How to bring your study tour ‘back to life’ in the classroom!

Rouna Ali
22nd November 2016 at 15:02

Subject Genius, Rouna Ali, How to bring your study tour ‘back to life’ in the classroom!

In July and August 2016 I was lucky enough to go with the Geographical Association (GA) on their study tour to Malaysia and Singapore. The GA organises such trips for members every year and offers two bursaries of £500 each to go towards the cost of the tour for geography teachers in the first five years of teaching. I received one of these bursaries and it was a real geographer’s delight with visits to new urban developments and re-developments, barrage schemes, tropical rainforest, mossy forest and mangrove forest environments and ecosystems, numerous temples, various ‘Little India’s and ‘Chinatowns’ and primary and secondary schools in both countries, street art in Penang, strawberry and flower farms, tea and oil palm plantations, visit to an Orang Asli village, an Orang Utan island and of course the big tourist attractions of the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore and the Petronis Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Many parts of the itinerary could be linked to the new specifications that have come about and thus give you inspiration and resources for lesson planning after you come back home. For example:-



Link to AQA A GCSE geography syllabus and lesson plans and ideas.

From Day 1 - Our charismatic tour guide in Singapore gave us a useful insight into how the city has fairly successfully tackled traffic congestion.

Singapore uses a system known as ERP (Electronic Road Pricing System) used in managing road congestion. Based on a pay-as-you-use principle, motorists are charged when they use priced roads during peak hours. ERP rates vary for different roads and time periods depending on the type of vehicle you are using and on local traffic conditions. This encourages motorists to change their mode of transport, travel route or time of travel.

Chapter 15 Sustainable urban development

“For any named city you have studied evaluate the strategies employed to manage traffic congestion. [6 marks]”.

Each group of students in the class would represent different stakeholders with regards to this strategy i.e. motorcyclists, bus and lorry drivers, motorists, Singaporean government officials, environmentalists, local residents and tourists. All groups decide what are the advantages and disadvantages of the scheme from their perspective and share this with the rest of the class. A separate group called the Climate Change panellists lead the discussion and listen to each of the other groups presentations then have to come up with an overall evaluation of and set of concluding statements for this strategy in line with the exam question shown above. Students would then verbally mark all of the points each group made plus the panellists’ evaluation in accordance with the marking scheme (if one was available!).


Link to AQA A GCSE geography syllabus and lesson plans and ideas.

Day 8 – Stay at Mutiara Taman Negara (Rainforest National Park) including a jungle night walk.

In the centre of Peninsula Malaysia, Taman Negara is believed to be one of the world’s oldest rainforests at 130 million years old and extends over an area of 4,343 km2. This complex and rich ecosystem contains over 1,400 species of plant life, 240 types of trees, hundreds of epiphytes, thick-stemmed lianas, mosses, fungi, orchids and abundant bird life. Hidden in the dense foliage are elephants, tigers, leopards and rhinos but sightings are extremely rare.

Chapter 6 Tropical rainforests

If we are expected to teach students to ‘Explain, with reference to an example, why it is important to retain biodiversity. [4 marks]’ and ultimately the value of tropical rainforests to people and the environment, I would get students to write a travel diary entry imagining that they are in a rainforest environment. The temperatures could only be reproduced at summer time if the UK has a mini-heatwave but I would put relevant images, (some of the other geographers on the tour were avid photographers as well so I would use their pictures as a slideshow), or videos on the screen, sound effects and darken the room as much as possible. I would encourage them to write everything (and everyone) that they can hear, see, taste, feel and smell in the jungle as well as doing their best to ‘experience’ the heat and humidity. The best aspect of having experienced the rainforest first hand means that I will be able to fire their imaginations to a greater extent. Students who have been to Kew Gardens, The Eden Project and indeed a rainforest environment themselves will also be at an advantage.

Students would then be asked to imagine that they have come back to this rainforest a year later to find that it has been completely destroyed. They would write a second diary entry detailing as far as possible all the effects of deforestation whilst I would put the lights back on and have in the background appropriate sounds for logging etc with relevant images on the whiteboard.

Subject Genius, Rouna Ali, How to bring your study tour ‘back to life’ in the classroom!

Rouna on a speedboat canoe within Mutiara Taman Negara (Rainforest National Park) in Malaysia

Overall it was just the most fabulous three weeks to travel within a really fast-changing part of Asia with fellow geographers to great tourist attractions but many other places too which held within them ‘golden nuggets’ of geographical knowledge which I have carried back home for my students and to enhance my own CPD as well. I highly recommend these study tours and think all geography teachers should take part in at least one during their teaching careers.

My colleague Cathie Burton-York who is of Dominican heritage, is now helping Adam Nichols to plan next year’s GA Study Tour to the Caribbean!! Look at



Rouna Ali is a geography teacher and careers adviser in the London Borough of Hillingdon.