Sunday, November 29, 2009

VCE Geography Conference - Unit 1 Fieldwork - Coasts

This was the first time I had taught VCE Geography (in comparison to Senior Geography in QLD). Therefore it was very much a case of trial and error! However, luckily for me I found that the fieldwork I put together on coasts, plus the tasks associated with it worked really well. This session will provide an overview of the coastal fieldwork, but also how I incorporated Google Maps as an assessment task for my students.

Unit 1 VCE Geography includes the following outcomes:

Outcome One
On the completion of this unit the student should be able to describe the geographic characteristics of at least two natural environments, and explain how they are developed by natural processes, including extreme natural events.

Outcome Two
On the completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse and explain the the changes in natural environments due to natural processes and human activity.

When planning the unit of work, I decided that it we would definitely look at coasts as an example of a natural environment. This is where the important fieldwork component would exist. From this, we would then look at two other environments of student choice. They chose Mountains and Rainforests.

I then used the key knowledge and skills within the outcomes to put together my coastal unit and fieldwork assessment task. The key knowledge and skills associated with the fieldtrip included:

Key Knowledge
  • Geographic characteristics of natural environments (O1)
  • Natural processes and factors that create natural environments (O1)
  • Types of changes to natural environments produced by natural processes and by human activity
  • Nature, rate and scale of interactions between natural environments and human activity (O2)
  • The impact of change on natural environments and on human activity (o2)
  • The importance of the interactions between natural processes and human activity in influencing changes to natural environments, including the management of change (O2)

Key Skills
  • Conduct fieldwork at a local site and collect data (O1&2)
  • Collect, sort, process and represent spatial data related to formation of natural environments using a range of geographic techniques and media, that may include fieldwork data (O1&2)
  • Describe and analyse data about changes to natural processes produced by the interaction between natural processes and human activity (O2)
Field Trip Preparation
The following blog post provides an overview of the work we did on coastal processes before going on a field trip - Understanding Coasts. We also practiced field sketches and observations in the field around the school. A great tip is to use Google Earth or Google Maps to show the students where they would be going on the field trip, and specific characteristics to look out for at each location. The satellite imagery on these sites is great for this (including Street View)

Coastal Field Trip - Northshore Coast

During the Fieldtrip

Students completed a number of tasks as outlined in the fieldtrip booklet. They also knew to take photos and videos as they would need these when we returned to school.

The Assessment Task
The following link provides access to my classroom blog, that provided more detail on completing the assessment tasks - Coastal Fieldwork - Your Assignment

Task two of the four tasks required the students to create a Google Map of the field trip, that also provided an overview of the geographic characteristics and natural characteristics at each of the beaches. Diagrams of the processes (eg. Longshore Drift, Wave Refraction, Dune building) plus images needed to be included.

Before I launched into the Google Maps task, I introduced students to the idea of spatial technologies and GIS, plus how a Google My Maps works in different contexts. This gave them some idea of why I wanted them to present their assignment in this way. You could look at a number of sites such as the CSIRO Sentinal Bushfire site, Mapzone or Reefbase. I found this youtube was a funny way to present an overall view of what we were doing!

Rather than teaching the students step-by-step instructions, I simply posted a 'How To' You Tube like the one below, and the students used this. I also had a paper 'How To' copy uploaded to the school network. This way, students could work in their own time on completing tasks.

How to Create a 'My Map' in Google Maps

Some Helpful Hints
  1. You will need to consider the following when getting students to use Google Maps as a task:
  2. Students need to sign up to Gmail so you will need to ensure that this is done prior to the lesson as they need to confirm their accounts. You will also need to check with the IT department to see if Gmail is blocked at school, and the possibility of this being open for your class.
  3. Images need a url or web address to be linked to the various locations. Therefore, either you or your students will need to upload the images you take on the fieldtrip to an image hosting site, eg. Flickr, Photobucket etc. This can be problematic if these sites are blocked at school. The other option is to get the IT department to create a website and upload your images to this, so that these can be put into and viewed on each of the maps.
Example of a Student's Coastal Fieldwork Map

View Coastal Field Trip in a larger map

To submit the Google Map, students can invite you as a collaborator to look at the map or they can email you a link. This will allow you to view the maps.

Overall, this task was great as it really indicated those students who understood the coastal processes in relation to the location of each of the coastal areas we visited. It also helped them work out where we actually went following the field trip.

This task can be a little bit tricky in terms of management of access to maps, but sitting with each student and ensuring that they send you the link to the map makes this fool proof.


  1. Free Open University Courses Online

    The Open University is the UK's largest academic institution. The school's OpenLearn website gives everyone free access to both undergraduate and graduate-level course materials from The Open University. Courses cover a wide range of topics, such as the arts, history, business, education, IT and computing, mathematics and statistics, science, health and technology.
    Study Guide

  2. very helpful,this has helped me prepare for the field trip am about to take next week.