With the best will in the world, children are often a little uninspired by geography. To be honest, the same could be said for some teachers. Who cares if it is hot in the desert and cold in the Arctic? Rivers will still flow, rain will still fall and China will still be China whether geography is taught well or not. Right?
So how do we make geography exciting? Well, for the learning to be memorable and challenging, children need to be engaged and engulfed in it. It needs to be experienced.
At the beginning of a topic that questions what makes Britain "great", our geographical study of the country started with the children entering the classroom to find all the ingredients they would need to make a simple cake. The learning objective stated that we would be studying the geographical features of Great Britain, but before any such investigations took place, the class set to work cracking eggs, measuring out ingredients and sifting, following instructions written as part of the morning's literacy lesson.
We made 10 sponge cakes, each roughly A4 sized. While they were baking, the children were split into five groups and given 10 minutes each to write a 10-question quiz on key features of Britain (famous landmarks, cities, rivers and so on) using the internet and atlases. The pupils then answered each others' questions, using buzzers they made in science the previous term for exactly this purpose.
As the smell of freshly baked cakes wafted into the room, the children were intrigued by what the relationship between baking and the geography of Great Britain would be. My teaching assistant put the cakes together and carved the result into the shape of the UK. I explained that we would be building the mountains, rivers, motorways and so on out of marzipan.
Over the next few days, we decided which geographical features to include on our cake. We wrote about the chosen features, made them and attached them. At the end of the week, we had an edible model of the UK. The children have been engrossed in their learning and the building blocks have been laid for further studies.
The cake was showcased in assemblies and at the Christmas fair. The children's pride in their work was obvious and, when the cake was eaten, the learning was truly digested.
Chris Fenton is an associate headteacher, author and commissioning editor at Curriculum Press Primary (www.curriculum-press.co.uk)
For a quick, pictorial introduction to the British isles, try kez1985's PowerPoint.
Alternatively, Juliebr has shared a cross-curricular activity in which pupils manage a new band and plot their first national tour.
Find all links and resources at www.tes.co.ukresources023
In the forums
Do you want to link up with this geography teacher in the TES geography forum? He is looking for ideas to help get geography taught more proactively in schools.