Geography: where it's at

28th April 2006 at 01:00
The geography action plan (to stem the subject's declining popularity) is far from "doomed" as Alex Standish believes ("Shrunken world of global ethics", TES, April 21). The day after I listened to Dr Standish, at the Geographical Association's recent conference, I listened to my daughter and her friend having a chat.

Kaho: "We have recorder club at school." Emma: "So do we." Kaho: "My recorder is made in Japan - that's where I come from."

This conversation is typical of many primary children who try to make sense of their world. Geography education can help them do this better.

Dr Standish is right to argue for "spatial understanding". An exploration of where places are is essential if Emma and Kaho are to develop a more informed understanding of their world.

However, places do not simply have a physical location. Every place also has an associated social and emotional understanding. Learning in geography is lacking if we do not include these.

Over the past three years more than 100 teachers and several thousand key stage 2 and 3 pupils have been exploring the question "How can we teach about places in a way that develops learners' sense of global interconnectedness?" as part of the Geographical Association's "valuing places" project.

The project has found that geographical learning can consist of geographical knowledge, and geographical understanding, informed by the social context within which we teach. These are not contradictory elements of our discipline.

Emma and Kaho benefit from knowing about where recorders are made, who makes them, and how they are treated. Kaho's parents work at our local Toyota plant, so they also need to know about why Toyota cars are made here. Geography education enables young global citizens to think carefully about their world.

Diane Swift 3 Vicarage Croft Kings Bromley Burton on Trent, Staffordshire

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