Saturday, September 30, 2006

Generating some Interest...

I like Generators. These are websites where you can take a photo or idea, and then add your own text to it.
Below are two items are made using the generators here at REDKID.
One Pilot school asked students to generate an iPod playlist of songs related to one of the 3 Extreme Environments, or perhaps a particular area of the country.

My favourite site of all is the wonderfully named FLAGRANT DISREGARD, where you can make a whole range of posters, trading cards, Hockneyized photos, magazine and book covers, CD cases and add captions to images, like the example below. What can you create ??

Thursday, September 28, 2006


We're going to be doing some mapping of extreme areas. Bear in mind that all the usual OS map skills will be tested on the Pilot, so although we won't be using Svalbard maps to do these, we will go back to Grid References nearer the time.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Nearly in the Papers

Well, we were nearly famous. The Times Educational Supplement wanted a quote for Friday's edition about the Pilot GCSE Conference Mrs. Clarke and I are involved in, but I was teaching when they rang...
I'll let you know what it says in the article.

Well, it was a fairly small paragraph which just explained what the conference was about.
Well, the posting on the Forum has already had its first response, and some very useful information there too - thanks Rupert !
You are going to need to do some researches of your own soon, and there are some very useful websites being thrown up by looking at past 'threads' on the Forum. - produced by Arjen Drost - try the links page for more detail - the English page of the Svalbard Co-Op: the main supermarket
Notice that alcohol sales don't have the same hours as sales of other goods:
Sales of alcohol
Monday-Friday: 10:00-18:00
Saturday: 10:00-15:00
Sunday: Closed
Can you think of possible reasons for that ?
The Co Op site also offers a rather useful PDF download of a map of Longyearbyen.

The English version of Rolf Stange's page

And a picture clue to finish...
What are these "golf balls" in the snow for ? (Answer next week...)

Forums and Coal

A quick search of the Svalbard Pages is worth doing.
One of the features is the Svalbard Forum.
I have registered on the Forum and will be posting shortly to ask some questions which will hopefully get a response...

Living on Svalbard - biggest challenge and biggest joy ?
The Weather - how much of an impact on your day to day lives ?
The Environment - an example that you've seen of damage to the environment ?
The Future ? - are you optimistic for the short term / long term ?

Jobs - what do you do ?

Thanks to the Admin moderator for sorting my posting problems so promptly!
More later...

And the Coal ?
Well, Longyearbyen and Pyramiden are famous for coal deposits, and this year is the centenary of the Arctic Coal Company. - a useful BBC news article from 2000

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Graphs, Gore and Gaps (in the Ice...)

An Inconvenient Truth (but without the capital letters) is a new film by Al Gore. It started life as a powerpoint presentation – like most of my best lessons !

Update: apparently it's an Apple version of Powerpoint

Some excellent graphics and vignettes to use in lessons - readable and accessible... A recommended purchase...

There is a website to support the film which has some useful information, and you should be able to see a trailer for the film from your very own favourite video sharing website...

The film is about Global Warming, which is very much part of the FUTURE for Svalbard – or at least one possible Futures scenario.

This is looking even more likely if this recent report using images from the European Space Agency is anything to go by. It looks like Arctic Sea ice is at its lowest ever. There is an image below which illustrates this, from the European Space Agency.

The land at the bottom is Svalbard. The area is around 800 km across, and there should be rather more ice than that !! Bad news for polar bears.

“This situation is unlike anything observed in previous record low ice seasons. It is highly imaginable that a ship could have passed from Spitzbergen or Northern Siberia through what is normally pack ice to reach the North Pole without difficulty.

Quote from Mark Drinkwater of ESA.

Today we were working on our E-Portfolio documents and also using Val Vannet’s from the High School of Dundee's Climate Graph drawing instructions (with my own suggestions for formatting with an image) I was very impressed with what the group produced (once you actually started reading and following the 'foolproof' instructions - although we never did work out how to get the degree signs in there !)

I will post a few here soon so that others can see what we produced.

After school today I showed Mrs. Clarke how to add comments to this blog. Don’t forget that you can contribute to the blog. All comments are moderated by me – keep them clean ! All you need to do is look at the bottom of each post, and you'll see 1 comment , 2 comment etc.

Click on this label, and you can add a comment. These will come to me for moderation. You'll need to enter some characters that you see in a verification box...

Also don’t forget to think of some questions for the person I mentioned who has visited Svalbard several times. I will send a sample of the most interesting / answerable questions to him at the weekend and then post the answers and some nice images when I get them back...

When is a desert like apple pie and custard ?

When you add that extra ‘s’ which most of you have done as I marked your work.

That makes it dessert

Also remember other key words to spell correctly in this topic: Environment, Svalbard, Michael, Climate, Extreme etc.

And finally, some exciting news. I've been asked to be part of some interesting developments for the Pilot. There are 2 sections to this, and one of them could include you: KES pupils ! You have the chance to be involved in some research involving the Geographical Association and some academics from universities and teachers from other schools. The work we do will help lots of other school pupils. I'm going to a meeting in November. I will be choosing those pupils who have shown the most interest and effort between now and Christmas. This is an exciting project to be involved in. More to come soon once everything is confirmed !

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Terrors of Ice and Darkness

Was just tidying my loft and chucking stuff out when I came across a book which I'd forgotten, but would be a perfect text for looking at Extreme Environments for those with a few hours to spend. The book is called "The Terrors of Ice and Darkness", and is by German author Christoph Ransmayr. It was published in 1984, and is probably hard to get hold of today...

This description was posted on a book review site:
"this is to some extent a book of information about difficult travel in one of the bleakest places on earth. We learn about the effects of intense cold on the body, how urine turns red and how a beard bleaches white. We are told that the secret of good sledging is to excite the dogs with a goal and make them believe they are heading straight for it all the time. We discover that when a vessel becomes icebound in temperatures as low as 30 to 40 degrees below zero, it is raised higher and higher above sea level until it "lies like a wreck on a dry dock of ice."

The book follows an Italian who is obsessed with an early expedition, and ends up dying in a blizzard in Spitzbergen.
Flicking through gives some great descriptions of Longyearbyen and other locations in Svalbard...
One for the A* candidates to read.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Geography and Cartoons

Cartoons are great geographical sources.
Below is a cartoon which refers to an issue we have to cover in Extreme Environments as a FUTURES aspect of Svalbard.
Which issue ?

Geography and Food (People as Consumers)

This is a little premature, as it really relates to the People as Consumers unit, which you will get a taster of in December, and then return to in late January.
The unit looks at the impact of what we buy, and we will be looking at a range of products, such as bananas and Fairtrade items. I am currently planning on linking with the Co-op in some way, as they stock a range of Fairtrade items, or failing that some other large supermarket chain...

Geography and Food also link in the introduction of what is called "Protected Geographical Indication" status for certain foods. When I was in Scotland over the summer, I took a wander along the cliffs north of Arbroath (as you do...) and after an ice cream it was time to get some Arbroath Smokies.
What are they ?
Here is a Wikipedia article about them

Arbroath Smokies:

and they are delicious barbequed with a bit of butter...
The link to Geography is that only smokies smoked in Arbroath (often over fires which are made from chippings made from old whisky barrels) can be called Arbroath Smokies.

Other examples are Champagne, Feta Cheese, Scotch Whisky and something which I've just got out of the fridge ready to put on top of my cauliflower cheese (served with oven roasted vegetables...) which I'm just cooking between postings...

Wensleydale Dairy has prospered following its link with Wallace and Gromit.

What other GI foods can you find ?
What food products are specific to Norfolk, or are linked with Norfolk ?
What geographical references can you find in the films of Wallace and Gromit ?
One real link is to do with the Aardman animation firm, which produced a range of animations to support the new Countryside Code.You can watch the videos from the site above...

The Mystery Man

No one guessed the identity of the mystery man.
His name is Alfred Wegener.
There will be some reward for any pupils who come to Tuesday's lesson in the ICT room with some information on the great man, and these 2 areas:
a) the contribution he made to our understanding of the structure of the earth
b) his link to the Arctic and extreme environments

And if you are planning on buying me a Christmas present... (yeah right...), or perhaps one for Mrs. Clarke ! (more likely...) I'll have one of these mugs, which you can get from Lazybones
Fill it with a hot drink and watch the continents disappear as Global Warming takes hold...
Remember that Global Warming is one of the FUTURES aspects of Svalbard.
Feeling hot hot hot !

Friday, September 22, 2006

Svalbard in Text

Picture by Steve Johnston - many thanks !

In today's lesson, we looked at the way in which Svalbard has been portrayed in writings.
Early explorers in the 19th century were searching for a trade route to Asia and Western USA. They were also trying to reach one of the extremes of the world: the geographic North Pole.
We had extracts from the excellent "Barrow's Boys" by Fergus Fleming which looks at the journeys into the Arctic made following orders by John Barrow, Second Secretary of the Admiralty.

