I had the lucky experience last Saturday to lead a teacher to teacher session at the GA Conference in Derby. It was well worth the 6am start and the 3 hour train journey for the people I met (one of the highlights was being starstruck by sitting in front of Professor Iain Stewart), the ideas people shared and the chance to share my own work.
The first lecture of the day I attended was by Terry Callaghan about the future of the Arctic and why people are so interested in it. Aside from the scientific evidence that he showed to prove that the Arctic is warming it was interesting to hear some of the impacts on both the abiotic and biotic world. For example, the melting of permafrost and the increasing depth of the active layer may lead to damages in infrastructure, damage to ecosystems and the potential destruction of gas pipelines.
Terry Callaghan also argued that the Arctic faces a range of challenges and opportunities for both Arctic residents and the global community. These challenges include sea rise in countries such as Bangladesh and insecure travel routes whereas the opportunities include a development of trading routes such as the northwest passage. Overall, a fascinating lecture about a part of the world that will increasingly become an important battleground in the future.
I was keen to watch Margaret Roberts (as a pioneer of enquiry) talk about controversial issues to a room of PGCE students, NQTs and PGCE tutors. She questioned whether issues such as global warming should be taught from both sides (e.g. scientists who believe in global warming vs. those who do not). Most of the people in the room decided that as geography teachers we should teach both sides but stick to the science. Activities such as role play, class discussions and spider diagrams should be used to explore these controversial issues with the teacher acting as a neutral observer.
Leading my teacher to teacher session was probably the highlight of my day. I was so pleased to see so many turn up and also many wanting to ask questions. I started my enquiry journey during my PGCE at Henry Box (James Clark as my mentor showed me how it enthused the kids in his department) and it was exciting to share my ideas with other people.
The final session of the day was entitled 'Geography of Hope' by David Hicks. David argued that geography teachers should also focus on the hopes of the future, the success stories of sustainability rather than the doom and gloom of climate change. An interesting approach which made me think about my teaching and whether my lessons are often a little pessimistic. As geography teachers should we not also be teaching students that they can help to look after the world, instead of teaching them about the gloomy future which is predicted?
The trip to Derby was really enjoyable and I would recommend the GA conference to all geography teachers. It makes you remember why you love the subject so much and forget about the paperwork and marking of the daily routine.