The study of Geography aims to stimulate an interest in and a sense of wonder about places. It helps young people make sense of a complex and dynamically changing world. It explains where places are, how places and landscapes are formed, how people and their environment interact and how a diverse range of economies, societies and environments are interconnected. It builds on pupils’ own experiences to investigate places at all scales, from the personal to the global.
Geographical enquiry encourages questioning, investigation and critical thinking about issues affecting the world and people’s lives, now and in the future. Fieldwork is an essential element of this. Participating in fieldwork pupils learn to think spatially and use maps, visual images and new technologies, including geographical information systems (GIS), to obtain, present and analyse information. The study of Geography at Queen Mary’s aims to inspire pupils to become global citizens by exploring their own place in the world, their values and their responsibilities to other people, to the environment and to the sustainability of the planet.
At Key Stage 3, pupils study units which aim to develop an understanding of place, space, scale, interdependence, physical and human processes, sustainable development and to appreciate a cultural understanding and diversity. The Year 7 course is designed to establish an understanding of the subject and develop basic skills. The concept of ‘My Place’ is initially explored and as the year continues we move from the local to the exploration of further afield destinations. Investigative skills are encouraged throughout the study of Geography at Queen Mary’s and two fieldtrips in Year 7 encourage their development. Units in Years 8 and 9 allow for a more global focus are designed to improve understanding of a range of human and physical environments.
Many girls opt to take Geography at GCSE Level, building on what has already been achieved with more detailed study of selected topics. The AQA A Specification is followed with the topics studied including plate tectonics, coastal environments, population change and the development gap. In the Sixth Form, AS and A level Geography combines both scientific investigation and principles with evaluative synoptic argument. As such it is accessible to a wide variety of students and the skills developed are valuable for a wide range of careers. The AQA specification is followed with topics covered including rivers, health, world cities and weather and climate.
Fieldwork is across the key stages. Examples of our visits include a Year 8 visit to Cadbury World, a Year 9 visit to Dovedale in the Peak District National Park and a Year 12 visit to Snowdonia.
As a department we encourage girls to challenge themselves frequently by participating in a wide variety of activities both in and out of the classroom. Girls studying Geography are regularly involved in preparing and giving presentations, role-plays, personal research projects, group work, debates and discussions, which all help to develop a range of skills and knowledge of local, national and global issues.
Geography Teacher’s Perspective
“You can travel the seas, poles and deserts and see nothing. To really understand the world you need to get under the skin of the people and places. In other words, learn about geography. I can’t imagine a subject more relevant in schools. We’d all be lost without it.”
Geography is everywhere and it helps us to understand the complex and dynamic world. In the department we aim to help students to develop an understanding of their position in the world as well as consider their own level of global responsibility. Central to the delivery of the subject is the focus on interdependence and a commitment to encouraging all our students to develop their own opinions and attitudes. In our opinion Geography is one of the most fascinating and interesting subjects that anyone can study. It draws on factual knowledge from both the sciences and the arts, and aims to develop analytical skills of the sciences and the descriptive and interpretative skills of the humanities. Geography is renewing itself 24 hours a day, perhaps the only subject in a state of constant change. Hectic maybe for us as teachers, but it is what makes the subject come alive for our students, whether it be ash clouds closing airports, oil leaks polluting oceans or the life-giving River Indus killing thousands; major traumas which we as geographers begin to explore and explain.
The most important part of our department are the students who study Geography, we asked a Year 11 student her thoughts on the subject and on us as a department, ‘I consider geography one of my favourite subjects and my love for it has grown over the past few years. This is due to not only being interested in the work and topics studied but also through the enthusiasm and hard work of every member of the staff in the geography department. Every lesson new activity is devised in order to get us interested in the subject, and not leave us with text book work. For me the reason I love geography is that you are learning about things you see every day, and now I can explain how and why different natural events occur in the world – it is a rewarding subject that will help you throughout your whole life. Each member of the geography department has so much enthusiasm for the subject and they are happy to help and answer any weird and wonderful questions you may have. It’s definitely a subject worth doing!’
As a department we believe that what lies at the heart of good teaching is not just a passion for the subject but the ability to identify and encourage pupils who will respond to that passion and match it. When I consider my personal love for Geography I once again turn to Michael Palin to put it into words, ‘…it is renewing itself 24 hours a day… [and] remains for me the freshest and most exciting of subjects. Geography is about understanding our world. It illuminates the past, explains the present and prepares us for the future. What could be more important than that?”