always nice to enjoy some new experiences on a trip, and this was the first time I had been able to stay at the hostel at Skalinn. The facilities here have been recently refurbished, and the food was homely. However, the main advantage of Skalinn is its location. To get up in the morning and watch the sun rise over nearby Eyjafyallajokull was a real privilege, and the absence of any surrounding light pollution meant that the Northern Lights were particularly clear and vivid. Not only did we get a show late at night, but as we left at the unearthly hour of 2.30 am on our final day, we were sent on our way with a very special encore.

IMG_1490Early on in the trip we made a call to the Secret Lagoon at Hveraholmi,  near Fluoir. I wasn’t sure what to expect here, and wondered beforehand if this would prove to be a disappointment for the students with the Blue Lagoon figuring on the programme at the end of the trip. As it turned out, the more authentic and intimate surroundings of the Secret Lagoon proved to be an all-round success and the experience was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Even after a session in the Blue Lagoon, it was still a preferred choice of many. The Blue Lagoon has been slowly shifting upmarket in recent years, and its popularity can sometimes lead to a degree of overcrowding which is not the case in some of the many smaller thermal bathing areas in the country.

IMG_1539At Hveragerdi – my favourite town – we paid a visit to the geothermal park. I had been here before, and wondered if it would have anything to offer our students with all of the mud pools and steam vents being covered by a thickness of snow. IMG_1564By booking ahead we had the chance to boil some eggs in the hot springs, and after a quick tour of the park, this was a bit of fun enjoyed by all. I am not a great lover of cooked eggs, but I have to say that here I tucked in for second-helpings. Next time, I hope to add rye bread cooked in a geothermal oven to the menu.

This was only a short trip, and after the obligatory trip to the Blue Lagoon to round things off, it was back to the rain and the wind of the UK.


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Fancy An Adventure In Iceland?

DSCN0964Back in the autumn, I travelled to Iceland to complete my training as a Field Studies Tutor (FST) with Rayburn Travel. Accompanying a group of sixth form students from The Campion School in Hornchurch, I shadowed Ian Geddes, a very experienced Rayburn FST, in order to learn the ropes and re-acquaint myself with different locations I had visited on previous trips.

 All of Rayburn’s geography trips are thoroughly planned and custom built for each individual group. They are designed to work as independently operated tours, but when a little extra guidance is needed (for example, when a school or teacher is visiting for the first time), groups can be accompanied by a field studies tutor.

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Having previously visited Iceland a number of times, I was familiar with the locations we visited. However, I could not fail to be impressed by the exciting and varied programme offered by Rayburn – making really good use of limited time to provide a memorable experience for the students, as well as their teachers.

It is difficult to get to travel far around Iceland on a short trip, but there are so many locations to explore in the south west part of the island. My trip covered the main sites, and began with a Wow Air flight on Monday morning from Gatwick Airport. Less than three hours later we had landed in Iceland – it is easy to forget that this is such an easily accessible location. In fact, it took twice as long for me to get to Gatwick from good old rural Devon!

IMG_0950After leaving Keflavik airport, the students got their first look at the flat, barren volcanic landscape of the Reykjanes peninsula of south west Iceland, created from some of the youngest rocks on the island. After just 30 minutes travel time from the airport, it was time to get started with the first major highlight of the trip – a visit to the Blue Lagoon. The geothermal power station of Svartsengi is clearly visible on the approach, and it was from here that surplus brine was pumped out onto the surface in order to let it percolate back into the ground. But instead of working its way through the lava rock, it pooled into a hot lake which locals soon discovered to be beneficial for skin care. Later, a commercial operation grew here to afford a unique bathing opportunity for visiting tourists.

DSCN1190Suitably refreshed and scrubbed-up, we headed for our base for the next few days – Hotel Ork in Hveragerdi. This was a great location for our planned  travel,  and also had the advantage of available local services should they be needed. The large swimming pool and thermal baths in the grounds of the hotel also proved popular with the students after a busy day of adventure. One very special bonus for us was the wonderful Northern Lights displays we were able to enjoy – just by stepping out at night into the hotel grounds.

