Geography in

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Geography in

Years 1 to 10

Studies of Society and Environment

Key Learning Area

Occasional paper prepared for the

Queensland School Curriculum Council

The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland Inc


  1. The value of Geography to learning in SOSE

  2. Characteristics of geographical skills, processes and concepts

  3. Classroom environments to foster development of geographical skills, processes and concepts

  4. Practical steps for learning geographical skills, processes and concepts

  5. Sample modules

  6. Useful resources


This paper has been prepared in association with the development of syllabuses within the Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE) key learning area, a curriculum intended to prepare students for adult life well into the next century.

The emphasis of SOSE is on understanding relationships between people and environments, and developing the skills, processes, concepts and values needed to sustain and improve these relationships. Geography, one of the traditions of inquiry from which SOSE is drawn, makes a significant contribution to the values, skills, processes and concepts of this learning area and to a student’s ability to demonstrate core learning outcomes from Levels 1 – 6.
This paper deals with geographical skills, processes and concepts, which are relevant to a student’s demonstration of outcomes across the four strands and throughout the six levels of Studies of Society and Environment.

  1. The Value of Geography to Learning in Studies of Society and Environment

Geography makes a unique contribution to an understanding of the human experience within the natural environment. One of geography’s continuing strengths is that it straddles the social and physical sciences. The content, cognitive processes, skills and values promoted in its study to help students to better explore, understand and evaluate the social and environmental dimensions of their world.

Because we all live, think and act in places in a spatial framework, we need to understand what the properties of that framework are, what opportunities it offers and what constraints it may impose on others and ourselves. We need to develop this understanding in order to act as sensible and successfully as possible in our personal lives, as voting citizens and as members of the global communityi.
1.1 Key values
Geography promotes the four key values that are central to SOSE: democratic process, social justice, ecological and economic sustainability and peace. Geography’s content has long included such areas as environmental campaigns, inequities in resource allocation within and between countries, and the impact of people on environments. Within areas such as these, student critically evaluate the range of views (values analysis) and review their own attitudinal stance (values clarification), fostering students’ personal commitment to the key values.
1.2 Cross-curricular priorities
Geography makes important contributions to the cross-curricular priorities in the SOSE syllabus:
Geography presents varied and stimulating opportunities for language development, talking, reading and writing. Students engage in purposeful reading and writing tasks in a variety of forms, ranging from reports to poetry. Constructive talking is encouraged in eg. role plays, presentations, investigations, debates and discussions. Geography strongly supports the development of graphicacy through students producing, interpreting and evaluating maps, photographs, diagrams and graphs. Geography leads to an appreciation of the diversity of cultures and therefore encourages student sensitivity in cross-cultural contexts.
Civic literacy
Civic literacy is fostered in geography as students develop personal skills of perception, problem solving and community involvement through analysing the social and environmental implications of political decisions, evaluating alternative forms of social action, and participating in positive community action for a sustainable and socially just world.
Geographical study presents students with many opportunities for the practice and development of their numeracy skills in contexts that may involve real life situations. A class which has collected data on a traffic survey, for example, will be processing and analysing numerical data, perhaps using spreadsheets, producing graphs to present their findings, and perhaps problem solving. In using maps and diagrams, students work with scale, distance, coordination, direction and area.
The study of geography helps students in their many roles in life – citizen, consumer, producer, recreator, social being, learner. The examples of this are many and varied: planning journeys; building, buying or renting appropriate accommodation; understanding daily weather patterns; making purchasing decisions. Whatever the situation they are facing, geography teaches students how to follow through with a reasoned inquiry to draw soundly-based conclusions and plan appropriate actions.
Geography develops critical thinking, a key skill for shaping the future. It develops an appreciation of the differences of viewpoints within and between groups, cultures and regions, which is an appreciation essential to conflict avoidance and resolution at a local, national or global scale. By developing geography skills, processes and concepts, students can predict probable futures based on patterns and trends, and visualise and act on preferred futures, thus developing optimism about their future.
Work education
Through geography fieldwork, students have practice in carrying out investigations in and of the real world. Geography can offer a solid grounding in specific skills, processes, understandings and attitudes essential to a growing range of work areas eg. people / environment relationships, spatial perspective, places and regions and the links between them. Geography deals with all the key competencies specified by business as needed in the workforce, that is, students: collect, analyse and organise information; communicate ideas and information; plan and organise activities; use mathematical ideas and techniques; solve problems; and apply an understanding of cultures.
1.3 Geographical inquiry
One of the distinctive features of a discipline lies in the procedures that are used to create new knowledge. In geography, this methodology of inquiry has a clear association with key questions. Table 1 indicates their relationship with the sequence of phases of an inquiry in the SOSE syllabus.

