Floating Topicality – Reacting To Geography In The News

One thing I really miss since retiring is last-minute planning of lessons in response to ‘geography in the news’ events – the principle of ‘floating topicality’, a term I first heard used by  Jeff Stansfield, former geography advisor for Hampshire.

CxyDIQXWIAA7r8a.jpgThe arrival over the weekend of Storm Angus had some serious impacts on the whole of the south west region, and had some direct consequences for my home town, when a mobile home site  (housing mainly elderly people) had to be evacuated due to flood risk from the river Mole.

What better stimulus for a single topical lesson or perhaps even a series of lessons on flooding and possible consequences?

My first port of call would have been the excellent ‘gaugemap’ web site, to check out some of the monitoring stations on our town river:


There is actually data available from a station right next to the mobile home park, and it revealed a really clear visual indication of the issue with this stunning graph:


Not a bad starter for a lesson – or perhaps a local news headline would get the ball rolling:


Or maybe some You Tube footage? I came across this drone footage on the Plymouth Herald web site:



Development  work could include any of the following:

  • ‘Skills’ exercises, based on hydrographs showing river discharge during the recent storm
  • Writing flood warning bulletins for newspaper, web sites, radio, and TV:

This example came from the ‘riverlevels’ web site:



And this one from the ‘environment agency’ web site:



  • ‘Green screen’ weather forecast reports, including flood warnings and advice
  • Map skills work looking at the river Mole – where does all the floodwater go?
  • Image analysis (who, what, why, where, when, how) of recent local floods

cxyx7hmwqaajylyThis photo of the riverside walk in our nearest city Exeter was taken by news reporter Simon Hall:



  • Role plays of conversations between different stakeholders (presented using comic style apps)
  • Collaborative writing of flood prevention plans, evacuation plans etc
  • Link to international flooding case studies
  • Link to climate change topics

That’s just a few minutes of planning thoughts – the list of possibilities is endless!

By keeping a watch on local (and national and international) news, it is possible to react quickly in the classroom, and focus on something that is particularly relevant for students. Teachers can keep one step ahead by gathering some ‘stock’ resources and a rough template of activities for events that are likely to arise at some stage in the year – earthquake, volcanic eruption, major flood, tropical storm, wild fire, local planning issue, and so on. Teachers should never be afraid to break off from their planned curriculum to attend to such topical issues – and prove that geography really is a living subject, with direct relevance to us all.


About devongeography

Head of Geography and Assistant Vice Principal at South Molton Community College, North Devon. Exeter Chiefs supporter!
This entry was posted in Curriculum, General Geo, Maps, Physical World, Teachers and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Floating Topicality – Reacting To Geography In The News

  1. Stephen Schwab says:

    Ever thought to share these resources/teaching ideas with the GA website? I do when I can & the feedback shows hard time pressed geography teachers are v grateful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s