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Geography - Keep the flame alive

Examining the Olympic and Paralympic legacy with pupils

Examining the Olympic and Paralympic legacy with pupils

After all the planning and anticipation, London 2012 is over. The collective national euphoria as Mo Farah slapped his head, Ellie Simmonds touched home first and Jessica Ennis returned to Sheffield to a crowd of 20,000 has begun to dissipate, and we can all get back to normal - other than posting our letters into gold postboxes. But how might we be able to continue teaching themes related to the Games?

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London is now closed for at least a year. The "mobilisation" phase is over, and we are into "transformation" until 2015 as venues are dismantled or downsized, the athletes' village is converted to housing and infrastructure is built. This will be followed by "regeneration" until 2030, which means the park could remain a relevant issue for case studies on regeneration, sustainability, carbon reduction, waste and water management for decades to come.

The housing areas are designed to be as energy efficient and environmentally sustainable as possible. Students could be challenged to design their own eco-friendly houses, and see if they have included all the planned features of these new neighbourhoods. The change from public to private space could be a focus for A-level geographers, along with the way that sustainable transport options are being encouraged.

Google Earth has three-dimensional renderings of the main Olympics venues. Collect the Olympic stories of colleagues and students, and add them to annotated placemarks. Students could perhaps design a mountain-bike track in Google Earth, plot a route for a wheelchair race or even build venues using a gaming platform such as Minecraft.

Lots of data were generated during the Olympics about the relative successes of countries' athletes compared with statistics such as gross domestic product and population. The Royal Geographical Society produced a fully resourced unit looking at the geography of medals, which is worth further investigation.

Look at the Ordnance Survey's medal maps for 2012. Is there a local medal-winner who could be invited into school?

Geographies of disability are not commonly explored, although issues of school access for wheelchair users could be identified by cutting scrap pieces of wood to the width of a wheelchair and checking accessibility. How about making sensory maps using Lego blocks or recording podcasts for people with visual impairment. How do you explain physical processes or landforms to people who have never seen them?

And finally, there are always the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016 to prepare for.

Alan Parkinson is an author and freelance geographer. He is a former curriculum development leader for the Geographical Association and a former head of geography.


Check out Google's TES Resources profile for mapping activities and more. bit.lyGoogleTES

TES partner Ordnance Survey shares more activities to get students excited about maps, including Writing the Earth, a literacy activity using maths.


Urban geographer John Widdowson shares a thought-provoking blog post on the "parallel Olympics".


See Ordnance Survey's medallist maps. Click a medal to access a photo and information about each athlete. There's an Olympics map (bit.lyOlympicsMedalMap) and one for Paralympics champions as well. (bit.lyParalympicsMedalMap).

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