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Lessons in the spirit of inquiry

A joint geography and science project aims to spark questions.

Warwick Mansell reports

Schools are to offer joint lessons in geography and science in a drive to encourage children to take a more questioning approach to the subjects.

The Geographical Association and the Wellcome Trust have teamed up to give pupils a more holistic view of topics which can be studied from both perspectives.

From next term, six schools are to test out joint lessons taken by either a geography or a science teacher in a project which one teacher said reminded him of the freedoms of pre-national curriculum days. Year 10 children at Hayfield school, in Doncaster, south Yorkshire, will study the chemical make-up of fertiliser. They will then consider its merits for farmers around the world.

Year 8 classes at Ecclesfield school, in Sheffield, will be learning about plate tectonics and communities living near volcanoes.

The pound;30,000 government-funded scheme is part of a more general cross-curricular move which involves geography and English teachers co-operating in the same way.

David Lambert, chief executive of the Geographical Association, said that too often the national curriculum worked against an inquiring approach. He said: "We need to encourage more critical and creative thinking."

Teachers say science tends to promote less discussion among pupils than science. The idea is to combine this questioning approach with science's tradition of basing learning around experiments.

The teachers involved say there may be problems with timetabling lessons and the ability of staff to teach outside their usual subject area.

But Frank Booler, head of geography at Hayfield, said: "This takes me back to when it was possible to teach almost any strand of any subject in this way. It is something we have to look at seriously."

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