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Plastic Pollution in our Oceans

On Wednesday night I attended a debate on Plastic Pollution in our Oceans, this is part of the RGS 21st Century Challenges series.

It was an interesting evening and consisted of three diverse and thought provoking speakers. It provided some useful information for the IB Option that I am currently teaching; Oceans and their coastal margins.

Some of the nuggets of information that I noted down were:

  • Every albatros on the island of Midway contains plastic.
  • Much is still not known about the Oceans, in the last ocean census 2,000 new species of plants and animals were discovered.
  • The most important animals is not whales and dolphins which receive the most press attention but the photoplanktin and zoo plankton which account for the base of the food chain.
  • One cycle of the big ocean gyres takes about 6 years, after 60% of the material leaves the gyre and is distributed throughout the rest of the ocean.
  • There is not just one garbage patch but several: Indian Ocean, North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic.
  • The plastic is not destroyed but breaks down into smaller particles; eventually microscopic.
  • All UK waters have a concentration of plastic dust.
  • Turtles die from eating plastic bags because they look like a jelly fish.
  • Some plastics break down in the oceans releasing chemicals.
  • In addition plastics absorb other chemicals like sponges; this makes the chemicals more dangerous when the pastic is eaten.
  • All plastic we have ever produced is somewhere.
  • Globally only 7% of plastic waste is being recycled.
  • Out of the world’s oil production 4% goes towards plastics production; 86% goes towards transportation and heating.
  • Plastics can be recovered to make more plastics or energy.
  • Biodegradable plastics are good for certain approaches however they don’t degrade in a saline environment.

More details about the lecture including the video (after 25th October) is available on the 21st Century Challenges website here.

I obtained free tickets as part of our RGS Schools Membership!

The next event in this series is on December 1st and is entitled can the UK ever be sustainable.

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Radio Four Podcasts

I don’t know if it is a sign of ageing but I have been listening to more of Radio Four recently. Most mornings I listen to the today show while getting ready for work.

There are two programmes that are definitely worth a listen and both available on podcast.

Excess Baggage – this programme is hosted by Sandi Toksvig in which she interviews people who have travelled or carried out research in different parts of the world. This podcast provides a great source of nuggets of information about different places in the world.

From our Own Correspondent – this programme is hosted by Kate Adie and usually focusses on three different stories that have been in the news in the preceeding week.

These are a great free resource and as a geography teacher allows me to keep my global knowledge up to date.

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Map Addict

Over the last few days I have read the book Map Addict by Mike Parker.

This book was full of good general knowledge that I did not know before I read it; some of the facts that I thought were the most interesting or the most useful are listed below:

  • Officially the most boring 1 x 1 km grid square of the entire 320,000 on the 1:50,000 landrange seriesL SE8322. This is located between Goole and Hull and it only contains a pylon line grazing on one corner.
  • There is no other patch of land on the planet that has been as comprehensively, and so stylishly, measured, surveyed, plotted and mapped as the 80,823 square miles of the Great Britain. (this may be a slightly biased statement but I like the way that Parker put it).
  • The United States is one of only four countries on Earth officially using imperial weights and measures; the others being Burma/Myanmar, Yeman and Brunei.
  • Parker also explains how the numbering system for A; Roads were originally derived. The country was divided by spokes radiating out from London. The A2 went straight up to Edinburgh, the A2 to Dover, so that all main roads between the two were numbered A1x or A1xx. The A2 roads were between Dover and Portsmouth, the A3s a long tranche right to the far end of the West Country, the A4s a giant wedge that took in most of the Midlands and wWales, the A5s everything between the lines from London to Holyhead and Carlisle, and the A6s the remaining backbone of England , back round to the A1. The last three numbers – A7. A8, and A9 – are Scottish-only roads that were similarly centred on Edinburgh.
  • The ‘Blue Marble’ image taken by the Apollo 1972 space mission was inverted from the original image so that it fit the traditional view.
  • The part of the book that made me smile the most was when Mike Parker said that heritage railway lines should not have the same symbols as real railway lines and instead should be replaced by a pictogram of a grinning old man dragging a reluctant grandson along.

It is well worth a read.

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Microsoft Innovative Teacher’s Summer Camp #mscamp

I spent the last two days at Microsoft UK Headquarters in Reading. This was for the innovative teachers summer camp organised by Stuart Ball. I was impressed by the scale of the Microsoft campus; five huge buildings! The inside of the building (Building 5) we were in was open, light and airy; if only schools had the same design budget

The day was introduced by Stuart, one the key things that I got out of the day was the number of free add-on’s and stand alone programmes created by Microsoft for educators. Some of these I have come across before but many were new to me. This was really refreshing as mentally I always categorise Microsoft as boring nuts and bolts.

There was a huge list of tools/apps to support learning:

All of the above programmes and utilities are free for educational use.

I have only used some of these programmes / utilities before; most I have not. My plan for the coming months is to try and work through them all and try them out to get ideas of how I can use them in the classroom.

The main activity of the two days was creating Innovids. There are some that were created earlier on the Innovative Teachers YouTube channel here.

This was a valuable two days for me not only because I got a huge range of ideas and teaching tips that I can use over this academic year; additionally it recharged my ‘tech’ batteries ready for the new year!

There are a wide range of resources on the Microsoft Teachers Blog

These are just my initial thoughts which will develop over time.

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Essential Geographical Skills

For various reasons we are switching from doing unit 4B with our A2 Geographers to Unit 4A. Going from Issues Evaluation to the fieldwork / skills paper.

This book is the best book on fieldwork that I have seen. It explains every skill in the AQA AS and A2 syllabus in really easy to follow student friendly language.

