We are all used to running geography fieldwork for the physical geography topics like Coastal Management, Land and Water Management, Biophysical Interactions and Ecosystems At Risk. There are various companies that run great excursions for these topics, but when you get to the human geography topics it isn't so easy to find pre-organised excursions.
For my Year 11 Geography class I've taught the compulsory Population topic, and then Cultural Integration as one of the optional topics. We've examined the topic of refugees as part of an exploration of population movements, so I decided on a trip to Cabramatta to explore the impact of the Vietnamese community on this south-west Sydney suburb. I suggested this as an option on the online group Geography Teachers Online. As a result, I met up with a couple of teachers to thrash out some ideas about options for fieldwork.
Some of the ideas we came up with were:
- questionnaire of local residents
- land use survey
- urban transect of the Main Street
- environmental survey
- a photo essay based on cultural influences in the suburb
- an interview with a local government representative/Councillor
Cabramatta Library is located a short walk from the railway station. They offer a presentation on how the suburb has changed over time and are very obliging to school groups. They provide a half hour video on the development of Fairfield Local Government Area covering indigenous history, early colonial development, the market farms, education, rail development and migration. The presentation focuses on the Fairfield Local Government Area as a whole rather than Cabramatta itself, but this provides an excellent idea of the context in which Cabramatta developed. Following this there was a presentation on Cabramatta itself focusing on statistical information from the Census. It is also possible to organise a walking tour through the local council with a guide included, but they require about a months notice.
There are lots of opportunities for students to try different foods and drinks. For lunch, we went to Guan An Bau Troung, located on the main street, John St.The students all ordered a dish of their own and then I ordered a few different dishes for them to try and share. The food was really cheap and the servings were huge, even for boys who eat their weight in food in a single sitting. Obviously I had to check all the allergies, anaphylaxis risks involved, but I really think sharing a meal is a great bonding experience for a class.
If you want to have a look at the fieldwork activities we used the Cabramatta Excursion page of the www.preliminarygeography.hsieteachers.com site.
Back in the classroom we are going to analyse the field data a few different ways.
- Students' field sketches will be scanned and shared. An analysis of the various cultural influences will be written.
- We will create radar graphs from the environmental surveys
- The questionnaire results will be shared amongst the class. Results will be tallied, and the implications of results considered. Is this community self-contained? Do residents spend most of their lives in and around the suburb? Is the ethnic background of residents still predominantly Vietnamese?
The great thing about using Cabramatta as a fieldwork site in Year 11 is that is also a great case study for the following HSC year. You can refer back to it and draw on the students' experience when you are short on time and trying to maximise time in class. Cabramatta makes a great study for looking at ethnicity in Sydney as part of the Urban Places topic. You can find a summary of this part of the course that I wrote last year for HSC Online.
I've created this virtual field site based on coral reefs around Lizard Island. It focuses on 3 locations around the main island and allows students to carryout out research techniques that would be very difficult to have access to otherwise. Students can conduct a coral survey, a fauna survey, undertake photographic analysis and create a precis map. It contains links to a range of secondary sources of information about the islands, adding depth to the student's virtual fieldwork. In the Analysis section students need to compare the information they have gathered from each site to make conclusions. Click to examine the Lizard Island virtual fieldsite.
It can be hard to make statistics about the Australia's population interesting and engaging. I like to think of Geography as a hands-on subject where students can get outside and learn about the world, and for me examining statistics just doesn't do it for me. A couple of ideas to make it a little more engaging are:
- students conducting class surveys on some of the characteristics explored in the census,
- teaming up with a sister school through Skype or other forms of videoconferencing and exploring the similarities and differences within your classrooms, towns and regions. This would work best if comparing an urban and regional school.
- supporting the information about the statistics by examining similar data in visual forms such as infographics.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has made learning all these facts and figures much more interesting in the past couple of years by creating ABS Spotlight and Run That Town.
ABS Spotlight is an online, interactive activity which asks students to input some basic information about themselves and compares this information with the rest of Australia's population. It has been built using Flash so it works best on PC, but they have also created a non-Flash version which is slightly less interactive and visual, so it will also work on iPads.
