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Ode to a brighter geography class

What can a poet teach geography teachers about their own subject? How to make it more interesting for pupils, apparently.

Nigel Forde has been recruited by the Geographical Association to work with schools amid fears that students are bored in lessons.

He is the author of A Map of the Territory, a book of poems written over several years that meditate on memory and landscape. He is also a broadcaster, award-winning screenplay writer and a founder of the Riding Lights Theatre Co.

"Geography is all around us," he said. "In describing the places where we grew up, we can look at how they shaped our lives and made us who we are."

From next September schools will no longer have to offer geography at key stage 4, raising fears that many youngsters will drop it altogether.

David Lambert, the GA's chief executive, has become concerned that geography teaching at secondary schools has become routine and boring.

Recent evidence from the Office for Standards in Education suggests that at KS3 it lags behind other subjects.

Dr Lambert believes that using successful teaching methods from other subjects, such as English, can make the subject more appealing. This week the GA asked Mr Forde to recite excerpts from A Map of the Territory to a small conference of geography and English teachers at Doncaster's Earth Centre.

Dr Lambert told them: "Geographers need to make teaching the subject less boring.

"English teachers are more creative and look at the wider picture. They question and analyse the facts.

"We need pupils arguing and thinking more in depth, like they do in English. Poetry is one way to do this."

Following the conference, Dean Jones, a geography teacher from Wickersley school, a sports college in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, asked his GCSE class to write poems. "I'm convinced that such a creative approach will inspire them," he said.

A report on the progress of the scheme is expected in June and the GA hopes the idea will be taken up by other schools.

A second conference next week between science and geography teachers will look at how they can learn from each other's teaching techniques.

Subject Focus: Geography TESTEACHER magazine A Map of the Territory is published by Oxford Poets, price pound;7.95

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