DSCN0929The next morning, the skies were heavy with rain showers – but in Iceland the weather is so changeable that accurate forecasting is a rare art. It is a common saying that Iceland experiences at least three seasons most days. Although we started in heavy drizzle, we were soon blessed with blue skies for our visit to Thingvellir National Park, the first stop of the day on the classic ‘Golden Circle’ tourist route. After passing Thingvallavatn Lake, the largest in Iceland, we took time to walk through the Almannagja rift – the surface expression of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which marks the meeting point of the European and North American plates. Thingvellir is one of the most important sites in Iceland, both historically as well as geographically. It was here that the world’s first parliament was put together in 930.

It was only a short hop on the coach to Geysir, for our next taste of awe and wonder. Here, we were able to watch Strokkur geysir erupt every 6-8 minutes, it’s boiling water emerging from the ground and shooting a spout skyward to a height of 15 metres. A little more patience was required to see Great Geysir erupt, but it still puts on its own show two or three times a day. Around this thermal area there were a number of steam vents, boiling springs and turquoise pools to enjoy before spending some time in the exhibition area, where several video displays and even a vibrating floor plate simulating a earthquake help to explain the natural events that make Iceland such a special place to visit.

IMG_8841Gulfoss – the ‘Golden waterfall’ – was our next stop. It is located on the mighty glacial river Hvita, or ‘White river’ which is fed by the Langjokull glacier, the second largest glacier in Iceland. Here, water cascades in several stages from a height of over 30 metres into a narrow canyon below, which is 70 metres deep and 2.5 km long. The impressive scenery was made all the more special as it was framed by a bright rainbow which formed in the fine drizzle spray thrown up by the tumbling water.

DSCN1041Kerio (pronounced ‘Kerith’) provided the last location to complete our first day. This is an easily accessible explosion crater, which along with the surrounding lava field, dates back some 6000 years. A gentle 20 minute stroll around the crater rim provides superb views of the inside of the crater and the lake that occupies, and gave the students a real feel for a volcano – all be it in miniature scale.


We set off for our second full day to the Solheimajokull glacier, where we were to experience the ice first-hand. After views of Hekla volcano on the way,  we called at the Eyjafialljokull Visitors Centre to discover about a more recent eruption (2010) and the air traffic mayhem it caused across Europe. On arrival at Solheimajokull, we met up with our glacier guides, and were knitted out with crampons and ice axes, ready to ascend the glacier itself. When I last came here, I was able to get onto the ice straight from the car park – but the rate of shrinkage has been so severe that a large melt lagoon and several unstable morainic ridges now block the way to the glacier’s snout, making it no longer accessible in this way. We had to walk into the neighbouring valley which runs parallel to the glacier, before locating a safe place to access the ice, which is a tongue of the giant  Myrdalsjokull glacier, the country’s fourth largest.

DSCN1060By starting our day early, we had plenty of time to continue eastwards along the south coast road to Reynishverfi. Here, we took the opportunity to walk on the black basalt sand beach and explore the columnar basalt cliff columns and giant caves, as well as take in excellent close-up views of the needle stacks, which according to legend, were formed when two trolls were trying to drag a three-mast ship to land. When daylight broke, they turned to stone – leaving the view we are able to enjoy today. We could also look back to Dyrholaey, a promontory jutting into the sea and punctured by a spectacular arch.

DSCN1072After a brief refreshment stop in the village of Vik, we began to head back westwards to visit the dramatic Skogafoss waterfall. This impressive 60 metre high ‘curtain waterfall’ has been used for many a TV advert, and is a wonderous sight when framed by a rainbow.



DSCN1085Seljalandfoss provided our next waterfall attraction. Here, the river Seljalandsa spills from 40 metre high basalt cliffs of the former coastline. It was possible for students to take a path that led them behind the tumbling water for a unique view and photo opportunity.

