So here it goes. This is my first attempt at writing a an article such as this, and I’m not sure how good it will be. I can be fairly certain, however, that it will be better than the average location knowledge of the UK.
The number of times I have spoken to someone living in London and they talk about the fact that they are going ‘down to Newcastle’ or vice versa is enough to drive a Geography teacher like me mad.
Maybe I am guilty too. I remember when I started driving I didn’t know if I should turn left or right out of the drive way and my dad would say to me over and over again: “17 years I have been driving you around and I am sure that once you get in the car you just close your eyes”. Whatever it was back then that is preventing people from learning their locational knowledge I am pretty sure it is still going on.
So I have something solution. What would be wrong with giving every Y7 in the country 4 blank maps of the UK:
Map 1 to have the names and locations of the counties and the seas.
Map 2 to have the names and locations of the major towns and cities
Map 3 to have the names and locations of the mountain ranges
Map 4 to have the names and location of all the major rivers.
Their task for the first few lessons of the year would be to complete and learn this off by heart. My bet is that they would love getting their heads into an atlas, fulfilling the stereotype of using colours in geography and of course be careful not to go over the lines.
A geographers dream!
I am sure that teachers would get told off for it not being an ‘outstanding lesson’ because the students didn’t learn the names of the rivers through the medium of dance, while doing underwater basket weaving, tracking their progress and indicating their levels. But I bet it would get the job done.
Get the parents on board too. Unplug the ‘TomTom’, shut down ‘Google maps’ and actually give them a map, let the kids plan your journey to the coast. Let them figure out where they are going. We all know that we learn by doing and what better way than not getting your parents lost?
It was only last week I was reading on the BBC website that the Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN) stated “increasing dependence on technology means people are losing the ability to find their way by traditional methods”. So we have got to do something.
Up until 2010 every Y7 pupil in the country was entitled to a free OS map of their local area. Not anymore as they have launched ‘Digimap’ (online directory) but nothing really beats getting a full sized OS map open in front of you. Finding out where you live, looking at the whole area and then the final challenge of folding it away. To paraphrase the Spinners: ‘ It’s a Shaaaaame, the way you’re messing round with my maps…'
Maybe I am just being old fashioned, maybe I am just trying to live out the dream of one of my old teachers of having a ‘Map Room’ at home. I do love technology and ‘Memory Map’ is a fantastic piece of technology which gives you access to OS Maps wherever you are on your phone or tablet. But what happens when inevitably your battery dies, the charger cable breaks or you drop it on the floor. There is nothing better than a good old fashioned map.
Tim Parker is a geography teacher in the Northeast of England