Learning in the field

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This week I had the pleasure of joining Year 7 on a Geography field trip. It was a local tour of Bedford to look at the effect geology has had on the relief and land use. For me, still relatively new to Bedford, I found it fascinating.

We began in Stewartby, a village effectively created by the London Brick Company to house the inhabitants who worked in their brick factories. It is Bedford’s equivalent to Bourneville, Birmingham, a model village built from scratch by the Victorians to look after its workers. If it were not for its geology of Oxford clay, Stewartby would not exist. Although the brickworks have now closed, as the high sulphur dioxide emissions from its chimneys were too expensive to reduce, the past of Stewartby is still very much evident as is its future with the successful regeneration and revitalisation of the surrounding landscape.

From clay to the Greensand hill ridge of Ampthill we saw again how the geology influenced land use. These infertile sandy soils, whilst poor for farmland, were ideal for deer parks and deer hunting and were often frequented by royalty. Henry VIII was particularly fond of Ampthill, so much so that he used the castle to imprison his first wife Katherine! The Greensand of Ampthill has now become home to the popular Center Parcs which opens next year and the girls were asked to consider its impact.

Our field trip ended on the chalk where we looked at the spring line settlements that formed at the junction of the clay and chalk. Unfortunately a violent hailstorm followed by a heavy downpour brought an end to the day’s proceedings and as we returned to the coach drenched and slightly battered I was reminded of Charlie Brown’s retort to Snoopy that “Geography trips caused rain”!

All too often, circumstances force Heads away from teaching, rendering them far removed from the classroom. I personally believe that Heads should continue to teach and I loved the opportunity to be out in the field once again teaching Geography. The vibrancy and fizzing energy of our school is in the class room and in the very special learning experience the girls enjoy and engage in here. If you are not able to teach you lose touch with what makes each generation want to learn and, so, with the lifeblood of learning. The girls I taught on the wind blasted chalk escarpment last week were a joy. They were keen, engaged and motivated and, like me, found learning more about their local geography – and of course the importance of wearing wet weather kit throughout a fieldtrip – an inspiration.

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