Table 1 Geographical key questions

Key questions in geographical inquiry

Associated skills / processes

SOSE syllabus phases of inquiry

What and where are the issues or patterns being studied?

observation (direct and indirect)



framing and focusing questions

How and why are they there?



locating, organising and analysing evidence

What are their impacts or consequences?




evaluating, synthesising and reporting conclusions

What can be done to improve the situation?


decision making

communicating findings

action where appropriate

  1. Characteristics of Geographical Skills, Processes and Concepts

Within the methodology outlined in Table 1, geography uses and develops a range of cognitive processes and skills to build concepts.

Students’ experiences of rainforest ecosystems illustrate the connections between these three. Students have a concept of rainforest that has been built up from, for example, watching TV, reading books, surfing the net, perhaps a family picnic.
After introductory work in the classroom, the students use a number of skills during geography fieldwork to add to their understanding of rainforest ecosystems. They:

  • listen to forest noises, look at the clouds and decomposition of litter, smell the must forest smells, and feel the texture of different barks;

  • sketch epiphyte growth on trees, note aspect, and photograph leaf shapes;

  • measure the girth of trees, count and identify different species in a quadrant;

  • carry out soil and water quality tests;

  • collect data to carry out nearest neighbour analysis.

Back in class, the students apply processes to further develop their understanding of this concept. They:

  • compare their recorded observations;

  • study their locations on a map;

  • analyse reasons for difference;

  • predict possible changes in species diversity with global warming;

  • justify limited road development through rainforest conservation areas;

  • reflect on the sustainability of rainforest in areas of changing land use.

They now have a much-revised concept of rainforest and the complexity of the ecosystem. They use skills to communicate this understanding. They:

  • write a report;

  • present an audiovisual comparison of features of a rainforest and a previously-studies vegetation to fellow students;

  • Email their water quality results to schools in their Waterwatch network;

  • plant food species for endangered rainforest butterflies.

2.1 Geographical skills
Skills are activities with a significant practical component. They are sets of operations leading to some achievement. Individuals learn skills because they make it possible to achieve goals. For example, we learn to use a street directory so we can find a particular place.
Many activities that are regarded as skills are complex combinations of subskills. For example, drawing a map, either manually or using computer software, is often regarded as a skill, but comprises many skills, including: establishing a scale, drafting the outline, selecting appropriate fonts, applying colour and / or symbols. Table 2 gives examples of geographic skills and links them with inquiry phases.
Table 2 Geographical skills

Inquiry phase

SOSE syllabus processes

Geographic skills

investigate by direct and indirect observation




  • look, listen, touch, taste, smell

  • using measuring instruments

  • create proformas and carry out interviews in the field

  • use maps, photos, statistical databases, printed material, Internet sites

  • collect samples / specimens where appropriate

record data





  • draw sketch maps, field sketches

  • record interviews

  • take photographs / videos

  • record readings from instruments, data from surveys

  • make notes, fill in observation schedules

  • enter measurements in a database

communicate findings




  • use a clear, concise expression in varying forms, eg., submissions, reports, letters, leaflets

  • make oral presentations to groups within and outside the school

  • present information in maps, diagrams, flowcharts, statistical tables, GIS output

  • produce (individually or in groups) graphics, models, posters, videos, websites

