COVID-forced changes: Maintaining investigation and fieldwork

Recent news regarding Ofqual’s proposal to scrap fieldwork from 2021 GCSE geography, the age-old debate about Geography fieldwork has been re-kindled. In order to make up for lost time thanks to COVID-19, the opinion that something ‘has to give’ has put fieldwork at the front of the queue for the chopping-block.

Pretty much every geographer agrees (through various frames and with various reasons), that fieldwork is exceptionally important. If you’d like to dive deeper on this debate, I’d like to refer you to the thoughts of Alistair Hamill (@lcgeography), by way of an eloquent post he wrote as a guest on Mark Enser’s “Teaching It Real” blog.

But, whatever decisions are made, both in the near and further future, we can maintain and develop investigation and field-work skills as a method to deliver syllabus content.

This is not a post about how to conduct fieldwork with COVID-19 restrictions (plenty on that to be found elsewhere). I put out a call to Geography teachers for examples of investigation, fieldwork and virtual ‘trips’ that could be done within lesson time, either on the school-grounds or in the local area by walking out of the school-gates. Some are ‘off-the-shelf’ usable, but most require cherry-picking or adaptation for your school or local area. So treat as a bank of ideas that you can run with!

Last update: 10th July 2020

Ideas from Webinars, online talks etc

**COMING UP!** Hyperlocal & Virtual Fieldwork with ArcGIS – Tuesday 14th July 5:30-6:30pm BST (UTC+1)

A free webinar for teachers run by our friends Katie Hall and Jason Sawle at EsriUK. “This webinar will demonstrate how to collect, map, analyse and present hyperlocal fieldwork data from in and around school grounds. The session will also cover how to create meaningful virtual fieldwork resources quickly and easily to augment this hyperlocal experience.”

Click here for more details and joining instructions.

Mapping a Walk with Digimap for Schools

A Digimap for Schools webinar where I showed how to use the tool for planning a local walk. Including footage of how Theo and I went about it, a recap of how to use the tools, how using these tools link to certain aspects of Primary curriculum content and how more older students can use to plan an expedition for others (or prepare for fieldwork). Watch the recording and read the full ‘how-to’ blog post here.

Virtual tours with Digimap for Schools

A Digimap for Schools webinar giving some ideas for virtual trips. This doesn’t focus specifically on field work (data collection, analysis etc), but rather covers a range of things that Digimap For Schools can do with regards to virtual exploration, from quick little tasks to full-blown field-trip itinerary. Watch the recording and read the full ‘how-to’ blog post here.

Individual lessons and activities

“Introducing the fieldwork enquiry” (AQA Geog GCSE): A mini practise investigation

A 2-hour lesson I used to do with Year 10s which uses a mini investigation around the school site to help students practise the six fieldwork enquiry steps. Students investigate mobile phone signal strength around the school site. A Powerpoint guides students through the steps, and a Publisher file can be adapted e.g. swapping out a map of my old school’s site with yours.

A simple activity investigating ‘changes over time’

Mr Breese (@BreeseGeography) put up this simple two-page spread on Twitter. After giving it a go with students, he said: “Worked pretty well. Had one child who investigated the number of carrots in the house another one did the light levels in the living room!

Investigating crime

Another kind offering from Mr Breese (@BreeseGeography). A Word document that you can adjust for your local area to investigate evidence of crime. “[Used as part of a] crime SOW, also used some secondary data from police website to create another choropleth map.”

Getting to know your new school grounds (QR scavenger hunt)

Thanks to Vicki Mitchell via Facebook: “One for Year 7s to get to know our site using a QR code scavenger hunt, conduct an EQs with plastic waste around site as a focus, and linked to citizenship as pupils then make an on-site campaign to encourage their fellow pupils to look after our school environment.” Shared via Google Drive.

Decidious woodland ecosystem mini-investigation

If you’re lucky to have a woodland right next to your school grounds, or one in the catchment area that students can easily access in their own time. We had a woodland surrounding a couple of sides of the school site, and so we took GCSE students during lesson time to use a mini-investigation to introduce AQA GCSE Geography’s Ecosystems unit. Download the PowerPoint, worksheet and teachers notes, and swap-in specifics to your school and location.