I am also planning on using it with my IB Geographers for their Internall Asssessment, there will also be pages that are useful for GCSE Geography.

Well worth a read!

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Using Books in Primary Geography

At the Geographical Association Annual Conference in April I presented a workshop with Paula Owens.

One of the things we looked at was using books in Geography.

After a group discussion the partipants submitted books that they had used in their classroom.

(This document can be downloaded from the slideshare website)
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Geography of Stuff … Apple’s iPad

For the last few weeks with Year 8 I have been looking at the Geography of Stuff. Broadly following ideas from the Geography Teaching Today unit of work. The full scheme of work with resources can be found on the Geography Teaching Today site here.

This lesson looks at the breakdown in cost of producing an iPhone and also the production methods.

Below is the PowerPoint I produced to support the lesson.

I have also produced a worksheet looking at the breakdown in cost.  This can be downloaded here. Cost Breakdown for Apple I pads

I also used an article from the Independent on the 27th May 2010. This is available on the Independent website here.

I am teaching the lesson for the first time tomorrow so will probably tweak it after then.

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Atmospheric Systems

For the first time ever I am teaching about the Atmosphere in IB Geography. This is the first part of the  'Atmosphere and Change section; which is part of the Core, '3. Patterns in environmental quality and sustainability'

A useful video clip to introduce the topic is below:

There is also a video clip – although with a rather computer generated sounding voice on the NASA website. I may use it with the sound off at the end of the lesson and get the students to write the script!

I have attached the PowerPoint that I plan to use. This is the first lesson that I will teach on the topic. I will follow it up with a lesson looking at the causes of Global Climate Change.

Posted via email from IB Geography Wiki Blog

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Mission Explore


I preordered this book and it arrived on Easter Saturday, April 3rd.

It is a great size, not tiny but small enough to tuck into a pocket.

The graphics are great and the whole thing is a really high quality product.

More details can be found at

Some of my favourite missions are:

Number 15 – Does rain fall evenly?
Number 29 – Photo Orienteering
Number 74 – Memorise a Place

Some of the missions have potential as Key Stage 3 homework.

The missions are just the kind of mischief that I love. I don’t know how my future wife, Kim will feel about trying some out on our honeymoon?

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Paul Merton in India

Following a unit of work on India I watched Paul Merton in India in its entirety. This has some useful clips for the classroom however much is unsuitable for general classroom viewing.  I have created a Index of useful clips. Although I watched it with Geography in mind some of the clips may be suitable for Religious Studies / Education lessons.

Episode 1

00:00 – Paul arrives in Deli; and initial impression of Deli

02:40 – Indian Customs and Etiquette

09:30 – Plane training for people who can’t afford to fly.

16:24 – Deli – a bustling metropolis – talks about population and growth.

17:18 – Monkeys in Deli – a nuisance but can’t be killed – Hindu solution.

21:25 – Dinner with Guide and Deli Professionals (Eating and Customs)

22:55 – Bikanker, Rajasthan – Searching for Bubles – man who saved the town.

26:50 – Karni Mata Temple – Temple that reveres rats.

31.40 – Shivrati – Hindu Festival – Celebration of Orgasim and men doing genetal tricks.

Episode 2

00:00 – Recap of Previous Episodes

00:50 – Punjab (NW) – Breadbasket of India, highest income in country, and Paul Merton walking around city centre.

02:50 – Driving through country – dangerous roads.

03:10 – Man Dressing as women dancing – Traditional Punjab Culture

04:50 – Punjab Police Force (Sikh) – Talks about diet that the polic force have undertaken and Bangra dancing to loose weight.

12:30 – Driving and Horn Shops

14:00 – Book of Records and World’s Shortest Body Builder

18:20 – Indian Wedding with shortest bodybuilder as guest.

19.15 – Delhi,  Blind Cricket Team

25.10 – Japor Summer Palace, Tourist Destination.

27:35 – Hinglish (mixture of Hindi and English)

28:20 – Jaipor Foot – Artificial Lings

32:20 – Ahmhbian – Gandhi’s Headquaters

33.20 – Eunuch’s extortion racquet.

Episode 3

00:00 – Introduction

01:00 – Shillong – Remote Hill Station, Cold, ‘Rock City’.

09:30 – Kolkata – Cultural Capital of India, Indian Stand up Comedian and Indian Humour.

13:00 – ‘Ganges’ Indias’ Holiest River.

18:00 – Schools rescuing children from prostitution.

24:50 – Kochi, Kerela – 500 miles of back water, Fort Kartonion, Trading Posts.

29:15 – Tourism in Kerela and boats on backwater. Kerela’s employment problems.

32:00 – Coconut Picking and Elephants

36:00 – Tamil Nadu – Spiritualism and Street Magic

Episode 4

00:10 – Hyderabad – Call Centre and It Hub – Monsoon’s Arrive /Rain

02:25 – Snow World – Indoor Snow

06:25 – Transport Museum – Giant Bicycles

11:00 – Snake Rescue

20.00 – Bangalore ‘Garden City of India’ – Highest Average Income; Food in Prison

29.40 – Bangalore School – Setting Records

38.30 – Train to Chennai – Artist Paining with Mouth

Episode 5

01:00 – Chennai – One of Asia’s Longset Beaches – Stunt Men on Beach and Laughter Exercises

06:00 – Mumbai – Introduction and Mumbai Railway station, selling plastic bottles.

12:10 – Selling Plastic Bottles, then seeing houses in cramped fishing cottages.

14:30 – Alternative Bollywood – Malagan – Mollywood

24:35 – Mumbai – PG Woodhouse Club

28:30 – Mumbai – Past Life Regressing Therapy

34.10 – Summary of Whole Trip

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