2.2 Geographical processes
Process refers to the cognitive abilities commonly associated with study and thinking. Some educators refer to these as ‘thinking skills’. Each time a person uses a higher cognitive process, a form of problem solving takes place because the intellectual activity involves more than simply repeating an action or recalling a fact. The processes adopted in the SOSE syllabus of understand, think, create, investigate, participate, communicate and reflect fit very well with geography’s emphasis on active learning and student inquiry. Table 3 outlines geographical processes.
Table 3 Processes used in geography


SOSE syllabus processes

Key questions

Terms associated with CLOs

Plain language meaning / action required











  • debate the reasons for and against


  • give the main points or general principles omitting minor details


  • participate in collecting data for an investigation


  • list, select name or recognise


  • make the meaning clear and explicit, often requiring an opinion


  • identify and describe the development of …


  • present the essential ideas and information in fewer words than the original, keeping to the appropriate sequence and omitting details


  • make clear the cause or reason


  • infer a general principle from facts










what impact?

what can be done?


  • show by use of examples


  • calculate roughly


  • explain and make clear by use of specific example


  • provide sound reasons/evidence for your decision


  • show by providing evidence that something is true or false








what impact?


  • use concepts learnt in one situation in a new situation in order to be able to answer key questions


  • appraise or assess results using known results from parallel examples, eg. judge the effects of...


  • work out the extent of something, especially by comparison with a standard


  • present something in depth and investigate the implications / significance very carefully by comparison with known examples, eg. examine the possible effects of…








what impact?


  • show the meaning of something by breaking it down into its important parts and examining each part in detail


  • look for, recognise and present similarities and differences


  • highlight the differences between two or more positions, ideas or plans


  • put into groups on the basis of criteria


  • narrate / show how things are connected to each other and to what extent they are alike or affect each other, eg. what is the relationship between…


  • bring together ideas or arguments into a whole







what impact?

what can be done?


  • draft, outline or sketch something new based on specifications developed from prior work


  • produce a new plan or proposal logically, step-by-step


  • construct, design or work out an original solution to a stated problem, eg. devise a way to overcome…

propose /

present / suggest

  • put forward for consideration or judgement an original plan or recommendation







what impact?

what can be done?


  • present a case for and/or against a particular plan or proposition


  • give judgement about the merit of theories or opinions, about the truth of facts, and back your judgement by a discussion of evidence


  • make a judgement about the worth of something, looking at values, quality, merit, relevance, importance or appropriateness, and using criteria


  • present a clear and convincing argument for a definite and detailed point of view or opinion


  • defend or provide sound reasons for your decisions or conclusions based on the application of criteria


  • examine critically your own thought processes and conclusions


  • explain why your understanding or attitude about an issue has changed or remains the same

decision making







what can be done?


  • appraise, evaluate, or judge by weighing up all the evidence and arriving at a considered conclusion


  • make a decision about something where you clearly state your opinion and support it with reasoned argument and evidence


  • arrive at an answer, showing the required steps / strategies / reasoning used


  • act on a suggested solution to an identified problemii

2.3 Geographical concepts
A concept is an idea or notion developed by studying a number of particular cases sharing some characteristics and generalising the result. Concepts are not fixed but develop as we live and learn. Every discipline has a body of key concepts to guide its inquiry.
Table 4 illustrates one way of structuring geographical concepts. Other ways are to link concepts to geography’s key questions, as described in the Years 9-10 Draft Optional Syllabus in Geography, or to the categories shown in the Core Content of the SOSE syllabus.
Table 4 Structure of concepts in geography

There are four basic and related SPATIAL CONCEPTS in geography:

Subsidiary CONCEPTS or ASPECTS of the four include:


Location refers to a particular place; many locations may be grouped together to form a distribution.


The distribution of one thing may overlap with other distributions and produce areal association.


Characteristic associations help differentiate areas. Movement occurs when materials, people or ideas flow between areas.


Direction, distance, site, situation, centrality, isolation

Pattern (ie. line, node, surface, scatter), scale, density

Place, environment, habitat, landscape, region, interaction, interdependence, process, system, casual relationship, energy

Direction, continuity, intensity, means, connections, cycles, circulation, diffusion, flow, confluence

Other concepts interact with the four spatial concepts:

Change over time: dynamism, trend, duration, development, stage, impact, sequent occupance

Perception: images of places and phenomena, power, divergent views

Values: democratic process, social justice, ecological and economic sustainability, peace

Students need an understanding of concepts to:

  • Master content in a structured and meaningful way;

  • Minimise the need to learn specifics;

  • Provide a framework in which to give knowledge a context;

  • Develop awareness of the organising themes that help confer a distinctive approach to the study of geography;

  • To inform decisions made in and about social, natural and built environments.

