The daily weather forecast under-sold nature’s fickle complexity on the first of our biannual pilgrimages to Somerset last weekend – the weekend we had decided to take the lower sixth A-level Geography students to do pilot surveys for their NEA project work. ’Showers’ in Oxford means a grey day with a bit of drizzly, vertical, misty stuff. In the west country it means brief spells of gorgeous blue sky interspersed by intense horizontal sleet, snow or rain for up to ten minutes followed by a return to blue, repeating enough times to soak you. Add in the wind chill and it felt closer to zero degrees. I’ve learned over the years that a fieldwork sense of positivity in students is directly related to the weather conditions. Show them the back end of a Moroccan market garbage dump on a gorgeous sunny day and they rave about it.
And yet our intrepid, resilient lower sixth weathered all that mother nature threw our way and even found the energy to work super-hard in evening classes and then sing, dance and enjoy their evenings afterwards, get up and make packed lunches, eat breakfast and do it all again –twice! No really – ask them!
I realise though, that this extended time together as a department and whole cohort of students is a luxury to the geographers – time to focus attention only on our subject, to iron out misunderstandings from the textbook with real-world scenarios, to get to know each other and, hopefully, have some fun. We do this as to focus on essential background study skills in preparation for the final research in September of Year 13 worth 20% of final A-level grade. It’s no holiday – unless of course your holidays are 10-hour, weather-beaten days, studying geographical landforms and observing aged-human interactions in Minehead with many miles of walking in between.
Well done geographers and to staff Jen Skym, Jo Hall and ‘gappie’ Georgina Sargent. Thanks for a really great trip – we’ll soon be there again!
JP Davies, Head of Geography