'The study of geography is about more than just memorizing places on a map. It's about understanding the complexity of our world, appreciating the diversity of cultures that exists across continents. And in the end, it's about using all that knowledge to help bridge divides and bring people together.’
What is Geography?
Geography is the study of places and the relationships between people and their environments. Geographers explore both the physical properties of Earth’s surface and the human societies spread across it. They also examine how human culture interacts with the natural environment and the way that locations and places can have an impact on people. Geography seeks to understand where things are found, why they are there and how they develop and change over time.
Why do we study Geography?
Geography’s fundamental role lies in helping children to understand the world, its environments and places near and far, and the processes that create and affect them. It encourages a holistic appreciation of how the world works and of the interconnections between concepts such as scale, community, cultural diversity, interdependence and sustainability. Geography is a subject that contextualises and extends the possibilities for developing and applying language and mathematics, and enriches understanding of, and in, subjects from science and history to art and design.
The National curriculum states the purpose of geographical study is to:
Inspire in pupils a curiosity and fascination about the world and its people that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Teaching should equip pupils with knowledge about diverse places, people, resources and natural and human environments, together with a deep understanding of the Earth’s key physical and human processes. As pupils progress, their growing knowledge about the world should help them to deepen their understanding of the interaction between physical and human processes, and of the formation and use of landscapes and environments. Geographical knowledge, understanding and skills provide the frameworks and approaches that explain how the Earth’s features at different scales are shaped, interconnected and change over time.
Through their study of the Opossum Geography curriculum, we intend that pupils will:
1. Develop locational and place knowledge through local, national and global studies
Pupils will develop their knowledge on place and location by studying a wide variety of places and locations at a local, national and global level. Developing locational and place knowledge supports pupils in being able to place themselves in the world, from the local to global perspective; appreciating where places and events are mentioned in the news, leisure events, stories and much else; and having a balanced sense of the range of places and features of our planet. Such place knowledge helps us make sense of the world, but it is more than this. To have a sense of where they are in the world it is vital that pupils know where they are locally and how their locality links to significant places nearby, nationally and globally.
2. Gain knowledge beyond their experience
Pupils will learn about a variety of places at local, national and global levels. In doing this it opens up a world of possibilities for pupils which moves beyond their lived experiences. Geography is a subject which can bring the world to the classroom and in doing so enables pupils to learn about places which they may not have had the opportunity to visit. In studying about the world in which they live, it is hoped that pupils will become inspired to learn more about the world and develop a desire to go beyond their experiences.
3. Understand the links between physical and human geography
The study of geography takes into account both physical and human geography. Pupils will learn that both aspects of geography are interlinked- humans have direct impact on the physical world around them and the physical world can impact upon the way in which humans interact with it. By learning aspects of physical geography, pupils will be able to develop an understanding of how things are the way they are and where they are. For example, why earthquakes and volcanoes occur where tectonic plates are located. Having secure knowledge of both human and physical geography supports pupils in making informed decisions on how they interact with the world around them.
4.Develop an enquiring and analytical mind
We intend that through the study of geography, pupils will naturally become curious about the world in which they live. By developing curiosity, pupils' enquiry and analytical skills will be enhanced through the asking of questions. It hones pupils analytical skills and encourages them to see the world in a different way. Geography promotes an inquiring mind, the ability to analyse things and ask deep questions such as ‘why is that/ how did it get like this?’ By manipulating a range of information and geographical sources, pupils will be able to summarise, use and analyse that information to make judgements and decisions of the world in which they live.
5. Acquire geographical vocabulary
We intend that pupils will develop in increasingly wide geographical vocabulary across their primary school experience. This will enable them to speak a ‘disciplinary language’ in common with other geographers. Mastering vocabulary relating to knowledge and concepts supports pupils to understand material they encounter in geographical sources and the ability to communicate it clearly.
6. Become global citizens who will will be aware of and take action on local, national and global issues
Through the study of geography, pupils will gain human and physical knowledge of local, national and global perspectives. Using this knowledge, pupils will develop an inherent understanding of how humans can impact the environment in which they live, locally, nationally and globally. Through this, we intend for pupils to become conscious-minded of the world around them, understand others, and work towards making the entire globe a better place, beginning with issues which are relevant to their local communities.
Through their study of the world and its people, Opossum values are realised.
Being Respectful - demonstrating respect for the viewpoints of others by listening courteously and debating respectfully.
Being Aspirational – an expectation that pupils are capable of research, discussion, debate and opinion on complex topics
Being Caring – developing concern for the world in which they live, seeking opportunities to positively impact the environment in which they live
Having Integrity - Seeking truth by considering and critically analysing geographical information
Being Creative – using creative skills to communicate geographical information
Being Community Minded – recognise that their actions have a local, national and global impact
Scope and sequence
The Opossum Geography curriculum fulfils and exceeds the requirements of the National Curriculum. Where there are opportunities to select specific learning contexts, consideration is given to the wider school context, pupil perspectives and learning within other subjects. For example, the Y1 topic ‘Where will we go on the big Red Bus?’ uses the idea of a London bus, a common mode of transport for our pupils, to explore and learn about the four regions of the UK. By using London as a starting point, it develops pupils' understanding of both place and scale by beginning locally and scaling out into England and the other UK regions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Within the Y6 topic of Migration, pupils will learn about the importance of migration to their local area, London and the UK as a whole. This supports pupils’ knowledge and understanding of how migration has shaped the city in which they live today- a key principle for London residents. Pupils have the opportunity to explore areas which will broaden their experience e.g. they will learn about rural and coastal areas in Y2 and Y3 and will learn about different countries which have differing cultural perspectives from the one in which they live. In Y3, using the context of food to explore trade links and land use, enables children to begin at a personal scale (the food on their plate) before widening their perspective on how food is grown and transported locally, regionally and globally. A unit which exceeds the National Curriculum is ‘Eco-Warriors’ which is studied in Y3. This is included within our Geography curriculum to develop awareness of both the local (Waltham Forest) and global Climate Emergency Commission, whilst supporting pupils’ knowledge and understanding of environmental interaction and sustainable development.
EYFS is the bedrock of the Geography curriculum and this is built upon in KS1 and KS2. Of the seven areas of learning and development outlined in the EYFS framework the one that fits best with Geography is undoubtedly: ‘knowledge and understanding of the world’. However, it is very difficult to imagine developing knowledge and understanding of the world in isolation, without simultaneously and symbiotically developing the other six areas. Pupils learn a whole range of highly transferable skills, values and attributes (including: problem-solving, observation, collaboration, open-mindedness, courage, resilience, curiosity, integrity, and a sense of what is fair and equitable) that combine to allow them to explore and interpret the world around them. When providing a context for learning there is invariably a spatial dimension at a practical level, with teachers setting up learning zones such as a ‘mud kitchen’, ‘role-play area’ or ‘construction corner’. These enable pupils to transport themselves at an imaginary level, with these areas, in effect, acting as portals into the spaces, places and times within each pupil’s imagination, allowing them to construct their own individual and collaborative learning story.
By learning ‘All About Me’, the concept of scale and cultural understanding and diversity can be introduced, as well as developing an awareness of their locality (school community). Cultural awareness and diversity is further developed through their learning on ‘Festival and Celebrations’ Geographical skills and fieldwork are introduced in the ‘We are Explorers’ and ‘Animals’ topic as pupils explore their local area and habitats.
Learning in KS1 builds on the experience drawn upon in EYFS. The concepts of scale and place are developed through pupils’ learning, firstly through learning about their local area, followed by studying the country in which they live and then a study of the UK. This knowledge, that scale connects places, is developed and provides a foundation for further study in KS2.
Key geographical knowledge, skills and concepts
Locational knowledge, place knowledge, human and physical processes and geographical skills and fieldwork are the key knowledge and skills which are taught within the geography curriculum. These are underpinned by the key geographical concepts of scale, place, space, physical and human processes, cultural understanding and diversity, environmental interaction and sustainable development. These concepts provide the framework for organising the knowledge that is taught within the geography curriculum at Opossum schools.
Scale: pupils should investigate geography at a range of scales. Virtually any topic, when studied geographically, benefits from a 'scaled' approach. Scale influences the way we represent what we see or experience. We can select different scales from the personal, local and regional to the global. In between, we have the national and international scales, which are politically important. We cannot, for example, fully understand high street shopping in a locality, or industrial change in a region or country, without comprehending the global context. Choice of scale is therefore important in geographical enquiry, as is the realisation that scale resolutions are interconnected, as if by a zoom lens.
Place: studying real places is an essential context for developing geographical enquiries. A place is a space that carries meaning, often through human occupation or by human interpretation. Every place has a particular location and a unique set of physical and human characteristics. These include what a place is like, how it became like this and how it is subject to forces for change.
Space: in addition to developing a sense of place in geography pupils also develop spatial understanding. Physical and human phenomena are located and are distributed in space. They therefore have relative locations relative to each other and often interact with each other across space. Any flows or movements between these phenomena, for example migration, create patterns and networks. Spatial patterns, distributions and networks can be described and analysed, and often explained by reference to social, economic, environmental and political processes. Much geographical enquiry is therefore concerned with identifying such processes, and assessing the impacts of such processes.
Physical and Human Processes: geographical enquiries utilise physical and human processes that cause change and development in places, when seeking explanations for patterns and distributions. Pupils make progress by deepening and broadening their understanding of such processes and in so doing enhance their capacity to envision alternative futures for places, and the people who live and work in them.
Cultural Understanding and Diversity: geography is fundamentally concerned with the diversity of people and places on the planet. It is important to explore this with pupils in geography, not to 'show them' the world but to explore it using geographical enquiry, focusing on how people and places are represented in different ways.
Environmental Interaction and Sustainable Development: acceptance of the dynamic interrelationships between physical and human accounts of the world is central to school geography, the distinctive power of the subject lies in the realisation that 'making sense of the world' is often enhanced by a synthesis of perspectives and understanding across at least three areas of concern:
- Social fairness and justice
- Economic prosperity
- Environmental quality
The interaction of these fundamental motivations provides the basis for geographical study of 'the environment'. Thus, geographical perspectives are central to understanding 'sustainable development'.