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Action stations across the land

Pupils can do 101 things to take part in Geography Action Week next month. Mike Morrish gives a taste of what's in store

The first Geography Action Week in the UK takes place next month. From November 11 to 17, schools and colleges will be organising activities focused on geography for this major initiative launched by the Geographical Association in association with the Ordnance Survey.

Last June the GA circulated its 11,000 members with a brochure containing "101 things your school could do in Geography Action Week". Many schools are building on Land Use - UK, the national land-use survey which is the GA's main contribution to Action Week.

This summer some 1,400 schools, more than half of them primary, took part in the survey, involving some 50,000 pupils in the fieldwork. Each school was allocated an area of one square kilometre, out of a sample carefully selected to represent different types of UK environments.

Schools, aided by a free Ordnance Survey map, were asked to map their chosen area for its land uses; work out the percentages of land given to different uses; note the presence or absence of current environmental debate (such as village stores, set-aside farmland and satellite communications towers); and also involve themselves in debates about what changes they would like to see and how they imagine the area will actually look like in 20 years from now.

By going on to take part in a "twinning" arrangement, many schools are also sharing their findings with a school in a contrasting locality of Britain.

A team of volunteers is now busy computerising and analysing the results, based at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology at Monks Wood, Huntingdon, the Government-funded research institute which helped to set up the survey.

"We've impressed on teachers the need for the survey to be rigorous and accurate," says Robin Fuller, one of the ITE scientists. "The first results look very promising. The work of these thousands of school pupils will provide valuable supplementary evidence, ground-truth to the work which we do here, working mainly from satellite images."

The 1,000 squares in the survey cover all types of environment, some in inaccessible areas. Remote and other unclaimed squares in the sample were surveyed this summer by a specially-recruited geographical task force of teachers and students who went out all over the UK to complete the task.

Preliminary results will be ready in time for Geography Action Week and will first be publicised at the Royal Geographical Society on November 4. All participating schools will be there to see commentaries on survey results by land-use experts, a 25-minute video about Land Use - UK and hear personal views from some of the teachers.

The following weekend Land Use - UK will be featured at the 4th National Primary Geography Conference on November 9. Organised by the GA and hosted by Homerton College, Cambridge, it offers a packed programme of lectures and workshops.

Ian Selmes, head of geography at Oakham School, is co-ordinating a sixth-form conference on November 14 for A-level students in Leicestershire which will include an advice desk on higher education opportunities in geography.

Liverpool Hope University College has organised a full week of activities for Geography Action Week, including primary and secondary quizzes, an Ordnance Survey conference, a workshop for the public using the World Wide Web called "Around the World in 80 seconds" and a T-shirt design competition.

Nearby in Knowsley, Lancashire, Pam Jarvis, headteacher of Brookfield School, has been working closely with the borough's strategic planning team. Ten Knowsley schools covered the entire borough for their Land Use - UK surveys. Their results have been converted into hi-tech computer graphics on the borough's GIS system, which will be on display to school parties and the public at the Municipal Offices during Action Week. In addition, each school will receive a land-use map of the whole borough generated by the GIS system.

Stephen Walker, head of geography at the Holgate School, Hucknall, has linked up with the Association for Geographic Information to run an action day exploring GIS. Data collected by Nottinghamshire schools for Land Use - UK will form the basis of a week-long interactive display illustrating applications of GIS, as well as career opportunities in this rapidly expanding field. The one-day regional conference will offer demonstrations and talks about the nature, scope and potential of GIS to pupils, teachers, parents and industrialists.

These events are just a taste of the efforts being put into Geography Action Week across the country. Why not add to the impact by organising something special at your school?

Geography Action Week will be launched by GA presidentAshley Kent on November 4, with results of the Land Use - UK survey. Venue: The Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7, 11am-4pm. Tickets Pounds 10 from the GA, 343 Fulwood Road, Sheffield S10 3BP. Tel: 0114 267 0666.

Details of the 4th National Primary Conference on November 9 from Pam Pointon at Homerton College: 01223 411141. Fee Pounds 35

Mike Morrish is head of geography at The Haberdashers' Aske's School in Hertfordshire

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