Teaching Geography 12
A new school year has started! This year I have moved out of English Language teaching to focus on English and Social Studies subjects. This has also put me in the position of teaching Geography for the first time. Geography can be a dry subject. It also involves skills that I would not consider myself strong in: reading a map, graphing, calculations…
However, by using guided inquiry to look at Geography through real world case studies, we can make the subject relevant and more interesting for our students (and ourselves).
Historical Thinking and Inquiry
In Social Studies and History classes, we can use the historical thinking process to evaluate and engage with sources:
- Establish historical significance
- Use primary source evidence
- Identify continuity and change
- Analyze cause and consequence
- Take historical perspectives, and
- Understand the ethical dimension of historical interpretations.
Geographic Thinking and Inquiry
This is a process I am familiar with. In a Geography classroom, we can adapt this process for analyzing case studies related to human geography (this list is adapted from Thielmann’s Web River a great web resource for Humanities teachers).
- Establish geographic significance
- Use a variety of data including primary source evidence
- Identify patterns, continuity and change
- Analyze cause and consequence
- Understand interactions and associations
- Take geographic perspectives
- Consider the ethical dimensions of geographic problems (or historical interpretations) and
resulting value judgements
Revisiting the Trans Mountain Expansion Project
The lesson I taught this last week involved studying the Trans-Mountain pipeline project. This allowed students to engage with a real world, current issue in human geography. The questions we came up with using this framework included:
- What is the importance of the area where the construction is taking place? For Indigenous groups? For resource development? For people that live on this land? For people that live near the water? For the ecosystem?
- What data is useful to decide the merits/drawbacks of the pipeline? Who could you interview? What kind of information do you need?
- Has this happened before? What were concerns about this type of project in the past? Has anything changed in perceptions of resource development projects in Canada?
- What caused the conflict over construction? What are the potential consequences of not building the pipeline? What are the potential consequences of building the pipeline?
- What are the human-environment interactions ? What is the human connection to physical problems? What are the physical connections to human problems?
- What are the different perspectives towards this issues? How does the significance of this issue shift when seen through the eyes of others?
- What are the value judgments made about this problem? Is there anything that should be done about it differently ? What are the options moving forward?
I wrote a post months ago about facilitating a debate about the pipeline expansion project. If I were to try that lesson again, this guided inquiry process would be useful.
Why Teach Inquiry?
Several months after conducting a class debate about the expansion project, the federal government has purchased the pipeline, the courts have ordered further consultations, another orca has died in the Salish Sea, protests and arrests continue at the Burnaby site, as well as animosity between provincial governments. By teaching inquiry teachers can give students the tools to figure out where they fit into the world and how they want to respond, which these days seems like the most important skill we can teach.