  1. A Classroom Environment to Foster Development of Geographical Skills, Processes and Concepts

The emphasis in education today is largely on the activities of learners as they acquire and use skills, processes and concepts. Children are natural geographers. They have been exploring their world and asking questions about their environment since the y first opened their eyes. They bring with them to the classroom personal geographies of varying levels of sophistication and a keen interest in their world.

The promotion of skills, processes and concepts must be set in a framework of understanding the changing attributes and abilities of children as they mature. For example, research shows that some concepts, physical geography terms in particular (eg. erosion), are conceptually difficult and may not be fully understood in the primary years.iii The same applies to skills and processes. For example, children’s ability to make complex value judgements develops significantly at puberty. Current research into children’s use of maps and photographs demonstrates the relevance of an understanding of maturation. Children as young a s four years old have significant ability to work with maps without formal teachingiv. In interpreting photographs, younger students tend to focus only on elements in the foreground while junior secondary students are able to view and interpret the photograph as a wholev. An understanding of varying competence within and between levels is vital to teachers as they plan strategies to suit their students’ particular levels and individual differences, and consider the way these strategies relate to the whole curriculum.
The task for teachers is to provide children with a well-rounded, structured opportunity to observe, understand, respond to and interact in their world while preserving and enhancing a spirit of inquiry.
3.1 Inquiry learning settings
As inquiry learning is central to geography, it is important to be familiar with the roles that teachers and students each have in inquiry-learning settings. Inquiry learning focuses on four basic components, as shown in Table 5. In any one inquiry, teachers and students may negotiate different proportions of responsibility for different stages of the inquiry.
Table 5 Inquiry components

Topic selection

Question / problem

Inquiry process


Proposed by pupils

Spontaneous from pupils

Autonomous pupil activity

Achieved through open inquiry

Jointly devised by teacher and pupils

Arose in structured discussions in class

Joint initiative on parts of teacher and pupils

Closed inquiry

Presented by teacher

Asked by teacher

Prescribed by teacher

Knowledge facilitated by teacher

Inquiry is a state of mind that may be satisfied by numerous learning experiences: various discovery learning strategies; creative activities; laboratory practicals; and field studies.

Inquiry permeates all of these learning experiences, although some may be more structured than others. One survey viof 1000 classrooms showed only 1% of teacher talk invited students to give more than recall. Whether this is reflected in out Queensland schools or not, it provides a clear message that learner-centred classrooms and fostering thinking skills do not come automatically and need to be planned into our curriculum and teaching practices.
3.2 Reflection
Teaching for reflection or metacognition enables students to think about how they learn, and what their understandings, values and abilities are before, during and after learning. Planning, remembering and self-monitoring are aspects of metacognition that apply to the acquisition of skills, processes and concepts such as those used by geographers. In general, these approaches are aimed at helping students to become more keenly aware of what they are learning and to improve their strategies for learning. Teachers may help with this by making students aware of the questions to ask themselves (see p. 13) and of the value of asking these questions, by observing the students at work, and by offering comments on progress, especially when students ask for feedback.
It can be helpful for teachers to concentrate on what comprises effective thinking. Table 6 highlights the differences between effective and ineffective thinking.
Table 6 Qualities demonstrating effective thinking vs qualities inhabiting effective thinking

Qualities that demonstrate effective thinking

Qualities that may inhibit effective thinking

Welcoming problematic situations; being tolerant of ambiguity

Searching for certainty; being intolerant of ambiguity

Being sufficiently self-critical; looking for alternative possibilities and goals; seeking evidence on both sides

Not being self-critical; being satisfied with first attempts

Being reflective and deliberative; searching extensively when appropriate

Being impulsive; giving up prematurely; being overconfident of the correctness of initial ideas

