We engage students in learning geography by encouraging them to work and think independently and by ensuring our teaching is contemporary, relevant, interesting and creative. We strongly believe that fieldwork is an essential component of the subject and students have an opportunity to take part in a fieldwork activity in almost every year at The Perse.
In studying geography, students investigate the links between people and their environment on both local and international scales. The subject encompasses the natural processes that shape the planet, the cultural diversity of its inhabitants, and issues of environment and development.
See the Geographical Association for more detail about the role of geography.
What field trips happen in geography?
The department aims to take students away on one piece of fieldwork every year as part of students’ development to become independent geographical researchers. The first trip students ever go on is a field trip to Hunstanton in Year 7 in the first weeks of school. Trips higher up the school include a residential field trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast, day trips to Brick Lane in London and more. An optional six-day trip to Iceland runs for Middle School students.
Is geography all about locations and places?
The geography curriculum many parents will have experienced is very different to the contemporary curriculum. Gone are the days of learning locations and industrial regions of Europe. Geography in the 21st century is a contemporary issue based subject – it covers climate change, migration, globalisation, ecosystems under threat, inequality and many more of the most pressing problems facing our planet.
There isn’t a professional ‘geographer’ career so what do geographers do and is it a worthwhile subject?
Geography opens doors and doesn’t shut them. It’s a subject that focuses heavily on skill development – an essential part of preparing students for the modern day workplace. Most Perse students leave to go on to university and a huge proportion of the university graduates end up on graduate schemes in the city. We are regularly told by recruiters that geographers are one of the most sought after graduates for these programmes because of their skills. Our students understand this, which is why over half of the A level geographers this year are off to do geography at university.
Is there more human or physical geography taught?
There is a balance of human, physical and environmental geography at each year. Environmental geography explores the cross-over between human and physical geographies. In a world that is increasingly shaped by humans – indeed, some geologists argue we’ve entered the Anthropocene (the era of humans) – most geography has a human element to it.
What do students do in Lower School geography?
The Lower School curriculum is based around the notion of ‘21st century challenges’. We explore a range or pertinent issues which students would see in the news – plastics in the oceans, energy security, disappearing rainforests, inequality, the geographies of health. At the end of each topic, students complete an investigation into ‘Geography in the News’ – an opportunity to explore a related piece of investigatory work that shows how important geography is to the world in which they are growing up in.
What exam boards do you use and why?
Lower School students are encouraged not to think about exams and to explore the subject due to an inner passion to make a difference on the Earth. At both GCSE and A level we do OCR exams, chosen for their rigour and the interesting issues focus that they afford at both examination years.
What extra-curricular geography is there?
There are few academic subjects with more on offer. We run a debating tournament where student argue about the most pressing issues facing the planet. We organise termly mapathon events to support the NGO Missing Maps where students map previous unmapped corners of the earth in need of help. We have film and pizza nights, and A level students are geography ambassadors to Lower School classes. We run lunchtime clubs where we watch and debate geography-related TED talks, we enter local geography quizzes, organise visits to university lectures and more. Geographers are left in no doubt that geography doesn’t stop when they leave the four walls of a classroom.
- Learning journey - Years 7 and 8
In Years 7 and 8 we seek to capture and nurture the enthusiasm of our younger students with a range of classic and contemporary topics drawing from all corners of the subject. Year 7 students learn map skills, explore the East Anglian coastline, investigate issues in rainforest ecosystems and explore the geographies of health. In Year 8 we continue to study geographical issues under the title of Contemporary Geographical Challenge, including the use of nuclear power, the disappearing Arctic and global inequalities. Students engage with ‘Geography in the News’ – an innovative scheme of learning presented at national conferences – which allows them to investigate the specific contemporary geography that interests them. It highlights how contemporary and important the subject is – from hurricane and disaster management, to immigration policies and anthropogenic climate change. Students are given the freedom to follow their own geographical inquisitiveness.
We firmly believe that geography should not only be studied in the classroom and that students must experience places and environments first-hand. We therefore run fieldtrips in almost every year. Year 7 students travel to the North Norfolk coast to investigate coastal erosion and deposition.
- Learning journey - GCSE
Students start Year 9 with tectonic hazards, examining why in a globalising world we should be worried about hazards, even if they don’t happen on our immediate doorstep. We use digital maps to monitor glacial outpouring events in Iceland, explore disaster scenarios and grapple with the interconnected nature of complicated decision-making exercises to solve complex geographical issues.
The GCSE course is exciting and contemporary whilst also being rigorous and challenging, and provides an excellent platform for A level studies. The GCSE has both human and physical geography elements and there are fieldwork skills built into the schemes of learning. Topics include Landscapes of the UK, People of the UK, Ecosystems of the Planet, People of the Planet and Environmental Threats to our Planet. We firmly believe that Geography cannot only be studied in the classroom and that students must experience places and environments first-hand. GCSE geographers have a residential fieldtrip down to the stunning Jurassic Coast World heritage Site where they examine a range of issues pertinent to the course as well as collecting and analysing fieldwork data out in the field.
- Providing stretch
Each term we provide options for students who would like to go beyond the syllabus, from exploring Milankovitch cycles to considering arguments for and against deforestation.
In addition to the fieldtrips that are directly linked to the curriculum we also run a biennial fieldtrip in August to Iceland which is open to pupils in Years 9, 10 and 11, as well as the Lower Sixth. Iceland is a fascinating country for all geographers and the trip gives pupils the opportunity to get up close to volcanoes, hot springs and major fault lines.
The department launched its support for the international Missing Maps programme. This involves students in all age groups contributing to open source mapping software and helping map previously unmapped parts of the planet. In turn NGO’s such as Medecins Sans Frontieres and the Clinton Health Foundation use these maps to facilitate getting aid supplies to people in need on the ground. This can be in the form of emergency aid to areas suffering in the aftermath of natural hazards or those that where mapping will increase future resilience. Missing Maps will be running in the school’s ICT suites after school and students can continue contributing at home. Older and keener students have been trained to assist new mappers. The School will be the first in the country to undergo such a programme.
- Beyond the classroom
The department enters a team of Year 9 and Year 10 pupils into the Geographical Association’s Worldwize Quiz, where they compete against students from other schools.
We run the Missing Maps mapathons after school where we use remote satellite imagery to help map the world’s most vulnerable locations and assist with aid operations in the aftermath of hazards.
The Perse Geography Debating Challenge is a knock-out competition to claim the Crabtree Shield.
Eminent geographers give lunchtime lectures as part of our 42 society programme of inspiring lunchtime talks. For example, volcanologist Dr Mel Rogers gave a fascinating lecture on the on endlessly complex reasons why volcanoes erupt: ‘’Volcano – will it blow or will it flow: why volcanoes behave in such different ways’.