Geography - Country files

Creating a whole nation state unleashes pupils' imaginations

Chris Fenton

Announcing to my Year 6 class that they were to create a new country from scratch met with little enthusiasm. But once I explained that they would have total control of what went on there, my pupils showed decidedly more interest.

As you might expect from 10- and 11-year-olds, their suggestions ranged from the outrageous to the amusing. But the bar was raised when I told them we would be comparing notes with the other Year 6 class at the end of the four-week project.

We began to identify countries around the world and what gave them their identity: food, flags, anthems, exports, governments and religions. Eventually, we began to learn how climate played a large part in defining trade opportunities and we started to seriously build our national identities.

The class was split into departments of trade, the environment, education, justice and tourism, and each department set about building manifestos, promoting the country or developing the backbone of its legal and social systems.

The result was quite magnificent. During the lessons, the class began to think and work like a team. And, with the confidence you only find in children of that age, they totally believed in the country they had created and would defend it to the hilt.

After four weeks, we met our neighbouring country. My class had opted for a tropical environment, so our principal export was tropical fruits. Our counterparts had opted for a more moderate European environment and were offering potatoes and root vegetables. We agreed to trade sack for sack and an economic environment was born.

At the end of the project, we discussed our learning as a year group. The children's passion was palpable. They had elected leaders, built systems of social care, composed national anthems and at the end of the exercise shaken hands with those from the "other country" in a declaration of unity.

Although it centred on geography, the exercise merged curriculum subjects seamlessly without losing its sense of fun.

Chris Fenton is an associate head and a primary publisher at Pearson Education. He owns the Mediano Educational Writers Agency (

What else?

Teach pupils about the European Union countries with jmjbayley's "EU Catchphrase!" game.

Alternatively, get them to create a European flag wheel with victoriabennett's lesson.

In the forums

Want to add pizzazz to your geography lessons? Check out the forum's ideas for teaching with a superhero theme.

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Chris Fenton

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