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Island story

Susan Thomas looks at resources for studying a Hebridean island

Large colourful resources are needed to stimulate the interest of young geographers, and teachers will find the Hebridean island of Coll is well documented with learning materials for key stage 1.

Coll will already be familiar in many primary classrooms as the fictional island of Struay in the Katie Morag stories by Mairi Hedderwick.

Each story, with its detailed illustrations, features different aspects of the Coll way of life. They are an excellent means of introducing some of the problems and delights of life on the island.

An interesting approach is for children to create a bank of thematic maps.

Keep them simple and focus on just one feature per map. Young children find a themed map easier to create. Ideas for thematic maps could be wildlife on Coll, places to visit by bike, places to visit by boat, where people work on Coll, and hills and lakes.

Base maps can be provided although it's good to practise freehand drawing of map outlines. The Geographical Association Isle of Coll map (see resources) has a key with pictorial symbols that can be copied, enlarged and cut up for sticking onto maps. This large map with picture symbols and bright colours designed for use at KS$1 is a "real" map with an inset of the village of Arinagour.

On the reverse are three photocopiable activity sheets that encourage use of the map and its keys. Children can keep their map illustrations compact by using self-adhesive labels. These can be drawn and written on, and when finished, the labels can be peeled off and stuck on or around the map. If all maps use the same base map, then OHP acetates can be produced, allowing overlaying of one map on another to combine maps that cover different themes.

The children's maps can be displayed beside photographs such as those in the Discover Coll: The Real Struay photopack. This photopack raises questions about Coll using geographical concepts and ideas. The 25 photographs, including some aerial views, are very large, colourful and packaged in a large plastic portfolio for protection.

The reverse of each photograph offers key ideas and questions, background information and plenty of teaching activities.

Similarly, children's illustrations of Coll landscapes can be displayed, drawn after browsing the large photographs or using the panoramic views on

This website allows children to look around sites on Coll in all directions. It's an idea to compare the north, east, south and west views from a point in the school grounds as a simple fieldwork introduction to this online activity.

Making maps and landscape sketches not only teaches about places, but promotes research and map-making techniques that provide a foundation for future work. The use of technology and the internet to extend the geography gives young children access to an even wider range of resources.


* Isle of Coll map (The Geographical Association)

Tel: 0114 296 0088

* Discover Coll, the Real Struay (Wild Goose Photopack)

Tel: 01530 835685

* Ordnance Survey Explorer 372 Coll and Tiree map has leisure and tourist information showing geographical features, wildlife reserves, cycle hires, golf links and parking places. It shows inland lakes and rocky outcrops interspersed with beaches and smaller islands.

* Eileen Colla (Toad Wine Press). Easy-to-read guide to Coll with history and geography, meanings of place names, stories of shipwrecks, and retelling of folk tales.

* Website providing a virtual tour with panoramic views.

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