Geographers have a role to play in helping solve issues that may be too difficult for economic or engineering solutions by themselves. Issues such as the energy crisis, clearing of forests, degrading soils, crops failing; all these things need our attention and there is so much important work to be done.
Some people will remember Geography as a subject where you look at maps, learn capital cities and flags, and study land forms such as mountains and rivers. Geography in the 21st century still focuses on places - their environments, populations, economies and communities - but also considers how and why these places are changing. Students of Geography gain the understanding, knowledge and skills to make sense of complex issues such as climate change, drought, ageing populations, urban growth, ethnic conflicts and globalisation. I often tell my students that as a geographer, they are problem-solvers. Their job is to identify problems, collect and analyse data, evaluate responses and make informed suggestions for the future.
Unit 1 Geography Year 11 students must apply their problem solving skills to hazards and disasters. In this course students examine the processes involved with hazards and disasters, including their causes and impacts, human responses to disasters and interconnections between human activities and natural phenomena. This year we explored hazards and disasters on a national level for Term 1.
Australia is a country of extremes and there were plenty of options when choosing a hazard to study. Our first case study was earthquakes, and although Australia doesn't experience large magnitude earthquakes, there is plenty of scope to explore the distribution of seismic activity and mapping technologies. An earthquake is something that thankfully most of us will never experience in our lifetime. How can students connect with the theory we had been learning in class and understand the power and devastation of earthquakes, when we are limited to watching videos or reading books in a classroom? The solution was a virtual field trip; Geography and STEM combined at the Villa Paloma as students used the Virtual Reality machine to experience an earthquake simulation.
The next case study focused on our local region; flooding of the Barwon River. Students considered why flooding occurred in this region and how we can plan, mitigate and recover from flooding. We were fortunate enough to spend a sunny afternoon at the floodplain along Barrabool Road, hearing from SES members Anne and Frank. This field trip gave students the opportunity to practice the skills needed for their upcoming SAC, as well as connect with the local community.
The final case study for Term 1 was invasive species. Australia's isolation means it is host to a range of unique and fragile flora and fauna. Many species introduced since colonisation pose a significant threat to our environment. Our fieldwork for this topic took us to Lerderderg State Park, near Bacchus Marsh. Parks Victoria rangers Alice and Luke provided students with a comprehensive overview of the environmental impact of invasive species in the park and the management strategies they were using to reduce this impact. Students evaluated these management strategies, considering the costs and benefits involved. The beauty of the park showed us all the importance of reducing the impact of invasive species.
The importance of Geography lies not in the content being taught, but in the learning dispositions that are fostered; critical thinking, problem solving, communication, creativity and collaboration (to name just a few!). Although not all my students will choose to study Geography after they finish school, I believe that this subject gives them the opportunity to learn more about the world around them and develop a genuine care and concern for the future of our planet. There is so much important work to do…
Senior School – Waurn Ponds Classroom Teacher
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