Believing in the value of rationality and the effectiveness of thinking

Overvaluing intuition; devaluing rationality; believing that thinking won’t help

Being deliberative in discovering goals

Being impulsive in discovering goals

Revising goals when necessary

Not revising goals

Being open to multiple possibilities; considering alternatives

Preferring to deal with limited possibilities; not seeking alternative to an initial possibility

Being deliberative in analysing possibilities

Being impulsive in choosing possibilities

Using evidence that challenges favoured possibilities

Ignoring evidence that challenges favoured possibilities

Consciously searching for evidence against the possibilities that are initially strong, or in favour of those that are weak

Consciously searching only for evidence that favours strong possibilities

3.3 Fieldwork
Fieldwork is another essential component of fostering geographical skills, processes, concepts and attitudes. The field is the geographer’s laboratory and is represented clearly in the SOSE syllabus, both generally and specifically (eg. core learning outcomes TCC 1.4, PS 3.3, PS 4.3, PS 6.3). A close association exists between practical work and student understanding. Fieldwork:

  • is highly student-centred;

  • arouses student curiosity;

  • brings students in contact with the real world;

  • provides opportunities for testing perceptions;

  • develops skills and processes;

  • brings abstract concepts alive;

  • contributes to the formation of values and attitudes;

  • helps to develop aesthetic awareness;

  • encourages participation in community / environmental action.

Fieldwork can be done in the school grounds or the local community for 15 or 30 minutes, or over two or three days. It may be an initial collection of data, the final investigation to validate findings, or citizen action. Teaching strategies range between the extremes of field teaching and field research as indicated in Table 7. The relevance of each approach depends on the:

  • purpose of the field study;

  • experience and confidence of the students;

  • time available;

  • equipment available;

  • level of community participation.

Table 7 Field teaching and field research

Field research ← ------------------------------------------- → Field teaching

Identification of a problem as the result of direct observations or from class work or from special interests of students
Formulation of a hypothesis as a result of reading, discussion, thinking
Field activities, involving data collection and recording
Data analysis – processing information
Hypothesis – accept or reject
Field action may result

Study of a geographic topic or theme in class – teacher talk, textbook study, note-taking, slide viewing

Observations, often teacher-directed, and recording of information in the field – some field interpretation

Further interpretation and explanation in class: writing up field experiences
Final action may result.

Field action may result from either approach. However, effective involvement in working with the community for a better environment is more likely to be a part of field research. Field action can be a tool to promote values such as ecological and economic sustainability, associated concepts such as stewardship; and associated processes such as values clarification. This may be an end product of field research and field teaching eg. becoming a bushwalker or joining an action group to protect a valued place.

3.4 Technology
Changing technology provides a number of opportunities to create a classroom environment that fosters the development of skills, processes and concepts. Students can use computers to record data in the field, map, analyse data, communicate with other students and institution, access information, present data – in ways that interest students and contribute to their ability to function in the real world.
4. Practical Steps for Learning Geographical Skills, Processes and Concepts
Geography skills, processes and concepts can be acquired by students through:

  • a process of inquiry where motivated students will seek their own approaches to problem solving, recognise issues and seek to resolve them, ask questions and attempt answers; or

  • direct reception of, and interaction with, information from teachers or textual materials, that is, listening, observing and reading.

While the SOSE syllabus promotes an inquiry-oriented approach to learning, the two approaches, that is, finding out for oneself or being taught, can both be applied to the acquisition of skills, processes and concepts. The two methods can be blended to enable learning, and to suit individual student learning styles.

In most student-based learning, there is still a role for teacher demonstration of skills, but with a changed emphasis to the activities of learners as they acquire and use skills. This changed emphasis does not mean that students cannot ask, and even expect, teachers to demonstrate clearly the steps involved in acquiring a skill, process or concept. Teachers are an essential part of effective learning, both as a resource and part of the student’s monitoring process. However skills are taught, to be meaningful to students, they need to be connected to the larger learning context that is occurring. Also, teachers are important in developing students’ metacognition (reflection) by teaching students to plan, remember and self-monitor their learning of skills.
Table 8 Practical steps in learning skills, processes and concepts: an overview

Learning through investigation

Learning from teacher


  1. Motivation is a basic condition for effective learning of skills and for sustaining autonomous learning.

  2. Learners should know about the principles on which the skill rests.

  3. Learners should understand the practical aspects of the skill.

  4. Learners need to be able to appraise different strategies fro completing the task and to choose among them.

  5. Learners should try one of the strategies, provide their own commentary on what they are doing, describing what is being learned and how the learning is happening.