Run That Town operates in a similar way to games like Sim City in that students make planning decisions based on information that is provided throughout the running of the game. Students can examine census information, newspaper articles, assess development proposals for the town of their choice. The real innovation with this game is that students are accessing real data about a real suburb or town within Australia. This is a great example of blurring the lines between game-based learning and real-life application of knowledge. The game can be accessed through the Apple's App store.
They have also released ABS Mobile an app available for Ios devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod). You are able to access the most up to date census data on suburbs.
If Australia Were 100 People is another smaller interactive resource from the ABS based around health statistics. It is quite short (around a minute or so), but it might still be worth exploring.
There is also a great PowerPoint from a GTANSW presentation by Pat Beeson on different resources from the ABS and ideas on how to deliver the information. You can also find a range of lesson activities from the ABS in the Education Services section.
For more infographics and student resources visit the Communities section of the www.9Geography.hsieteachers.com site.
The Powerhouse Museum is holding a presentation "Inspired ideas to green our city: Will Sydney rise up in the green roofs and walls revolution?" It is on August 3, 2013. This would be relevant for looking at sustainability in both Year 10 and 11 Geography. More detail...
A key issue in the sustainability of Sydney is its car-dependence. Every improvement in public transport is a step towards improving Sydney's sustainability. The Inner West Light Rail Extension involves utilising former freight lines to extend light rail services from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill. Community groups have also been lobbying for the continuation of a Greenway Trail along the light rail corridor to link up with the Cooks River cycleway. The combination of both light rail and the Greenway will encourage public transport use and cycling/walking both for recreation and commuting, reducing some of the car dependence in this part of Sydney. There are also plans to develop light rail between Circular Quay and Kingsford.
Inner West Light Rail Extension. Read...
Greenway Trail. Read...
NSW State Budget to give Sydney light rail project $75m funding boost. Read...
More councils sign on to Sydney's extended light rail. Read...
Stalled greenway corridor plan fades from Coalition's map. Read more..
In the lead up to the Federal Election we are hearing a lot of "Stop the Boats" discussions. It is a good time to revisit this issue in our classrooms. I went past Villawood Detention Centre a couple of days ago. It looks like they are doing a lot of construction work. Many of the older accommodation and administrative buildings still remain, but the whole centre of the property is being redeveloped. Interestingly, compared to about 10 years ago there seems to be a lot less razor wire. There is still plenty of barbed wire around the perimeter but I wasn't able to see any actual razor wire. I guess that is a step in the right direction. There are a couple of different year groups, topics and even subjects where refugees can be discussed:
Year 11 Geography - Population (Population Movements) View...
Year 10 Geography - Australia and the Asia Pacific (Global Links)
Year 10 Geography - Australia and the Asia Pacific (Human Rights)
Year 8 Geography - Global Change (Human Rights)
Year 12 Legal Studies - Human Rights
Obviously you don't want to cover it too often or the students become desensitised to the issue and it loses its impact, but I think it is an important issue to address, whenever you choose to do it.
I visited Huntly mine as part of the Australian Geography Teachers Conference in January this year. I've finally put together the small snippets of video and the photos from the tour. I'm certainly no Francis Ford Cappola, but you might be able to use the video to introduce a case study for Natural Resources. Check out the video and some related sites.
It is interesting to look at how the mine operates, but perhaps more interesting is to look at the successes and failures of the rehabilitation of the mining sites. There are a few comments about issues related to rehabilitation towards the end of the video, but some of the articles specifically address this issue.
I've recently started putting my resources online for the Population topic for Preliminary Geography. Most people have probably finished teaching it by now, but perhaps you can use it for revision closer to the yearly exams.
If you are looking for some generic population videos I've embedded a good one from BBC and another from National Geographic. Check them out...
I've put some resources together for global fertility. I've selected a series of short videos so you can just get a quick overview of key ideas. I've also put some of the information in diagrams to make it a bit more visually interesting. I'll add a handout of the text soon. Check out fertility resources...
Lastly, I've uploaded an overview of population pyramids and embedded a video from the Distilled Demographics series from the Population Reference Bureau. Worth a look. A handout is attached. Check out population pyramids...
Deputy Principal at a Sydney high school. Coordinating author of the new Geoactive book series.
Student resource sites: