Secondary geography students from across the country met in Exmoor National Park to compete in the final stage of the Geographical Association (GA) 2013 annual Worldwise Challenge.
At the end of a gruelling weekend of fieldwork challenges, which took place from 17-19 May at Nettlecombe Court, the Field Studies Council’s (FSC) centre in Somerset, competitors were faced with the question: Is Exmoor National Park meeting its objectives?
Twenty seven Y9 and Y10 finalists from seven schools worked in teams in an attempt to impress a judging panel which included Mark Higginbottom, Junior Vice President of the GA and joint lead of the Worldwise programme, and Nick Lapthorn, Head of Centre and Tutors at Nettlecombe Court.
The winning team was from Newfield School, Sheffield. In their final five-minute presentation to the judges, they “not only synthesised information from a range of sources and made a coherent argument, but went further, delving deeper into the issues faced by National Parks in the UK,” said Jeremy Krause, GA Trustee and Worldwise judge.
Thanks to their star students, Newfield School won a host of prizes, including a discount voucher for fieldwork, provided by the FSC, plus GA atlases, books and City and Landform guides.
Ella Fidment, 14 a student from the winning team, said: “It was a great weekend. I learnt so much and made lots of new friends.”
Her teammate, Harry Heyworth, 14, said: “The Worldwise Challenge has given me the opportunity to travel to and experience a different part of the Country. Exmoor is a beautiful place.”
“The Worldwise Challenge weekend was an inspirational experience for us all,” said Kaye Elvin, Head of Geography at Newfield School.
Competitors spent the Saturday ‘in the field’, visiting Dunkery Beacon, the highest point on Exmoor, as a whole group to get an overview of the national park. They were then split into mixed school groups and visited different areas including Exford, a small service centre on the edge of the moor and Porlock Weir, a village at severe risk from coastal erosion.
During these visits students spoke to local residents, farmers and park wardens to determine whether Exmoor National Park is fulfilling its aims and about the issues facing the national park, in preparation for their final presentations the following day.
Worldwise volunteer Caroline Martingell said: “The weekend was exceptional; the organisation and events planned allowed some brilliant geography to emerge, allowing young geographers the chance to demonstrate their skills and knowledge. The standards were very high!”
Liam Ring, an FSC tutor at Nettlecombe Court, said the experience is a “wonderful addition to their [the students’] CVs.”
The schools whose students competed in the 2013 Worldwise challenge weekend were: Bishop Wordsworth’s School, Salisbury, Cullompton Community College, Devon, Hastings High School, Burbage Leics, Newfield School, Sheffield, Salesian College Farnborough, Hants, Shire Oak Academy, Walsall and Saint George Catholic College, Southampton.
The importance of fieldwork
The Worldwise team, the GA and the FSC, a GA strategic partner, believe fieldwork makes a world of difference to pupils and students, providing them the opportunity to become true geographers.
Participating students and teachers shared this view: “My eyes have been opened to the true purpose of National Parks,” said one competitor.
Another student said: “I’ve definitely made some good friends and can’t wait to explore the national parks near where I live!”
Worldwise volunteer Adrian Manning said the benefits of fieldwork for students include developing teamwork, social and other skills.
“The Worldwise Challenge was absolutely fantastic. It has put my year 9 students in good stead for their GCSEs. I hope this enthusiasm continues to grow; it really is these kind of events that inspire our young geographer,” said Carl Edwards, Assistant Director of Learning for Geography at Shire Oak Academy, Walsall.
Mark Higginbottom, Junior Vice President of the GA and Joint Chair of the Worldwise Committee, said the focus of the competition on fieldwork “demands young people to use their geographical knowledge and understanding in ways very different to the classroom.”
Mark thanked FSC staff at Nettlecombe Court for hosting the competition, and in particular Nick Lapthorn, Head of the Centre, and tutors Dan House and Liam Ring.
“They provided excellent professional knowledge, skills and understanding of Exmoor as well as good humour and tireless commitment,” said Mark.
A few words from Field Studies Council
“FSC is delighted to sponsor and host the final of Worldwise Challenge. The Worldwise Challenge is an unparalleled opportunity for FSC staff to work with some inspiring young geographers. The finalists’ critical geographical thinking and high level teamwork are shining examples of geography at its best,” said Rob Lucas, FSC Chief Executive.
The Geographical Association
Worldwise organiser Jeremy Krause thanked GA staff John Lyon, Ruth Totterdell, Ricky Buck and GA volunteers Mark Higginbottom, GA Junior Vice President, Ruth Potts, Adrian Manning, Sue Lomas, Caroline Martingell and Keith Orrell for their hard work.
“I am grateful to everyone for all their time and energy! The Worldwise Weekend was a great success!” said Jeremy.
Melissa Day, a teacher at Salesian School, Farnborough, Hampshire, said: “Thank you on behalf of our students and myself for a fantastic weekend. They gained a new appreciation for Geography. All the tasks were very well thought out and both the GA and FSC staff were welcoming and a pleasure to meet. It was also a great networking opportunity for the teachers.”