Outdoor adventure in Wales: Every outing is an opportunity to learn geography! 

It’s 10:05pm and, in theory, it’s five minutes past lights out time on the Year 8 residential to Wales and the hum of whispering is through the building as they think we can’t hear them!

We’ve spent three days climbing mountains, mountain biking, canoeing down rivers, orienteering and navigating our way from a drop off point back to the centre. All in the name of developing teamwork and leadership skills. This week has not involved any official subject learning. Personal development was the aim. But then a geography teacher came along…

Over the week students map skills have come alive as they’ve plotted and followed their routes. We’ve had some breakthroughs with understanding contour lines as they’ve suddenly gained a purpose in determine which way to go to make it to the top of the mountain. Using a map as it’s meant to be used is much more powerful than finding where you live and your route to school on an OS map in a classroom.

Climbing a mountain in Snowdonia means walking over fault lines and striations. Glaciated landscapes are all around. From rock pavements and their weathered cracks to streams with river cliffs and slip off slopes to different types of vegetation, the inevitable ‘what’s that Miss?’ questions are almost constant. And each one is an opportunity to teach some geography! Explaining in the field about the actual thing you are looking at or walking through is much more powerful than any video clip, google earth image or photograph will ever be.

So the Year 8s have developed their teamwork and leadership skills but also learnt real geography along the way. Getting students out of the classroom is always going to be tough with cost, curriculum time and cover pressures but, given geography is everywhere, any outing can be turned into a geographical learning experience if you’re just always ready to answer the inevitable ‘what’s that?’ questions with a geographical answer. Just remember to make sure the students know your talking geography and aren’t just full of useless trivia!

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