The light was beginning to fade as we paused for our final stop at Stora Dimon, a small volcano that rises dramatically above the enormous flat sandur outwash plain. We were just about able to pick out the hanging glaciers of the Mordalsjokkul ice cap in the distance beyond the braided Markarfljot river. Looking south, we could pick out the outlines of the Westmann Islands – a trip for another day, perhaps.

DSCN1106The weather was kind to us for our third day, as we made the short coach journey to Reykjadalur. Here, in a geothermally active area close to the village of Hveragerdi, we hiked for an hour into the hills to some hot springs and a stretch of river suitable for some warm ‘wild water’ bathing

For the afternoon, we moved on to explore Reykjavik, the most northerly capital city in the world. Although only a small city by international standards, it is home to around  60% of Iceland’s population. There are some really interesting sites to enjoy here, including the port area – where whale catching vessels moor up alongside whale watching boats for tourists. We bumped into Yoko Ono by the City Hall (here to switch on the ‘John Lennon Peace Light’) – but she didn’t stop to speak.

DSCN1149Architectural interest is led by the Perlan, a futuristic landmark constructed around giant water storage tanks for the city, the Hallgrimskirkja Church, and the recently constructed Harpa concert hall. Despite the drama of these modern buildings, my favourite place remains the Volcano House near the harbour, where films of the Eyjafialljokull and Heimeay eruptions are shown on a loop throughout the day.

For our final day, we explored a couple of geothermal sites on route to the airport. First call was the Krysuvik area in the middle of the fissure zone of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which transverse a Iceland diagonally from the south west to the north east of the island. We stretched our legs with a stroll in the Seltun field, which abounds with fumaroles (steam vents), hot springs and mud pots.

IMG_1048We then moved on to Gunnuhver, where super-heated water rises and condenses and mixes with surface water to produce impressive steam vents. Accompanying gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide make the water here acid (as well as providing a distinctive smell), causing alteration of the fresh lava rock to clay. The soil here is coloured with bright yellow, red and green hues, indicating where minerals have been dissolved from the bedrock.

Our final experience in Iceland was a visit to the ‘Bridge between the continents’, where it is possible to walk in the chasm that marks the separating boundary between the Eurasian and North American plates (the Mid-Atlantic Ridge). This site provided a great photo opportunity before boarding the coach for the final time, and heading to the airport. Before setting off on the final leg of our journey, we said our farewells to our genial driver Thomas, who sent us home with a rap rendition of a traditional Icelandic folk song – a quirky end to a fantastic sense-bombarding tour of some of the sites that make Iceland such a special place to visit.

This was a pretty standard programme that made the very best use of the limited time that was available. However, all of Rayburn’s tours are bespoke – customised the meet the requirements of each individual party. Longer trips have more time to seek out more distant sites, and new attractions are being offered as they become available. For instance, it is now possible if visiting the western coast landscapes to visit the ice cave in Langjokull for an exciting ‘into the glacier’ experience. Also, new accommodation has been sourced which makes the Vatnajokull National Park more easily accessible for groups. Groups might also like to consider visits to geothermal or hydro power stations, and possibly a trip to Heimaey to explore the magic of this volcanic island. Other future plans include the possibility of lava caving and zip wiring, to add even more adventure to your trip.

This could truly be described as a trip of a lifetime for your students, so if You think you might be interested in embarking on such an adventure, why not give Rayburn a call and see what they can put together for you?

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Where Will You Find Me At The 2016 Geography Conference?

GALogo_400x400It isn’t long now to the annual Geography Association Conference – held again this time in Manchester from April 7th to 9th.

I always look forward to meeting up with some of my ‘Geo friends’, and here is a summary of some of my plans for the conference and where I can be found.

If you see me around, do make yourself known and qualify for a free ‘Geo hug’ to say hello.

Thursday 7th

I aim to arrive around late afternoon in time for the public lecture delivered by John Raine and titled ‘Tackling The Ebola Crisis’. Following this, I will attend the awards presentations, and be ready to applaud the many worthy winners who have made a significant contribution to school geography over the past year. It will then be time to move on to the wine reception at the Manchester Museum – a great place to meet up with people, both old faces and new. No doubt there will be the chance of a few pints and a curry with a select bunch to round off the night.

