Geography - An alien point of view

6th July 2012 at 01:00
Children justify why Earth is better than the planet Gog

A lot of my humanities planning starts with the phrase: "The children walk into the classroom and ..." because it works on so many levels. Children always respond to things that are unusual or unexpected, it gives me an opportunity to use imaginative ways to teach some dry lessons and I like creating a fuss to get a point across.

Merging Year 3 science and geography objectives through an Earth theme allows me to introduce a new character to the classroom - and kick over a few chairs in the process.

So, the children entered the classroom and discovered that a kerfuffle had taken place in the corner. Glitter (space dust) was everywhere and it appeared that a spaceship had landed (charcoal scrapings in a circle on a desk). Next to it was a note in a plastic cylinder, covered in goo.

The letter was from Zog, who claimed that his planet (Gog) was much better than Earth: more unusual animals, better weather and more stunning landscapes. Gog then challenged the class to prove him wrong.

The children were indignant. After identifying where our planet fits in our solar system and the unique features that make it habitable, they split into investigation parties to discover wild and interesting facts to prove him wrong. Facts were the order of the day and, once the children had collected them, they filed a report to send back to Gog.

As the class learned about Earth's unique geographical features they exhibited a growing sense of pride. But Zog had given them other questions to answer, such as why he could sometimes see large black spots in the ocean and why the "white bits" at each end of the planet were getting smaller.

Eventually, the true learning experience of this exercise became apparent and the penny started to drop. They had learned about man-made disasters and their impact, and applied facts to a new context (Zog), leading to wider understanding. Suddenly they not only understood the uniqueness of our planet but saw man's tragic ecological footprint. And they had worked it all out for themselves.

Chris Fenton is an associate headteacher and primary publisher at Pearson Education. He is also the owner of Mediano Education Writers Agency ( and is looking for new education writers to publish


Try ToriRuth89's slide show of natural and man-made disasters, such as tsunamis and the 2005 London bombings to stimulate class discussion.

Equip pupils with the skills to survive disaster with a resource pack from ActGlobalRED.


Geography teachers want ideas for new ways to use iPads in the classroom. Do you have any handy tips?

Find all links and resources at

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