Big Ideas in the Australian Curriculum: Geography, Mark Easton, Oxford University Press

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Are you worried that your favourite topics have become an endangered species? Or that the vital skills that make geography have melted away? As leading
author of the upcoming Oxford Big Ideas Geography Australian Curriculum series, Mark has spent many hours picking over the draft curriculum and he
believes he has found the missing topics and skills, along with many other new opportunities. He will share with you an approach to teaching and learning
geography that embeds the key skills in the key concepts of the subject.

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Big Ideas in the Australian Curriculum: Geography, Mark Easton, Oxford University Press

  1. 1. Big ideas in the Australian Geography Curriculum Mark Easton mark.easton@oup.com
  2. 2. Place and space• Australian environments are defined by patterns of naturalprocesses, by human activities and by the relationships between them,including climate and natural resource distribution, resourceuse, and settlement patterns• Natural hazards are a result of natural processes, and human activitycan affect the impacts of these occurrences• Sustainability requires a balance between using, conserving andprotecting environments, and involves decisions about how resourcesare used and managed• Physical and human dimensions are used to define globalenvironments• Distribution maps, climate zone maps and weather maps havespecific features to convey information, including latitude, longitude,eight compass points, scale and distance, a legend and shading and/orsymbols.
  3. 3. Place and space• Australian environments are defined by patterns of naturalprocesses, by human activities and by the relationships between them,including climate and natural resource distribution, resourceuse, and settlement patterns• Natural hazards are a result of natural processes, and human activitycan affect the impacts of these occurrences• Sustainability requires a balance between using, conserving andprotecting environments, and involves decisions about how resourcesare used and managed• Physical and human dimensions are used to define globalenvironments• Distribution maps, climate zone maps and weather maps havespecific features to convey information, including latitude, longitude,eight compass points, scale and distance, a legend and shading and/orsymbols.
  4. 4. • Australia, the Asia–Pacific region and other global settings are defined by a rangeof natural characteristics and processes, including landforms, vegetation and climaticzones, and human activities, including cultural, economic and political activity.• Interrelationships between human activity and environments result in particularpatterns of land and resource use, and can cause environmental problems• Governments and communities need to balance economic, social, political andenvironmental factors through sustainable development, consumption andproduction• Physical environments are defined by spatial patterns, including the arrangementof elements on the Earth’s surface, the definable areas of the Earth’s surface, thespace between different locations, and absolute and relative location.• Maps, including topographic, political and thematic maps, are developed withparticular features, including scale, contour lines and human-createdboundaries, and use the specific skills of observing, visualising, estimating, sketchingand measuring.
  5. 5. • Australia, the Asia–Pacific region and other global settings are defined by a rangeof natural characteristics and processes, including landforms, vegetation and climaticzones, and human activities, including cultural, economic and political activity.• Interrelationships between human activity and environments result in particularpatterns of land and resource use, and can cause environmental problems• Governments and communities need to balance economic, social, political andenvironmental factors through sustainable development, consumption andproduction• Physical environments are defined by spatial patterns, including the arrangementof elements on the Earth’s surface, the definable areas of the Earth’s surface, thespace between different locations, and absolute and relative location.• Maps, including topographic, political and thematic maps, are developed withparticular features, including scale, contour lines and human-created boundaries,and use the specific skills of observing, visualising, estimating, sketching andmeasuring.
  6. 6. Theme 1: Managing the natural environmentFocus unit 1: Responding to natural hazardsFocus unit 2: Managing catchmentsTheme 2: Social environmentsFocus unit 3: Sustaining communitiesFocus unit 4: Connecting people and placesTheme 3: Resources and the environmentFocus unit 5: Living with climate changeFocus unit 6: Sustaining biodiversityTheme 4: People and developmentFocus unit 7: Feeding the world’s peopleFocus unit 8: Exploring the geography of disease
  7. 7. So these essential learnings and standards became the chapters of our textbooks and our course content.Australian environments 1. Geospatial skillsNatural hazards 2. Australian Environments 3. WaterSustainability 4. Endangered speciesGlobal environments 5. Geospatial conceptsMapsAustralian region 6. DisastersAsia-Pacific 7. The Asia-Pacific region 8. AntarcticaEnvironmental problemsSustainable development 1. Geospatial skills and conceptsPhysical environments 2. Tectonic hazards 3. Coasts 4. Pollution 5. Climate change 6. Consumption 7. Megacities 8. Tourism
  8. 8. Australian Curriculum • Now: we have a draft curriculum • August 6th, revised draft will be released but not available for public comment• By Christmas (2012) final curriculumreleased• 2013: some schools• 2014: all schools
  9. 9. Year level Unit 1 Unit 2 7 Environmental resources Why people live where they do 8 Landscapes Personal and community geographies 9 Biomes and food Navigating global connections security 10 Environmental Global well-being challenges and geography 11 The changing biophysical Sustaining Places cover of the Earth 12 Environmental risk A World in the making management
  10. 10. So what’s in and what’s out?Australian environments 1. Geospatial skillsNatural hazards 2. Australian Environments 3. WaterSustainability 4. Endangered speciesGlobal environments 5. Geospatial conceptsMapsAustralian region 6. DisastersAsia-Pacific 7. The Asia-Pacific region 8. AntarcticaEnvironmental problemsSustainable development 1. Geospatial skills andPhysical environments concepts 2. Tectonic hazards 3. Coasts 4. Pollution 5. Climate change 6. Consumption 7. Megacities 8. Tourism
