Geography Association Conference 2011

Geography Association Conference 2011: University of Surrey, Guildford

This blog post has a few firsts for me.

The first time I’d driven further than the route to work in my new car | The first time I’ve presented a workshop at a conference | The first time I’ve blogged about a conference

I hope this blog also has a few ‘firsts’ for you too.

If you’re a Geographer and haven’t been to the GA Conference, I hope this encourages you to visit the conference next year | If you’re not a Geographer, I hope this opens your eyes to how creative Geography is.


This year the conference ran from Thursday to Saturday. Due to term times in Nottinghamshire, I could only make it down for Saturday. I set off Friday night at 4pm, and with parts of the M1 closed and accidents along the M25, it took 107 Glee songs to get me to Guildford (about 4 hours!).

It was great to meet @DavidERogers of Mission Explore for a quick drink Friday night before getting ready for Saturday.

I arrived at the University of Surrey at 8am with boxes full of materials for the workshop I was presenting, and set off to find the room and prepare for the 10am start.

The Landscape of Sweet Geography

This was a brilliant workshop! We explored how baking and observing the differences in cakes and biscuits explained the various properties of rocks and soils. Take a look at the photographs and the captions. I was amazed and can’t wait to try this out with my class. The activity covers objectives across all Key Stages and I’m sure they will become obvious to you.



Rice Crispy cakes: 1 set has more crispies than chocolate (representing a soft rock like sandstone), the second set has more chocolate than crispies (representing a harder rock). The chocolate acts as the matrix holding everything in place, the experience shows that sandstone has little matrix.


We used carmel slice and chocolate biscuit cake to investigate sedimentary rock and layers of soil. We poked and proded the different layers which gave us an experience of how the ground or rock type has hard and soft layers. We were very suprised at how different each layer actually was!! It was also interesting to push the hard top chocolate layer and watch how the soft biscuit layer underneath crumbled away causing the chocolate (ground) to crack. I wonder what would happen if we slid two pieces past each other? Would this show what an earthquake does?

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The workshop also showed how food can be used to explain erosion. With children you can plan a fair test to shake sugar cubes inside a small tin. At regular intervals children can observe how the sugar cubes have rounded off, this represents a softer rock type. When comparing the findings to something harder like murray mints, children find that this rock type shatters. Fascinating!

From an Early Years point of view, I can imagine using these ideas to explore similarities and differences in the Knowledge and Understanding the World area of learning. I imagine that children would also have lots of opportunity to talk about their likes and dislikes of the food too!!

Thanks to ESTA for a fantastic and tasty workshop

Check out their resources for many other creative and innovative teaching ideas.

Wow Ways to Display Worldly Work

Simple and effective display techniques were explored here. We made small books out of scraps of paper and explored ways that engage children in the classroom. Thanks Chris for sharing your inspiring scrap books and jotters with us. Here’s a photograph of a small jotter you can make with your class to collect work. I’m thinking of using them as a link between home and school; can you draw your route to school? Draw a picture of the dream you had last night. Etc.


Using Mobile Devices in Geography

A great opportunity to spend time exploring recommended websites, all free. We looked at using GPS devices to track routes and uploading these, along with photographs, to Google Maps. We created 3D virtual environments using digital images taken of a place (my favourite!).

The following is a list some of the suggested sites from the workshop.  a simple start. Display your Google
homepage every morning, discuss the weather, place on the map, day month and year, news headlines. great for uploading photos wirelessly when working around school or outdoors. Create 3D Virtual Environments using digital camera stills

What I enjoyed about this workshop was the hands-on practical advice for hardware and software. I’m off to buy a smart phone today!

David Rogers Mission: Explore workshop

Have you heard of Mission Explore from the Geo Collective? I hope so. It’s a brilliant pocketsized book aimed at children of all ages, parents, teachers and adults. The series of books encourages you to look at your environment differently. There are hundreds of missions to choose from across all 3 books, some very silly and others very practical. We had the chance to try out some of them.

After a short introduction we split off into teams armed with copies of Mission Explore. The first mission we attempted was creating a colour wheel of natural bits and bobs.

We then attempted to make a ‘nature rock band’ and tried to make different sounds with snail shells, reeds, rocks, sticks.

I’m looking forward to using this book in my planning for Summer 2 when I plan a new Foundation Stage topic around ‘Exploring’. I think these books could be a great non-fiction text to explore through play.

The next mission sent us looking for letters in the environment – brilliant for phonics teaching and learning capital letters too!

Thanks to @chrisrevitt for tweeting photos from our missions, really enjoyed working with you.

Education for Sustainability: An Inconvenient Truth


I presented alongside two friends, Debbie Bradley (@DebbieBradley1) and Peter Bevington. I shared a Foundation Stage response to Education for Sustainability. Pete and Debbie covered Key Stage 1 and 2. The responses and discussions during the workshop were fantastic. The three of us explored how we tackled this big issue with young minds. We advised that artefacts and dialogue is a successful start, encouraging teacher’s to give children more voice and let them lead the learning journey. We had such a great time and I’ve decided to write a separate blog about our workshop later in the term.

I really hope that if you have read this and haven’t attended a Geography Association Conference before you consider attending at least one day of the conference next year. It’s a fantastic opportunity to explore how Geography is being taught creatively and innovatively in classrooms today. There were so many inspirational teachers this year and I wish I could have spent longer at the conference. I’m already looking forward to GA 2011. 

… and it only took 88 Glee songs to get home, how many songs do you travel each day?

One thought on “Geography Association Conference 2011

  1. Great blog post.Glad you enjoyed the conference as a whole, and also our Mission:Explore experience…Keep up the good work 🙂

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