Secondary geography - Fresh air heads

Parks and open spaces mean different things to different people. David Norman investigates

David Norman

This lesson for Year 7 explores the quality of green spaces in our community. Its objective: to develop an understanding of the features of quality parks.

The lesson opens with an image of a park on screen, backed with quiet, relaxing music. The pupils were asked to close their eyes and imagine they were in a familiar park. I asked them to visualise it, describing a bright, warm, busy day with lots of activity going on, and asking them to imagine what they could see and hear.

The children then had a short time to record their thoughts on paper, followed by verbal feedback from the task and a discussion of what made an attractive park.

The main learning task was to work in pairs or groups of three to evaluate 12 photographs of different parks. The photos were mixed up on two laminated sheets, and they were provided with a recording sheet for their thoughts.

The class was asked to say whether the photo represented good or bad characteristics of the park and why. They were, for instance, perturbed by the restrictions put on activities in some parks and annoyed about the impacts of vandalism in others.

This was an invaluable part of the lesson as it began a debate about what features were important in parks and how the views of different groups varied. Pupils were keen to promote the needs of young people but recognised that skate parks and cycle tracks needed to go alongside areas where older people could walk and sit in comfort.

The final task, completed for homework, was to identify five factors that contribute to a good park, such as how welcoming it is and how well it provides for the needs of the community, and for each of these to provide two or three statements to help assess the criteria.

David Norman has recently retired as head of geography at Barking Abbey School in Barking

You can do it too

If you would like to set criteria around which pupils can judge their own and each other's parks, you can use the Green Flag Award criteria, available at

The site also offers a downloadable self assessment sheet that pupils could use to critique each other's ideas.

The Green Flag Awards follow the following criteria:

- Is the park welcoming?

- Is it healthy, safe and secure?

- Is it clean and well-maintained?

- Sustainability.

- Conservation and heritage.

- Community involvement.

- Marketing.

- Management.

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David Norman

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