Islands in the sun;Project: geography

26th June 1998 at 01:00
Across the globe there are island communities striving to survive and prosper in a competitive - and sometimes hostile - world. In this project we look at two of them - St Lucia in the Caribbean and Eigg, off the west coast of Scotland. On the face of it they are very different - one a large, well-populated island visited by tourists and cruise ships, the other a tiny community linked quite tenuously by ferry to the mainland. The human spirit is such, though, that the similarities between them are at least as significant as the differences.


* What does this picture tell you about the climate of St Lucia?

* What sort of trees can you see on the beach?

* What do you think the boats are used for?

* What are the roofs of the buildings made from? LOOKING SMART

Left: these children are in school uniform. They could easily live in the houses pictured below.

* What do you think are the main problems of keeping their uniforms looking so smart?

* Do you wear school uniform? Describe the differences between their uniform and yours.


Where? One of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean.

How big? Twenty-seven miles from north to south and fourteen miles from east to west.

Population. A total of 140,000 - but three times as many go each year on holiday. People who live there are called St Lucians.

Climate and physical features. Hot sun - about 27xC for most of the year - and heavy bursts of rain mean that much of the island is covered with tropical rainforest, which is very dense in places.

What do the people do? Farming - bananas are grown mainly for export; other crops include mangoes and coconuts. Clothes, soft drinks, beer and soap are also exported. Tourism is important to the economy.

The future for the banana industry looks bleak because of competition from other countries. The government would like to develop other kinds of trade, but this is not easy.

Schools. There are around 87 primary schools and 16 secondary schools. For university education, young people have to leave the island.

Although English is spoken in schools and by most of the people, the most common language is Creole. Much of this language can be recognised by French speakers.


We can see 13 people in this picture.

* About what proportion of the population of Eigg is this?

* What is the flag in the picture?

* As the young people grow older, do you think they will want to stay on Eigg, or will they want to leave?

* What do you think are the arguments for and against staying? EIGG FACTFILE

Where? Off the Scottish mainland in the United Kingdom.

How big? About eight miles north to south, three miles east to west.

Population. Around 70 people live on and run the island. The islanders, the Highland Council, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust bought it for pound;1.5 million last year from a private owner after a public appeal and a pound;1 million donation from a wealthy woman. Some tourists visit the island in the summer - mainly day-trippers, and couples who think it is a romantic place to get married. Island residents are locally known by the collective name Eiggach.

Climate and physical features. Temperate - the sea prevents it getting really cold in the winter, and there is not much snow. Eigg is mostly flat, apart from a hill called the Sgrr, which is a lump of volcanic outflow. The island is rocky with plenty of trees, fields and bracken.

What do the people do? Farming. The soil is very fertile. There is a small amount of fishing.

Schools. There is one primary school on Eigg, with about 10 pupils. Children go to secondary schools on the mainland, where they live during the week, and go back to Eigg for the weekends.


* Wall paintings like this are called murals.

This mural depicts aspects of life in St Lucia.

* How many can you describe?

* Is there a mural near your school showing life in your community?

* Could you design one for your community or your school?

This St Lucian girl, left, is dressed for a special occasion.

* What do you think it is?

* Do we have the same special occasions in Britain?


The pictures in this project largely tell their own story. Use them for discussion - the questions with them are suggestions only; many others are possible. The project can be used to support key stage 2 geography, and also as a source for writing activities.

Comparisons and contrasts - pages 27-31 Both are rural island communities, dependent on the land, which is very fertile. Both are beautiful places, with beaches - each attracts its own brand of tourist.

* Both have problems with basic utilities. In Eigg, there is no mains electricity, which means that individual homes depend on diesel generators. Diesel and petrol come from the mainland in five gallon drums, and are used sparingly.

* In St Lucia, although there is heavy rainfall, it is not effectively collected and managed, and shortages of water are a constant irritation. Many homes do not have running water.

Pages 28-29 * The beach is like the village green - everything happens there.

* The foreshore trees are coconut trees. The boats are for fishing and usually have elaborate, often religious, names.

* The standard roofing material in St Lucia is corrugated iron - rough wooden walls are acceptable, but waterproof roofs are essential and tiles are not available. A brick or concrete house is called a "wall house". Houses are simple, life is often lived outdoors or on the verandah.

* There is electricity - overhead cables are visible - and some houses may have telephones.

Pages 32-33 * Symbolic murals by local artists can be seen in St Lucia. They are also seen in towns and cities in the UK - pupils may not always have taken much notice of them.

* Designing a "community" mural, even if it remains at the design stage, is a good cross-curricular project.

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