Wham sand!

The eternal battle. What makes the best ‘sand’ in a classroom? Actual sand surely. But is actual sand the most fun way of having ‘sand’ in the classroom?

For 4 years, I have been experimenting with different options for a lesson on spit formation with year 7. I used sand the first year and was disappointed about how worried pupils were about touching it, apparently, it looked dirty 🙂 then I tried the popular sweet Millions. Massive fan of these and the perks of having some left over at the end was nice, but creating depositional landforms was not their forte, they tended to roll away! Then I tried old school sherbet dip daps, cheap, sand like and ideal for the smaller little spits I was after. I was happy with these until a discussion with my head of department about differentiation got me thinking. Every pupil was making effectively the same spit with very little extension possibilities.

So I scoured the land and stumbled upon Wham sherbet, sherbet all the same but with larger pieces of popping candy embedded with it. These varied pieces, when given to the more able pupils, allowed them to look at sorting the size of material, depending on where in the spit they think longshore drift would have taken it. This allowed a little bit of challenge for those who had studied Coasts at Primary school but still enabled the fun element of the lesson to happen.

In the lesson, we watched a clip of how spits forms, photo analysed a few images, looked at how longshore drift created them, then, with the Wham sand, each pupil created images for a flip book showing how spits form. They took pictures of the images and their homework is to use the photos to create a 6 slide flip book of spit formation along with labels, description and explanation.

Just to clarify, why use sherbet rather than real sand? The pupils can eat the spit. Winners all round.

Wham sand!

Here is one pupil’s attempts at the flip book images.

Wham fountain

And here is the Wham sherbet itself, 30p a fountain and one of them gives enough for 4 pupils to make spits.


Fieldwork across the years

Fieldwork is crucially important. At this point in time, where many activities for children exist indoors, it is more important than ever that pupils are allowed to explore and interact with the environment around them. People like Dan Raven Ellison and his London National Park concept are at the forefront of this nationally but as Geography teachers we must offer as many chances to interact as we possibly can do.

This year, we have had a real focus on combining the exploration nature of fieldwork with a series of guided building blocks to create a piece of Geographical fieldwork.

In year 7, a little bit of doorstep Geography looking at pollution levels on the school site and fully scaffolded report structure. Trip to the Dorset coast to explore and marvel at some features they had not seen before and undertake 1 A3 sheet of reporting using the guided headings and data collection methods from previous work. Cross curricular with English by creating a documentary style piece of filmmaking.

Year 8 has a focus on not just exploring but gaining knowledge from a fieldtrip. Off to RHS Wisley to explore rainforest like conditions and feed back on plant adaptations with a focus on creating  plants. Cross curricular with Biology to allow pupils to understand links between subjects.

Year 9 off to the New Forest to look at Tourism, Honeypot Sites and impacts. GCSE style and content but heavily guided with regards to data presentation, complex methods and conclusions linked to hypotheses. Ideally, some linkage with Art/Graphics as the level of sketching and mapping may require cross curricular skill.

A residential trip to Somerset/Exmoor in year 10 with a focus on data collection methodologies and independent methods- allowing challenge for the more able and hopefully a chance for pupils to move put of their comfort zones to structure their own work and time.

Year 11 has a day trip for controlled assessment ( although this will be gone in the near future) to a tourist hotspot for pupils to create their own work with very limited guidance and scaffold. A chance for them to show off and hopefully engage with a different location!

Sixth Form get a week in Snowdonia, seeing the features that their Cold Environments work tells them about. This is more about bonding as a group and refreshing the fieldwork skills that have been used in the previous years!

All in all, fieldwork NEEDS to be integral to each year group and particularly in areas where fieldwork opportunities are limited outside of school!


Getting outside with key stage 3

I have been running a small experiment with one of my year 7 classes. I have been looking at whether practical demonstrations of geographical concepts improve their understanding. Against this, I have introduced some concepts with a far more textual based approach.

The most recent was longshore drift whilst studying coasts. The whole class came outside and one pupil was given an inflatable globe, I explained where the sea was and where the beach was and told everyone to have a sunbathe  and listent on the ‘beach’ whilst we went through the ideas.

The first pupil was a wave and the globe a piece of sand. We walked through the prevailing wind ( luckily it was windy that day so we built that in), where the materials goes and the notion of the backwash being at 90 degrees.

Then the class had to all pretend to be sand particles and get from one end of the ‘beach’ to the other, whilst being fired differentiated, directed questions about the process.

Normally, I may have just used David Rogers’ excellent dream teachers clip to walk the class through it, so the summary of the demonstration was to draw a perfect longshore drift diagram. 90% of the class produced a diagram of GCSE standard and those who didn’t only had the angle of the backwash or swash/backwash the wrong way round!

Even though this worked perfectly, it is clear that all of one type of task is not the answer as this practical approach was not great with the Burgess Model, so I am going to keep going to see exactly which tasks it works brilliantly with!