Towards the end of the last summer term, I attended a meeting at the Exmoor National Park Headquarters in the village of Dulverton. The purpose of this gathering was for the National Park to launch its newly revamped web site and to showcase some new geography resources based on the East Lyn river.
(Go to ‘Learning Zone’ and then ‘The River Lyn Enquiry’)
Having examined these free resources closely, I can highly recommend them to geography teachers. There is a wide variety of downloadable Word documents, PDFs, and You Tube links available for both key stage four and A level teaching – and many of them could easily be adapted for key stage three study as well. The many topics covered have been specifically designed for investigations on Exmoor, but the ideas here could quite easily be modified for use on other river systems.
I have something of a vested interest in this new web content, as back in September, I took a number of year seven students from my school onto Exmoor work with National Park Rangers to trial possible locations and field exercises as the web site was being constructed. I really appreciated the help and support given by David Gurnett, David Rolls, and Ben Totterdell from the National Park in these activities. This all suited me well, because when the latest version of the National Curriculum came into being, I wanted to plan an off-site experience for all key stage three groups. It was my intention to take year eight students to explore some coastal topics in the Exe estuary and year nine students to complete a ‘clone town’ investigation in Exeter city centre. For year seven, I wanted to organise a trip right at the start of the academic year to combine a geography investigation with some sort of social experience to help the students bond as a form group. After contacting the National Park, some funding became available to help with transport, and a trip was planned to complete a river study followed by a group riverside walk.
The National Park web materials have been expertly written by David Wetherley, former Devon county Geography Advisor, who I have worked with on a number of projects throughout my teaching career. David uses a thought-provoking enquiry question style as a structure for each investigation – similar in approach to his excellent Living With a Changing Coast resources that I highlighted in the March 2015 section of this blog. He has also recently published a series of new key stage three textbooks for Collins, titled ‘Geographical Enquiry’ – well worth a look.
The web resources are based on studies of the East Lyn river – made famous by the devastating Lynmouth flood disaster of 1952. The main enquiry question examines the causes and consequences of the 1952 flood disaster (which remains the single largest loss of life from a British river flood), but extends beyond a study of a river hazard to help students understand and evaluate the broader ecological, social, economic, cultural and emotional value of this individual drainage basin. Through such an holistic approach, students are able to come to understand many of the interconnected principles that underpin river and drainage basin management in the 21st century, and the concept of ecosystem services in particular.
The materials are organised into four key lines of enquiry that look at different aspects of the river Lyn and its catchment. Each enquiry is broken down into a supporting range of ancillary investigations with key links and resources.
Summary of Enquiry Questions
Enquiry Line One: The Lyn Flood Disaster of 1952
Key Question: How effective has flood management been since 1952, and what are the potential future implications of climate change?
Investigation One: What were the main causes of the flood?
Investigation Two: What were the consequences of the flood?
Enquiry Line Two: The Topography of the River Lyn and its Catchment
Investigation One: What is the Bradshaw Model and why do geographers use it?
Investigation Two: How do geographers go about testing the accuracy of a theory such as the Bradshaw Model?
Enquiry Line Three: The Benefits of the River Lyn Ecosystem
Key Question: How can geographers address the values of the environment?
Investigation One: What does ‘value’ mean anyway?
Investigation Two: how can geographers evaluate the value or worth of different rivers (check)
Enquiry Line Four: Writing Up Your Enquiry
Key Question: How do geographers go about producing high quality research investigations?
I particularly like the third enquiry, which introduces the concept of ecosystem services. This section includes an investigation of provisioning services (such as food and water supplies); cultural services (such as spiritual, recreational and health-related benefits); and support services (such as oxygen generation and nutrient recycling) that are critical to maintaining life on Earth.
The National Park is interested in feedback from anyone using these new resources, either in their own location or on the river Lyn itself. I would be happy to pass that on. If anyone requires any local knowledge regarding fieldwork on Exmoor or in North Devon, please do not hesitate to get in touch.