Here is a detail from the Amazon description of the book. Amazon sell this for £6.59 - visit the BOOKSTORE to buy a copy:

Barrow's Boys is a spellbinding account of perilous journeys to uncharted areas under the most challenging conditions. Re-creating the successes and harrowing failures of the original extreme adventurers, Fergus Fleming captures the incredibly brave, and often downright insane, passion for exploration that led a band of men into situations that would humble even the bravest adventurers today. These men served under John Barrow, Second Secretary to the Admiralty, who, after the Napoleonic wars, launched the most ambitious program of exploration the world has ever seen. For the next thirty years, his handpicked teams of elite naval officers scoured the globe on a mission to fill the blanks that littered the atlases of the day. From the first disastrous trip down the Congo, in search of the Niger River, Barrow maintained his resolve in the face of continuous catastrophes. His explorers often died of sickness or at the hands of unfriendly natives, and they struggled under minuscule budgets that forced them to resort to pulling enormous ships across floating ice fields; to eating mice, raw meat, or their own shoes; and even to horrifying acts of cannibalism.

We looked at the journeys of Edward Parry and David Buchan, both of which started from Spitzbergen.

Look at the image at the top of the page - how does that look to you ? Spectacular ?
What if you were aboard a ship heading for the ice which could well crush your ship ? What if no one knew where you were and there was no chance of rescue ? What if you might not see your family for 2 or 3 years ?

We compared the descriptions in the accounts from the 19th century with the language used in brochures and documents from this century...
Also some extracts from "Frost on my Moustache" by Tim Moore (looking forward to his new book about the people who have scored no points in the Eurovision Song Contest...)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

PIlot GCSE Conference

This conference starts on Monday 25th September and I'll be there every day for a couple of weeks, but don't worry I won't be missing any lessons because it's a virtual conference which is taking place online !!
There are lots of useful documents which you should find quite useful once I get it all collated and I'll keep you up to date with what I discover. Have already started copying documents to the network. Lots of ideas for coursework, which is coming up shortly.
I'll also be involved in the planning and evaluation of some REAL conferences in Birmingham in 2007 and 2008 too.
More soon.
In the meantime, remember to keep checking the blog. There'll be a new magic word coming up soon.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Second ICT Lesson using Cape Farewell Pack

Hi everyone!
We had a second lesson in the computer room today using the Cape Farewell packs.
It was great to see everyone working away on their e-portfolios of Svalbard work. Remember that we want to have a Powerpoint which has links through to the main enquiry questions. We will then link this to the documents we have created so far. We will also use this to link to those of you who choose to use ICT to produce your coursework piece, although the coursework does not have to be done using ICT - it's your choice - more on that soon !!

This is a site which the school's filter might not allow you to use, but which you can use at home. It's called Montage-a-Google. Choose a search phrase, and enter it, it will then search for images - click Create Montage and it does the rest.
Check out Grant Robinson's site:

You may also find the site which has the excellent name of FLAGRANT DISREGARD - lots of opportunities to make your own posters and be creative with images and text:

We also mentioned something which was briefly mentioned by Tony Cassidy at Kirk Hallam School, our 'blog partners'... he suggested thinking about how Extremes are used to sell products by being used in advertising. If we think about Arctic images, there are quite a few drinks such as Metz, Guinness, Fosters etc who use the 'Ice Cool' or 'Ice Cold' tag... - a beer made from water melted from the Greenland Ice Sheet

Homework for later in the week.

Investigate ideas of WHY polar regions are so cold - this will involve you knowing about LATITUDE and LONGITUDE and the 'dusty bits' of Atlases... Tony has also just added something on this to his weblog - see the link over to the right of the screen...

A folder of images taken by someone who has visited Svalbard will be made available soon for you to use.
For next lesson, start thinking of a question you want answering which could be answered by someone who's been to Svalbard...
What could you ask them ? What intrigues you about the place ?

And finally, there is a prize to anyone who can identify this man !
Clue: he completed the world's biggest jigsaw puzzle !!

