New ways to play the field

24th March 2000 at 00:00
GEOGRAPHY FIELDWORK PROJECTS. By Jennifer Frew. Nelson pound;9.50. BEYOND THE BIKESHEDS; fresh approaches to fieldwork in the school locality. By David Job, Clare Day and Tony Smyth. The Geographical Association, pound;8.95 (pound;6 members). Tel: 0114 296 0088.

Seen one field, you've seen 'em all" was Charlie Brown's disillusioned reply to Lucy when asked about his field trip, but most geography teachers would beg to differ. In the years since the national curriculum was introduced, fieldwork has been given some statutory protection, but there are time and financial restrictions on residential geographical fieldwork in many schools.

The encouragement of individual projects (especially for GCSE and A-level) and the use of the immediate locality are two ways to maintain worthwhile fieldwork and these complementary books explore such possibilities fruitfully.

Jennifer Frew's book boldly claims to be "the most comprehensive fieldwork textbook available". Aimed at 14 to 16-year-olds who will be tackling their GCSE projects in geography, it could also, with profit, be used as a guidebook by many teachers who have the task of organising these.

The first half offers general guidance on developing skills and techniques and collecting data; the second gives further development and a variety of examples in the spheres of weather, towns, rivers, transport, coasts and leisur.

I hope that the absence of villages, agriculture and countryside as major topic examples is not prophetic. Each section has been helpfully divided into examples of a trial run, a short project, a main investigation and an extra investigation. The writing is admirably direct and practical, and the book provides a sound introduction to many fundamental parts of fieldwork.

The authors of Beyond the Bikesheds, on the other hand, take much orthodox and basic work for granted and, following a survey of fieldwork purposes and strategies, concentrate on the more imaginative and innovative aspects.

Their philosophy is that "working locally may allow us to extend the outcomes of our investigations into participating for change for a better world in the context of our local communities and environments".

Project examples include measuring CO2 emissions from traffic per kilometre, finding an optimum site for a wind-turbine, "food-mile" surveys in local shops and "multicultural biogeography". Curiously, the obviously visible landscape (both natural and built) is not a major focus of these studies and represents another major area which could benefit from this thought-provoking treatment.

Rex Walford currently directs a research project about fieldwork at the Cambridge University School of Education and is a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today