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Idea 5 Understanding the causes and effects of flooding: The Boscastle moment

Understanding the causes and effects of flooding: The Boscastle moment

This project idea was contributed by Lisa Rabbetts

Exam Board Components that this project links with
AQA A Unit 1, Section A: Challenge of weather and climate and Section B: Water on the Land.
AQA B Unit 2, Section A: Living with Natural Hazards
Unit 4, Task 2: Water – a precious resource.
Edexcel A Unit 2, Topic 2.2: Flooding and flood prevention
Edexcel B Unit 1, Section B: River Processes and Pressures.
OCR B Unit B563, Theme 1 Rivers and Coasts and Theme 3 Natural Hazards
WJEC B Theme 2: People and the Natural World Interactions


It is an important geographical skill to be able to draw, read and interpret graphs. In this example students are asked to draw a flood hydrograph for the Boscastle flood using Excel. They then have to read and interpret the graph by turning it into a living graph, adding pictures to show what was happening in Boscastle at the time. The activity could easily be adapted for any other type of graph.

Key Geography Objectives

  • To be able to draw a graph
  • To be able to read and interpret a flood hydrograph
  • To be able to visualise the stages of a flooding event through virtual fieldwork.

Key ICT Objectives

  • To be able to draw a flood hydrograph in Microsoft Excel
  • To be able to copy and paste a graph in to Microsoft Word
  • To be able to find pictures on the internet and add them to a Word document.

Planning the Activity

  • For your chosen event you will need graph data. For this example the hydrograph data came from the Defence Dynamics website from the Ministry of Defence.
  • Produce a pupil guide to drawing the graph if it is a complex graph such as a hydrograph or climate graph.
  • For each stage in the event you will need a picture. If you don’t have your own photos, try Wikimedia Commons or Flickr to find photos that are either copyright free or have a Creative Commons licence.
  • The photos need to be saved in a random order.

Running the Activity

  • Introduction to the lesson will include an appropriate starter activity, for example a recap of hydrology terms and or causes of flooding.
  • The learning objective will be shared and explained to the group.
  • Pupils can either work alone or in pairs.
  • Pupils follow the instructions provided in the Word document below to draw a hydrograph for the Boscastle floods.
  • Pupils then have to add arrows to show where on the time scale they think each photo was taken. Pupils should be able to give reasons for their location decisions.
  • As an extension activity pupils could search the internet to find another couple of pictures to add, or accounts of the disaster to get quotes that could also be added to the time scale.
  • For a plenary you could go on to Defence Dynamics where there is a video taken by the RAF helicopters of the Boscastle flood and an animation of the flood.


The following download contains step by step instructions for creating a flood hydrograph in Microsoft Excel. It also contains instructions for adding pictures to make this graph a ‘living graph’.

Download: Instructions for creating a flood hydrograph (Word document)


  • Visit our Flood risk and flood management case study pages for a number of resources on the subject of Flood Risk Management, developed with the Environment Agency and Black and Veatch.
  • Find more ideas for using Excel in geography lessons at Juicy Geography.
  • If you are using the Boscastle floods as an example, the Tintagel website has a very good page that contains photos and accounts of the flooding. Ask permission before using the photos!

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