Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Holy Grail for Geography: Primary School Geography

Image above: Students at Cowandilla Primary School in South Australia "doing geography reading a globe."

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project

Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
 Email contact

Where am I??
Sydney: S: 34º 0' E: 151º 0'

Engaging with Primary School Geography

“Children have much personally to offer in their learning of geography in school, since they bring much from their everyday lives to school. …there is the basis for involving children and increasing their sense of place and participation, even within the school as place of learning. Children do not escape the vagaries – the benefits and issues – of the world at large, and that as teachers we have a responsibility to engage with them about it. Teachers we have a responsibility not simply to include geography in the curriculum but to have high expectations of children, to be knowledgeable about their locality and about the wider world.”
Simon Catlin 2005

As Simon, our keynote at AGTA 2013 in Perth in January 2013 writes above, there is and increasing realisation amongst geographers that the teaching of geography as a discipline in primary schools is essential for the future of geography in schools and most importantly an incredibly important part of the education of the young.

“… without primary geography, students’ comprehension of the planet’s natural resources and the need for judicious use and conservation is deferred”.
Harm de Blij (1999)

To the alarm of geographers worldwide, over recent years there has been a general decline and loss of identity of geography in schools. This view was affirmed in 2008, with the release of the Australian Governments Erubus International report on the “A study of Geography in Australian Schools in Years 3-10”. The report showed that the discipline of geography was not being taught effectively, if at all, in primary schools in Australia through the integrated approach of Society and Environment (SOSE). It was clearly reported that primary teachers and many junior high school teachers lacked the content knowledge and content pedagogical knowledge of geography and as a result the discipline of geography had faded in its passion and rigour from the primary school classroom (also from the junior high school classroom). This statement was not intended to ‘sledge’ these teachers but simply to state the obvious fact that since the 1980’s exiting teachers from our universities and colleges have been trained to teach SOSE and not geography as a discipline and as a result did not have the knowledge, understandings and skills to teach geography as a discipline in our schools. Having said that, there has been some wonderful environmental and geographical education conducted in our primary schools by teachers prepared to do the hard yards to gain geographical knowledge, understandings, skills and pedagogy. Despite these dedicated teachers it has been the Holy Grail of Geography Teachers Associations (GTA’s) across the world to engage primary and SOSE teachers in professional learning in the discipline of geography. There is only a handful of primary teachers across Australia who are members of Geography Teachers Associations and they are rarely attendees of geography conferences and professional learning activities conducted by the GTA’s (not from lack of trying – advertising, free workshops, reduced fees etc). The engagement with primary teachers may change as the compulsory geography curriculum in the Australian Curriculum rolls out from the end of this year. GTA’s and AGTA will certainly be developing strategies in an attempt to make such an engagement happen. In the UK they have worked hard to engage primary teachers in geographical learning for the classroom by producing a range of wonderful resources and providing regular professional learning opportunities. As a result many of the resources cited below come from the work of the geography community in the UK to engage primary teachers in geographical education.

To start with I thought it would be good to again refer to some wonderful Australian examples of geography in the primary school by some schools in South Australia which trialled the draft Australian Curriculum: Geography in 2013.

The article by Simon Catling on Primary Geography and the SlideShare PowerPoint titled “Geography is a key subject to engage”, also by S Catlin, are certainly a good place to start your thinking about the uniqueness of primary geography and its importance to the education of young people in our school

The remainder of this blog posting lists and in some cases describes some of the resources available (to be purchased and free) to support the teaching of geography in the primary years.

Books/resources/activities related to the teaching of primary school Geography

Geography in the Primary School

Primary School resources to buy

Primary Geography handbook

Primary Project Box

Teaching Primary Geography

Primary Geography resources

BBC Primary Geography resources


15 cool geography Apps

Geography from Square One from the GA in the UK

Geography from Square One from the GA in the UK

Primary Geography from Ireland

The Learning Zone for geography from Ireland

Teaching ideas

Global Gang
A website has been created to help teachers to bring global issues into the classroom. The site is designed for children aged between 8 and 12 and has plenty to appeal to this age group, including pet pictures which children have sent in. Other sections include Real Life, Global Gossip, Games, On the Ball and What's Up. Planet Teacher, has notes for teachers on topics such as healthy living (including a feature on clean water in Kenya), and 'chocolate can be good for you' (all about Fair Trade issues).

A collection of geography Powerpoint presentations for primary school students produced by teachers in Suffolk schools. Titles include: Homes across the World (Jackie Derbyshire, Sally Rose, Martine Sills), What do we know about where we live? (Amy Gray), "Handa's Surprise", "A Walk Around the Farm (Becky Flint and Jo Smith), Geography Through the Window (Sarah-Jane Sharman) and How has the seaside changed? (Aileen Bale).

Our Place in the World

A fun junior primary activity using plastic boxes to understand location and scale.

Combining cartographic expertise and a desire to start geography education at a very early age, the founders of Kids Placemaps have personalized a child's geography in a tangible, simple fashion.  

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