Geography - Get them in shape

20th January 2012 at 00:00

What the lesson is about

The first time a colleague suggested using plasticine for a geography lesson with high-achieving sixth-formers, I was sceptical, writes Lynne Deacon. But they loved it.

The value of getting your hands on materials and making something cannot be overestimated. Plasticine is clean, reusable and cheap. But what could sixth-formers learn from it? Well, some of the changes in glacial landscapes were proving tricky to visualise, so we made models.

Make a mountain top and then gouge out the corries until you have aretes and a pyramidal peak. Or show the shape of the glacial valley below: using different colours to represent harder and softer areas of rock allows the depiction of differential erosion, over-deepening, rock-steps, whatever you choose.

Taking it further

To model the movement of ice, freeze some water in a plastic bowl, warm the outside to release the ice, tilt it to an angle and "create" rotational movement in a corrie by applying pressure to the back edge of the ice mass. It's even better if you put some sand or grit in the bottom before freezing to simulate abrasion. You can go further and create your own glacier by building up layers in a long, narrow tray: start with damp soil and coarse grit, add rainwater, then sand, clear water, and so on. Freeze between each addition to represent the phases of accumulation, and top it off with a couple of "erratic" stones.

The key to learning here comes from being able to explain to others what the model means, using correct age-appropriate geographical vocabulary.

What else?

Take photos for reinforcement or revision, or for a display.

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