  6. Self-monitoring of the learning is important. Learners should set up criteria by which to judge the success of their performance.

  7. Persistent rehearsal is required along with continuing evaluation.

  8. The approach to developing the skill should be changed in the light of what is learned from the evaluation.

  9. Continued self-questioning about the skill will enhance its transferability.

Teachers make a task analysis of the skill to identify its components. Determine about the readiness of students to undertake each component task. Help students who experience difficulty.

  1. Clarify the learning context in which the skill will be needed.

  2. Demonstrate the whole, then the parts, then the whole again, making sure students can see the demonstration clearly.

  3. Give a commentary during the demonstration. Provide guiding notes or require students to record their own notes.

  4. Allow time for practice straight after the demonstration.

  5. If the skill is complex, apply the demonstration and practise to sub-skills in turn. Provide comments on the work of individual students.

  6. Apply to relevant context.

  7. Devise several ways of practising the same skill and build it into more complex operations like problem solving.

  8. Help students formulate criteria of effective performance and encourage self-analysis.


Geographical processes may be developed by students as:

  • individual exercises following known steps / criteria applied to fresh information similar to stages in skills above; or

  • working within a phase of an inquiry or following through the general sequence of phases of an inquiry;

  1. frame and focus questions;

  2. locate, organise and analyse evidence;

  3. evaluate, synthesise and report conclusions;

  4. possibly take action;

  5. develop processes, with an emphasis on reflection eg. students analyse the nature of questions developed and reformulate these where necessary. The degree of individual responsibility for learning will be negotiated between students and teacher.

Ensure that students comprehend the nature of the process involved. This may take the form of a careful definition, or of a detailed analysis of the task to reveal its components. The student should understand just what is involved.

  1. Provide a demonstration of a situation in which the process is involved. This involves teacher and students jointly working an example.

  2. Provide an opportunity for students to practise in context the use of this process activity until they show sufficient competence to undertake it without intervention by the teacher.

  3. Help students to know how successful they are.



  1. brainstorm what a particular concept means;

  2. examine a set of written and / or pictorial examples that illustrate the concept, and a set that do not;

  3. work out the characteristics that define the concept;

  4. share ideas with fellow students and refine defining characteristics;

  5. test conclusions against new examples.

  1. Introduce the concept; establish the topic in class with some motivational activity;

  2. Define the concept;

  3. Using direct teaching methods identify distinguishing features of the concept;

  4. Examine examples highlighting essential / distinguishing features;

  5. Students practise using the concept, recognising essential features.

    1. Reflecting

In learning through investigation, students apply metacognitive principles to the development of skills, processes and concepts. Metacognition emphasises describing and analysing one’s own learning and using these descriptions and analyses to decide how to proceed with the learning. The need to learn is based on personal recognition of the contribution such as an activity can make to understanding. Planning, remembering and self-monitoring are aspects of metacognition that can be applied to the acquisition of skills, processes and concepts. Students may enhance their development of these when they are encouraged to ask such questions as:

  • Why have I chosen to acquire this particular skill / process / concept?

  • How will it help my studies?

  • Where should I begin?

  • What have I done so far?

  • What strategies have been effective in the past?

  • Is there something I need to change?

  • I find this part of the task easy (or difficult). Why?

  • Do I need to go back over that step to check it?

  • How can I summarise the sequence of steps I have taken?

  • How does my own evaluation of my performance compare with the teacher’s evaluation of it?