Just chillin...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pole to Longyearbyen

“He’s done more than anyone else to bring the world into everyone’s living room.”
Who is this describing ?
Today in our 2nd classroom-based lesson we met him, at the start of his "Pole to Pole" journey: setting off with his own pole, taking a 16 hour flight in a specially adapted plane with ski landing gear, which had left its engine running so as not to allow the engine to freeze, and landing at Ny Alesund airport in a snowfall.
He of course, is Michael Palin: comedian, actor, author, and all round good egg and Geography ambassador (and he was born in South Yorkshire as a great many fine people were...)
Michael Palin has a very useful website at, and this includes details of his journeys, which certainly take in lots of EXTREME ENVIRONMENTS.
A glance at the schedules of the various UK TV channels on Sky will usually throw up some repeats which are well worth catching.
The diagram above is copyright Prominent Palin productions and borrowed in good faith from the wesbsite to illustrate one of the rather nice features: a spinning globe which tracks his adventures.
The globe screenshot above shows the Svalbard leg of the trip, which included a snowmobile journey from Ny Alesund to Longyearbyen, via Kap Wik.
For details on the climate at the moment, we visited a number of useful sites: - remember that the temperature today reached as high as 4 degrees celsius - current conditions at Ny Alesund

The Video Clip discussed...
- read the description of Michael's time on Svalbard - this is great !! - click next page to travel through - why not look for evidence of the EXTREME nature of Svalbard (or otherwise...)

The website also has details on Harald Solheim - this will be particularly useful for those of you who are actually doing your homework !! You can read about Harald and his lonely life. - extract from Pole to Pole...

Also don't forget to consider the map we started to produce with its details on Extreme Environments around the world.

And the magic words for today are "GIVE GEOGRAPHY ITS PLACE"

See you in B1 on Tuesday period 1

Monday, September 11, 2006

Have your Say

I have now (hopefully) enabled moderated comments, so that you can join in the discussion on any of the topics on the blog.
Welcome in...

Have also made sure that all the links actually hyperlink to the relevant website. Slightly annoying when they don't...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Svalbard / Spitzbergen = Case Study

Welcome to any KES students who’ve made it this far. As you’ll know, our chosen case study area is SVALBARD.

We are using the GA’s CAPE FAREWELL pack (pictured above...)

The magic words are “LEMON CHEESECAKE”

Have you been to Spitzbergen / Svalbard ? No ?

OK, so in the absence of your personal experience, you need to talk to someone who HAS been there. - Karsten Eig’s page from Norway - a personal perspective on travelling to Svalbard - Urban Fredrikkson visited Svalbard in 1995 - here's his diary of his travels - did he enjoy it ? What is there to do in Svalbard as a tourist ?

If you’re reading this, you also have a chance to ask some questions to people who HAVE been there. As I said in the lesson when we saw the PhotoJam, the pictures were taken by someone I met in Dundee over the summer, who has been to Svalbard twice and has seen not only the landscape, but a great deal of the wildlife that lives there.

If you have a question about Svalbard, let me have them, and I’ll e-mail them to him shortly in a batch.

Please also note that I have set up an area of the GeographyPages website where I am putting all the lesson ideas and some of the resources. The PhotoJams I show are too large to be put online…

Oh, and also remember that you should be happy with what it is that makes an environment ‘extreme’. Bear in mind that extreme environments are DESERTS, POLAR REGIONS and MOUNTAIN RANGES as far as the specification is concerned, but that there are also extreme in the rainforest, in the deep recesses of the ocean, in volcanic areas and also within some of the interiors of many continents.

And just remember, the magic words are “LEMON CHEESECAKE” – the meaning of that will become obvious shortly.

We’re going to be using extracts from Tim Moore’s book “Frost on my Moustache”. He visited Svalbard as part of a journey following a Victorian diplomat called Lord Dufferin. Recommended reading!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Check out Tony's Blog

A colleague and online chum Tony Cassidy, who runs the excellent Radical Geography website has been posting his progress. He's another person who is starting teaching the GCSE Pilot this September.
He has a very useful blog at which also references me: blogs within blogs...
You can also now link to this blog using the right hand column - check out the growing set of links to books, films, blogs etc. which you might find useful...

See you later in the week. Mrs. Clarke and I are looking forward to it.

In the meantime, here are some teaser questions for you...

What makes extreme sports extreme ?
What makes extreme environments extreme ?
Who is that climbing Stanage Edge in the PhotoJam ?
Name 3 novels set in extreme environments
Name 3 films set in extreme environments
Name 3 computer games or other such media set in extreme environments
Name 3 songs with ICE in the title

and what colour exercise books are we going to be using !
Push that envelope!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Welcome to the Blog

So in addition to all the other projects I'm up to, I've also decided to start this BLOG to get the latest in news stories, book reviews, music, cultural references , websites and general pilot-ness out to the students at KES who are doing the Pilot GCSE Geography.
I hope you'll check this regularly. I will be offering prizes to those who offer content for the blog, or who start and update their own blogs.
Remember that the key point of reference for you is the GeographyPages website page:
Good luck in your studies !