Friday 8th

I haven’t made my final choices yet from the programme – but as ever, there is a wealth of opportunity offered by a wide range of presenters. I always try to attend the presidential lecture, and look forward to Steve Rawlinson talking about making geographical connections. Apart from this, I usually try to blend a mix of lectures and workshops as well as content from different key stages. I quite like the sound of John Lyon’s workshop titled ‘Updating your plate: refreshing approaches to plate tectonics’, as well as the debate on the role of fieldwork chaired by Nick Lapthorn, and also Nick Crane’s lecture titled ‘Coast: Cutting edge case studies.

I will also spend some time in the exhibition area, and particularly the Rayburn Travel stall in order to support my new employers.

beermeetI am presenting my humble offering at the Conference Teachmeet (from 18.45 to 20.15) – titled ’35 Years of Fieldwork’, and look forward to hearing the other presenters and stealing some new ideas. This event was really well attended last year, and if you have never been to a TeachMeet, I heartily recommend you come along. You will not be disappointed.

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 19 00.07

Saturday 9th

Again, there is a great programme to select from on Saturday. Although I will attend some sessions in the morning, I will then have to prepare for my own session titled ‘You might as well face it – you’re addicted to maps’ in the afternoon. I hope to pass on some new ideas for using maps in classroom teaching, and although this workshop is flag-listed for students and NQTs, it is open to all. It is a bit of a ‘graveyard slot’ at the end of the conference ( I know my place ), but I hope enough people stick around for some fun and mayhem.

Here is my publicity shot advertising my presentation:

ScreenHunter_02 Feb. 18 17.49

That reminds me – I had better start some preparations!

See you there!


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Why Do We Name Our Winter Storms?

Waves LighthouseStorm Imogen had quite an impact on my local area a few weeks ago, and as I await the next storm – which will be named ‘Jake’  – it gave me cause to reflect on the new fashion of giving names to UK storms.

A few months ago, the Met Office invited members of the public to submit names via social media for storms, and a definitive list was drawn up:

Storm Names.png

These names would be used for storms that have the potential to cause ‘medium’ or ‘high’ wind impacts on the UK.

The idea behind the project was to raise public awareness of severe weather systems before they reach the UK, and therefore ensure greater safety of the public. By attaching a name to a weather event, it has been found to help people track its progress, and also prepare people for and avoid dangers that might come along with it.

Weather forecasters have used names for particular storms in the past, but the choice of names was random, with the same storm sometimes being referred to by several different names. They have also latched onto names of ex-hurricanes that arrive on our shores from across the Atlantic. These names come from six lists drawn up by the World Meteorological Organisation and used in rotation.

The UK list follows the same structure of the American system, running through the alphabet and alternating between male and female names. There are no named storms beginning with the uncommon letters Q, U, X, Y or Z. When an American storm is particularly serious, like Hurricane  Katrina in 2005, it’s name is withdrawn from the list never to be used again. I presume that particularly damaging storms will get similar treatment if they occur in the UK.

If a storm hits the UK which has already developed over the Atlantic and has already been named, then the original name will continue to be used, not a new one from the Met Office list.

Although we have already got to I in the storm alphabet, it is unlikely we will ever get through 21 storm names in a season. For instance, in the very bad winter of 2013/14, only 14 storms would have received names. Should an unusual season occur needing more names, the list will return to letter A to a different name. If tropical storms go beyond 21 names, the Greek alphabet is then used – starting with storm alpha.

One interesting point about storm names is the research that has shown how hurricanes with female names are more likely to hurt more people than those with male names. Scientists believe that this is because the public finds female names less threatening.

But do we really need to anthropomorphise our winter storms? Naming of storms has caused some controversy in meteorological circles, and many people believe that pumping the public up to siege mentality in order to prepare for Storm Humperdink or the like, is not necessary and possibly counter-productive.

It is planned to change the list of UK storm names next year, with the public being asked again for their suggestions. Maybe this would make an interesting homework for your students?


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