    1. Reception learning

Reception learning principles are applied to learning skills, processes and concepts from the teacher. Reception learning typically occurs when a full statement of what is to be learned is presented to the student. This often occurs when passages of text are read or when teachers tell a story or present information. Such statements should be organised but the following principles to encourage meaningful learning:

  • The presentation should begin with a brief overall outline of the topic, perhaps a couple of sentences in all.

  • Then the topic should be progressively developed, so that a typical structure in the material is: brief outline → more specific statements → explanations → details → examples → case studies. This has been called progressive differentiation.

  • Advanced organisers should be built into the statement at appropriate places. An advance organiser is a brief reference to an idea that is developed later. It serves to link different parts of the whole and to help learners anticipate what will follow.

Reception learning obviously differs from discovery learning. However, it is far from passive because it requires considerable thought by learners.

    1. Fieldwork

As mentioned in the previous section, fieldwork is an important focus for the development of skills, processes, concepts and attitudes in geography. teachers may take the more traditional field teaching approach or a more student-orientated field approach (see p. 11) as appropriate to the circumstances.

5. Sample Modules
Two modules are briefly outlined that suggest ways of incorporating the development of geographical skills, processes and concepts into classroom practice.

Level 1: This is my place

Elements of the local environment

At Level 1, students investigate elements of their local social, natural and built environment, building on prior knowledge as they observe, measure and record; identify features and elements of their familiar environment; suggest evidence of change; examine relationships; and use categories. Students work with features of their classroom, school and local area environments, spending time outside the classroom. They work together to gather information and communicate through maps, diagrams, photographic and evidence displays, and oral and written reports. They may become involved in action supporting some aspect of their familiar environment. The following activities are suggested ways of delivering the core learning outcomes listed.

PS 1.4 Students organise and present information about places that are important to them.

Teacher assists students to create a three-dimensional representation of a place eg. use boxes and Lego to represent their homes. Use an area on the floor to create a 3D map, using a box representing the school as the starting point. Place houses in the general location relative to the school. Students stand on chairs to gain a bird’s eye or plan view. Teacher models how a two-dimensional map can be made on the plan view.

Repeat the above activity regularly and consider questions such as: What does the map show that we can’t see normally? What doesn’t the map show that we can see? What’s useful about a map? What’s useful about a three-dimensional representation (model)?

Use literature such as Rosie’s Walk to develop language about location and places. Use cut-outs of people on a large map and orally describe how they can move from one place to another eg. How do you find the library? What do you walk past to get there? How else could you get there?

Students are introduced to the notion of classification. Students list or draw a range of features of places and find ways to group them eg. large or small, living and non-living, old and new, colour, shape, things on the ground and in the sky, can be placed on or not played on. Teacher uses language like “Can you organise it this way?”. [When classifying, no one answer is necessarily right…learning to use criteria is the skill being developed. Also, the definition of old will vary according to context. Teachers need to consider what is old in relation to the experiences of students. Seek reasons from students eg. this sandwich is old because it is stale, this tree was here when my grandfather was born, the building that was built last year is old because we are in the new building.]

Students develop field skills as they work in groups, moving around the school, observing the social, natural and built features including boundaries. The teacher collaborates with the students to create a simple map and students create symbols to place on the map to represent observed features. They describe the location of features using words like to, under, above, next, up, down, between.

They develop numeracy skills as they describe distances eg. far away, below, close, and measure distances using familiar units eg. steps, paces.

They choose their preferred place in the school and develop a sense of place by describing it in words and drawing a picture of it. They locate it on their map and compare their choice with others in the class.

They list places that they value and collaborate with the teacher to tally this information on a chart. They list reasons they and others like various places. They mark important places on a prepared simple map of the school and draw conclusions from this information.

They develop literacy skills and processes of investigation to build concepts. Games like Hunt the Picture are used: students view photographs or pictures of features around the school grounds eg. basketball post, the tree beside the front gate, the sandpit, then locate these features. With teacher assistance, students mark these on a prepared large simple map.

TCC 1.4 Students describe the effects of a change over time in a familiar environment.

Students move around the school to identify changing elements in the social, natural and built environment eg. seasonal changes, natural growth and decay, built environment changes, changing social patterns. They describe the effects of changes in various ways eg. drawing, photographs, concept map, evidence display.

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