How Might We best share our Geography practices?

Each year I help to organise our Geography Awareness Week in New Zealand. Most of the time it is about creating some quiz resources and a couple of fun activities to help students see the relevance of Geography to their lives. This year I wanted to get Geography teachers across the country sharing their best practice. Some subjects have started twitter chats (#engchatnz and #scichatnz) but I wanted to have an event that would enable non-twitter users to engage in conversation as well. This led to us having a Geography Teach Meet NZ online yesterday:

Thanks to the amazing Sonya Van Schaijik for helping us get this together. There were some great ideas shared and I have had really positive comments from Geography teachers (both on twitter and in the “real world”) about how they found it.

Kim Randall shared Google Maps Engine Lite which is a free web based GIS tool, an incredible resource for us Geo teachers. I look forward to playing with this and getting to know it better!

Steve Smith spoke about taking overseas field trips. Although harder to organise, the payoff is definitely worth it with the passion and engagement it brings.

I spoke about how Design Thinking can work in Geography. If you follow this blog you will not be surprised about this topic (see my other posts on Design Thinking here).

Craig Perry shared how he uses SOLO Taxonomy in Geography to help make learning visible for students.

Heather Eccles was lucky last sharing the power of making authentic connections around the world with her students.

Hopefully, this has helped provoke discussions about effective pedagogy in our Geography classrooms. The challenge now is how do we keep the discussions going? The Pond may provide space for this in future when the Communities function is set up but this will take some time. I’m not sure enough NZ Geographers are on twitter for chats to be the answer. Leaving me with my question for today:

How Might We best share our Geography practices?


This post is part of My Questioning Quest.

 p.s. mind turning after posting this. VLN could be a good place but I like the idea of international connections being able to contribute as well. With so many schools moving to GAFE is a Google+ Community the answer for this?


How Might We help students develop empathy for distant issues?

I see empathy as a key step in gaining a deeper understanding of issues and it is something I am trying to develop in students in my Social Studies (and Geography when I get back to teaching senior students again!) classes. When focusing on local issues or the local impacts of global issues, this is a step that is straight forward to implement. Exploring, observing, interviewing, listening etc to how it is affecting people. How do we do this effectively though for issues or case studies that don’t have such a local impact though?

Films can sensationalise and/or trivialise the impacts on people

Documentaries can be extremely biased

Role plays (thinking land mine victims by tied up legs etc.) are well meaning but do they really get students truly feeling what it is like – have seen plenty of giggles and laughter while doing this, definitely not how a true victim reacts.

Distance, time zones, language and cultural barriers can reduce our ability to interview, survey etc. whilst cost severely limits our ability to observe and explore the area.

In Geography and Social Studies we rightly study issues from all around the world. I want my students to be able to develop the deep understanding of these global case studies. How might we help students develop empathy for distant issues?


This post is Day 17 of my Questioning Quest.

Plate Tectonics Videos

This was actually from the end of last term but have only just got permission from my students to share it.

Our Year 11 Geography classes were starting their Extreme Natural Events unit focusing on volcanic eruptions. After an introduction to plate tectonics I showed my class a video made by some students of John Sayers. You can see it here. My students fell perfectly into my trap by criticising the video at which point I challenged them to make one better.

A variety of videos were made utilising different props but this one was by the only group game enough to actually publish theirs online. Enjoy!

NZ Geography Olympiad Team

I spent the end of last week at a training camp for the New Zealand Geography Olympiad team. The team of 4 students head to Kyoto, Japan, for the International Geography Olympiad (iGeo) at the end of July. Anna Wilson (@Willssoooonnn) and I are the team leaders and the four students are:

  • Max Cameron (John McGlashan College)
  • Isaac Severinsen (Otumoetai College)
  • Rock Steele (Takapuna Grammar School)
  • Brittany Vining (Palmerston North Girls High School)

They will take on 34 countries in a fieldwork assignment and report plus written and multimedia tests to see what Medals they can gain. There is also a non-medal competition of a Poster on the theme of “Traditional Wisdom and Modern Knowledge for the Future.” You can keep up with how the team is going in the lead up and during iGeo at and can help support their fundraising efforts at .

They are a great bunch who have gelled well as a group and I really look forward to seeing how they go in Japan. The training continues with lots of reading to do and a competitive spreadsheet being kept with our GeoGuessr scores!

Guerrilla Geography as Hacking a Place

Last night I was privileged to have been invited to tell a story at a Live Storytelling event at National Library. There were 5 stories told around the theme of “Over the Edge.” I was invited to speak based upon an Ignite talk I gave last year on Guerrilla Geography. This session was all about oral storytelling and was a great event with bean bags and chairs sat around a fake campfire which created a lovely atmosphere for sharing stories.

What follows is what I wrote to prepare for the evening. The actual story told diverted in places as I got wound up with the story but the general gist was this:

Continue reading

New NZ Geography Competition

The New Zealand Board of Geography Teachers has changed the way that the New Zealand team is selected for the International Geography Olympiad. This is so that the selection process more closely mirrors the tasks that the students face once they are at iGeo. A new competition has been created which forms the first part of the selection process. It is a quick turn-around (closes March 26th) so check out the link below:

My thinkpiece for this week’s #GeoEdChat


When looking to measure students’ conceptual progression I tend to use Building Conceptual Understandings in the Social Sciences (Ministry of Education, 2008). This publication stated five ways that teachers could identify learners’ conceptual progressions:

·         Level of their understanding and use of abstract concepts increases

·         They make connections between multiple concepts

·         They apply and transfer their understandings to more complex and distant contexts as well as to those that are familiar

·         They take responsible actions and make informed decisions that are based on their understandings

·         They begin to understand that concepts can have different interpretations

We often keep strong records of student achievement but how many of us keep data tracking students’ conceptual progress? The issue with measuring conceptual progression is that they are complex, abstract notions that are constantly shifting. So what data to collect to track this progress?

Ensuring conceptual progress may be…

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Coastal Processes in Action

Resources for today

Resources for today’s lesson!

We have started our Coastal Environment topic by looking at the elements and features that exist. Today we were starting to focus on the processes operating in our coastal environment of Muriwai. The introduction to these processes can sometimes be dull as we trudge through the necessary diagrams and explanations. This year I was determined to make this more interactive. I borrowed some sidewalk chalk and a bucket of balls from the PE department and we spent the period moving back and forth from classroom to a courtyard outside. Continue reading

The Beginnings of Geo-literacy

In the next step of helping my Year 11 Geography class develop as geographers I am working on developing their geoliteracy.

We are doing some basic skill work to start the year and as part of an introduction to mapping skills I normally give them a description  to work from and create a map. This year I have added to it, thanks to re-reading some work on Luke and Freebody’s Four Resources for literacy. Continue reading