  11. 11. So what’s in and what’s out?Australian environments 1. Geospatial skillsNatural hazards 2. Australian Environments 3. WaterSustainability 4. Endangered speciesGlobal environments 5. Geospatial conceptsMapsAustralian region 6. DisastersAsia-Pacific 7. The Asia-Pacific region 8. AntarcticaEnvironmental problemsSustainable development 1. Geospatial skills andPhysical environments concepts 2. Tectonic hazards 3. Coasts 4. Pollution 5. Climate change 6. Consumption 7. Megacities 8. Tourism
  12. 12. “Just ignore it, we’ll just carry on doing Denialwhat we’re doing”“Who writes this stuff? They don’t know Angerwhat they’re doing!”“I’ll change what I teach if I get given Bargainingmore time to make the changes”“I hate it when they take away my Depressionfavourite topics. No wonder kids don’tchoose geography.” and“If that’s the way it’s going to be I’d Acceptance:better just get on with it.” The five stages of grief!
  13. 13. So, some of our favourite topics/units have disappeared or movedelsewhere, but don’t throw it all out just yet. It might be just a matter oflooking more closely at the curriculum document.
  14. 14. Year level Unit 1 Unit 2 7 Environmental resources Why people live where they do 8 Landscapes Personal and community geographies 9 Biomes and food security Navigating global connections 10 Environmental challenges Global well-being and geography 11 The changing biophysical Sustaining Places cover of the Earth 12 Environmental risk A World in the making management
  15. 15. Year 8: Sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks containminerals and are formed by processes that occur within Earthover a variety of timescalesYear 9: The theory of plate tectonics explains global patternsof geological activity and continental movement
  16. 16. Year 7, Environmental resourcesEnvironmental hazards such as droughts, or storms, or floods havedifferent causes, frequencies and distributions.There are differences and similarities in the ways that communitiesmanage or adapt to the chosen environmental hazardYear 8, LandscapesThere are a variety of landscapes throughout the world, which areproduced by geomorphic, biotic and cultural processes over time(explaining that landforms are produced by a combination of tectonic(folding, faulting, volcanism), gradational (weathering, erosion andtransportation) and depositional processes)The causes, location, frequency and effects of one or more landscapehazards affects the ways that communities manage or adapt to thechosen hazard(investigating landscape hazards such as volcanic eruptions,earthquakes, tsunamis, coastal erosion, beach rips, landslides andavalanches)
  17. 17. My advice #1:Look closely at the curriculumdocuments, don’t listen to the doomsayers!
  18. 18. Even better news!The new curriculum gives geography a new, fresh relevance: just look at the cross-curricula priorities for a start: 1. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories 2. Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia 3. Sustainability
  19. 19. And the general capabilities literacy numeracy competence in ICT critical and creative thinking ethical behaviour personal and social competence intercultural understanding
  20. 20. Intercultural understanding
  21. 21. My advice #2: Embrace change, see it as an opportunity to renew and refreshyour courses and reclaim the rightful place of geography in your school
  22. 22. And then there are the new opportunities: Global connectionsPersonal and community geographies Food securityEnvironmental resources
  23. 23. Case study: environmental resources. This unit focuses on environmental resources, using water as a case study. It examines water as an essential, renewable resource and its role in natural hazards. There is also a study of a non-renewable resource. The unit provides a context for examining different types of resources, the varying issues arising from their nature, distribution and use, perceptions by people, and approaches to managing resource issues. Unless specified, the case studies chosen can be from within Australia and other countries across the region.
  24. 24. Issues for teachers• There is no equivalent unit in the current course• The new curriculum is more than a list of topics, it also includes new skills, priorities and capabilities• This seems a pretty tough introduction to geography for kids• What happens to my mapping unit?
  25. 25. Geographical enquiry and skillsGeographical Concepts for knowledge geographical and understandingunderstanding Cross General Curriculum capabilities Priorities
  26. 26. Observing, questioning Planning, collecting, evaluating Processing, analysing, Resources Place interpreting, Population Space concluding Landscapes Environment CommunicatingPersonal geography Interconnection Reflecting, Biomes Sustainability respondingGlobal connections Scale Environmental Change challenges Global well-being Literacy Aboriginal and Numeracy Torres Strait Islander ICT competence cultures and Critical and creative histories thinking Asia and Australia’s Personal and social engagement with competence Asia Ethical behaviour Sustainability Intercultural understanding
  27. 27. One of the key objectives ofthe Australian Curriculum isdeep learning:‘Successful learners are able tothink deeply’‘Promoting a world classcurriculum and assessment ...Deep knowledge,understanding, skills andvalues that will enableadvanced learning and anability to create new ideas andtranslate them into practicalapplications’
  28. 28. A geographic enquiry therefore begins with a question and thenseeks to answer that question through a series of clearly definedsteps. This is enquiry learning.Essential questions, enquiry learning ,deep learning, translating ideas...What does all of this look like?The answer is more than 200 years old!Mount Chimborazo flora, topography and altitude mapping,source: Alexander von Humboldt, Geography of Plants, 1807
  29. 29. Source: National Geographic magazine , October 2010
  30. 30. My advice #3:Deep learning, not wide learning. Use the process of geographicenquiry and essential questions to develop successful learners.
  31. 31. Remember that:The draft Australian Curriculum: Geography is organised into twointerrelated strands: Geographical Knowledge and Understanding andGeographical Inquiry and Skills.‘The process of geographical inquiry and the associated geographicalskills are described in the curriculum under five headings, whichrepresent the stages of a complete investigation. Over each two-yearband, students should learn the methods and skills specified. Everyinvestigation need not follow every step; the inquiry process mayfollow loops, in which students go back to an earlier stage to ask morequestions or to undertake more analysis.’
  32. 32. My advice #4:Don’t rush in too quickly: be alert, not alarmed!
  33. 33. Big ideas in the Australian Geography Curriculum Mark Easton mark.easton@oup.com

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