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Young Geographers Project St Peters Smithills Dean CE Primary School Bolton

What do we feel about the environment around our school?

Age Group: Year 5

Selection of Content: I now feel strongly that personal, everyday geographies are not valued by children or staff and I have sought to raise this awareness more recently.

Where we are in our world is a crucial and important thing to study. This fits in well with our SIP (School Improvement Plan) for ‘personalising the curriculum’.

Learning outside the classroom is already being developed, i.e. through investigating and mapping the school grounds for orienteering and through exploring routes to and from school. I wanted to take this further by supporting children in investigating their ‘feelings’ about the quality of the environment in the locality of the school.

Teaching & Learning Activities

Learning outcomes

  • For learners to have their interest stimulated by local fieldwork, which in turn is followed by debate and discussion leading to positive action about the area around them.
  • To use previously taught skills in a real-world context and to present findings to a genuine audience comprised of stakeholders in the local community.

The aim was to produce a long ‘journey stick’ style map with a series of photographs to which children added comments on their return to school. Photographs were taken of any features that interested the children (I explained the concept ‘street furniture’; the importance of signage; man-made and natural features of the environment). This was particularly important because we were exploring the children’s own local area and many of these features were so familiar that they could easily be overlooked.

The children also produced a short video about the environment in the locality of the school using Photostory3.

Planning for Teaching & Learning

LESSON 1: Small Groups of 6-10 children. Going Outside!
LESSON 2: Small Groups of 6-10 children. Creating our Map!
LESSON 3: Whole-class Literacy. Writing our recount!
LESSON 4: Whole-class ICT. Creating our Photostory3 Recount!
LESSON 5: Whole-class. Sharing our work!

Download this whole unit as a Word document:


What was valuable was the quality of the talk that working with small groups made possible. Seemingly, they had never previously considered:

  • The mundane and everyday, i.e. road signage and markings.
  • The practical – Why does the pavement suddenly stop? What is this grey box on my street? It was the Royal Mail storage box for the postman’s second round.
  • Why are there so many different types of grid? We found at least 10 types in one circular walk. Is this because of theft/ replacement over many different periods?
  • Why is the road surface so bad and what’s underneath? We found ourselves sprayed with grit from the road when the traffic sped past.
  • What is the raised ‘bobbly’ underfoot pavement before you cross the road? For the blind.
  • The ‘shocking graffiti, litter, multiple dog/horse ‘messes’, dead birds.

Further Developments

We have dabbled with the Eco-Schools/sustainable school agenda before but never really engaged with it fully. We need to teach about recycling, and our summer term scheme of work will be re-written with the aid of the children who will act as our guides, telling us what they wish to know next.

The biggest bonus was the end-of-year school production that developed from this work. Looking further ahead we hope that this will help them to engage with the subject even more because the curriculum ideas will have come from them.

In the Autumn Term we will start our School Travel Plan and expect that many of the issues we have discovered during this terms investigation of the local area will feed into this, examples range from: the lack of pavement, the poor road surface and effectiveness of the road calming.


Thinking Skills

I aimed to place thinking skills and an investigative approach to geography at the heart of this enquiry. The questioning of different viewpoints is an important factor in developing geographical understanding and essential when developing higher order thinking that will stretch the most able.

ICT & Literacy

I have been using the freely available software Microsoft ‘Photostory3’, a powerful and very easy to learn piece of software.

We also used Audacity (MP3/Podcast creator) as a tool for enhancing teaching and learning.

I decided to use these tools to create a media based information text which would combine literacy objectives with our work on investigating the local area.

Background Information about the School

This average-sized primary school is situated in a residential area on the rural outskirts of Bolton. The majority of children are of White British heritage and around 7% are from several other ethnic backgrounds. Most live locally in owner-occupied housing. The number of children eligible for free school meals is extremely low. The school’s Church of England status has a strong influence on its everyday mission and ethos. The school buildings are also shared with the church and are used most evenings for community activities. (Extract from the Ofsted Report, July 2007).

This material was contributed by Anthony Barlow.

(Added 13.08.08)

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