Full Projects, Activity Packs etc

The STOP Project Air Quality Toolkit (PDF Download)

“This air quality toolkit provides teachers with a series of interesting scientific activities to present to pupils, which are expected to promote understanding of the causes and impacts of air pollution, as well as tools to identify areas of poor air quality around the school.”

Thanks to Dan Whitthall (@danwhittall), who says: “This air pollution resource is great, and some aspects can be done around school site (especially if there’s a road / car park on site)”

Virtual field trips (videos, self-guided etc)

Colin River Virtual Tour & GIS

Double bonus here as you listen to Alistair Hamill’s dolcet tones as he takes you on a virtual field trip along the Colin River in West Belfast.

“Use of Google Earth to produce virtual tours (inc embedding of videos of FW in action if you have them), and use of ArcGIS to collect spatially embedded data (legacy data from previous year’s FW)”

Alistair is a diamond when it comes to applying GIS, and gave a very good rationale for his ‘lockdown approach’ here. If you have further questions about this resource or others, you can find him on Twitter.

Virtual visit to London

A virtual field-trip I made for students who were unable to go on a Year 9 field trip that I used to run (it also worked well as a reminder, or consolidation for those who did go on the trip). A self-guided and paced interactive PowerPoint. Download the PowerPoint, worksheet and answer sheet.

Virtual visit to The Green Britain Centre (Sustainability)

Another virtual field-trip I made for students who were unable to go on a Year 8 field trip to the Green Britain Centre (nee ‘Ecotech Centre’) in Swaffham, Norfolk. It enables students to see all kinds of example of sustainability through a self-guided virtual roam. Unfortunately, this is now the only way you can ‘visit’ the Green Britain Centre, as it shut down in 2018. Download the PowerPoint and worksheet (inc answers).

ARTICLES & BLOGS

How to develop independent investigation questioning skills at home

An article I wrote for Teaching Geography back in 2018. This gives some examples of how students can be taken through the enquiry and fieldwork process using locations accessible in school or at home.

You will need to be a GA member or have subscription access to the Teaching Geography journal to access the full article.

Other Collections, collated ideas, resource banks etc

Call for collaboration by Matt Podbury (GeographyPods):

On Facebook at the end of May, Matt put up a post calling for collaboration of field ideas into a Google Doc. He said:

Many Geography teaching colleagues around the world are being faced with the need to adapt and change their fieldwork / coursework investigations in response to Covid-19. Colleagues who were going to travel and had organised residential trips are now having to rethink their plans and restructure and re-plan for coursework that is either hyper-local (school grounds) or local (town, city, local river etc). With this in mind, I have set up a document where colleagues can contribute to a bank of potential localised fieldwork possibilities that could be used by exam grade students (I)GCSE, AS / A Level, IB DP etc). They can be based on investigations that you have successfully run in your school locality or a project that could be adapted to become a fieldwork inquiry. All contributions would be most welcome.

The format is simple and easy to plug in your fieldwork ideas. Please do consider contributing.

Brilliant thread of ideas started by Laura-Jayne (@leading4geog) on Twitter:

Colleagues from across the pond also lending us a hand, here’s Brent Hall (@SandsofJura) from Esri Canada:

NB: Here’s EsriUK’s GIS resource database: https://schools.esriuk.com/teaching-resources/

‘Fieldwork ideas in School’ from GAeConf20, collated by Clarry Simpson (@Clarry_s3):

Alan Kinder, Chief Exec at the GA reminded me of their webpage of resources:

Got something to share?

If you’re happy to share something, please get in touch with me via Twitter, Facebook or email and give me a brief description and shared link to your resource. You’re welcome to also quickly signpost something by adding a comment below.


All my education work via Geogramblings is done all in my spare time, at my own cost but is free for you to access and enjoy. If you can spare a few pence, I’d be delighted if you could show your thanks by ‘buying me a coffee. Thank you!

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