Why Geography Matters

Geography is a subject that studies the environment as the home of people. It seeks to explore how environments emerge by natural processes, how societies produce, organise, use and misuse environments, and how societies themselves are influenced by the environments in which they are located. Thus, geography studies the relationships and connections between people and environments, focusing on space, places, and regions, addressing and questioning both short-term and longer-term processes and their resultant patterns. In other words geographers ask where things are located on the surface of the Earth, why they are located where they are, how places differ from one another, and how people interact with the environment.  In fact a major concern of all geographical studies is the relationship of humanity to environments at a variety of levels from the local to the global with particular focus on how such interactions can be managed and improved in a sustainable way. Geographers were, in fact among the first scientists to sound the alarm that human induced changes to the environment were beginning to threaten the balance of life itself. In this connection, geography involves the study of contemporary issues of sustainability such as climate change, disappearing biodiversity and the depletion of natural resources. Geography provides us with a distinctive set of skills and tools with which to explore environments and people particularly those associated with mapping and other forms of graphicacy.

Geography as a discipline enables us to understand the Earth we are living in from a spatial perspective. As a school subject it stimulates students’ interest in and a sense of wonder about people, places and environments. Moreover, geography enables students to explore and understand the relationship between human beings and the Earth. It provides also the essential background knowledge for the understanding of many important local and global issues such as climate change, availability of water resources and urban problems and how these could be resolved and manages in a sustainable manner.  Geography makes both a distinctive and a wider contribution to the curriculum.  It is an essential component in preparing young people for life in the twenty-first century. As the pace of change quickens, communications get faster and challenges to the environment multiply, a knowledge and understanding of geography is more vital than ever. 

Geographical education is indispensable to the development of responsible and active citizens in the present and future world.  Geography can be an informing and stimulating subject at all levels in education, and contributes to a lifelong enjoyment and understanding of our world.  Learners require global geographical awareness in order to ensure effective cooperation on a broad range of economic, political, cultural and environmental issues in a shrinking world. 

The main aim of this website is to bring together teachers of geography on a single platform, through which they can share good practices and resources in order to be able to make geography teaching and learning an enjoyable, creative and stimulating experience for our students. On this site one can access the latest documentation issued by the geography section within the CMeLD about new curricula, assessment reports, circulars, ideas for organising controlled assessment such as fieldwork and project work, links to other useful geographical sites and much more. Teachers who would like to contribute and share with us any of their resources are most welcome to do so. Our commitment will always be to make geography lessons fun.

Visit to Wied Incita, Attard Saturday 10 November 2012

The latest activity by the GTA took us to the production nursery at Wied Incita Attard.  This nursery is now run by the Environmental Landscape consortium (ELC) after the public private partnership set up for the landscaping and general maintenance of public areas and gardens in Malta. 29 persons turned up and the active participant was Mr Paul Foster the Nursery Manager.

A good number of teachers of geography attended the latest activity organised by the GTA to Wied Incita nursery. Mr. P Forster, the Nursery manager was the active participant for the day.

We all have seen the great number of plants decorating the Maltese roundabouts.  These are cultivated at this nursery where emphasis is being made on the selection of those species which are most adapted to our environment and which can be grown sustainably.  Propagation is carried out in greenhouses in weed free soil. Processes include research into rapid propagation techniques and compost materials.  In fact pumice is being used to increase drainage and porosity. Most of the work is done manually though we did see a machine filling the pots with soil and one of workers patiently transplanting the small plants one by one.  95% of the seasonal flowers currently being planted on roundabouts, central strips are being produced in their entirety in Malta using local labour.

Thousands of plants well adapted to our environment are propogated in greenhouses in weed free soil.

In the waste zone area great piles of posedonia were being left in the sun and rain so that the salts would be removed.  This natural resource can then be used to add important nutrients to the soil. 

In the tree growing section we could see the rows of olives and red palm trees weaver free.  The latter can be moved after two years and will help to enhance various sites in Malta.

Whilst we were impressed by the great number of plants and trees nurtured from just seeds going into thousands it is a pity there is still the use of pesticides. Hopefully in the future more natural ways of protecting the plants can be adopted instead of or at least in combination with these pesticides.  Visits for students are welcome. Horticulture today is growing into an important trade so students can learn about this interesting field of study.

Rita DeBattista

Superstorm Sandy October 2012

Sandy devastated parts of the Caribbean, Northeastern USA and Eastern Canada during the last week of October. It was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record as measured by diameter with winds spanning 1,800km. It is also the second costliest Atlantic hurricane in history behind Hurricane Katrina.

Satellite Image of Hurricane Sandy - the largest Atlantic hurricane on record

Islands in the Caribbean that were severely hit include Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, The Bahamas and Puerto Rico. Residents were left without electricity, buildings destroyed, fields flooded causing food shortages and thousands were left homeless.

Streets in Cuba, littred with debris after Hurricane Sandy hit Santiago de Cuba, on October 26, 2012.

In the US, Sandy affected 24 states particularly New Jersey and New York. The storm sturge that hit New York City on October 29, flooded streets and the underground and thousands were left homeless. Sandy is responsible for more than 80 people to date.

Manhattan Bridge - Streets are flooded in Brooklyn, New York causing shutdown of mass transit and schools.

Rising water by Hurricane Sandy, rushes into an underground parking garage.

 

Homes devastated by the effects of Hurricane Sandy

 

A boat rests on the tracks of a railway line in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in New York

Global Education Week 2012

Teachers of geography are encouraged to participate actively in the Global Education Week activities which are going to be held between the 19th and the 23rd of November of this scholastic year. The theme chosen by the North South Centre for this scholastic year is ‘Moving towards One World!’ and as in previous year the co-ordinator of this project is Ms. Rita DeBattista (Head of Department- Geography).

More details and suggestions of activities that can be carried out can be found on the letter circular which can be downloaded from here.

Schools that are willing to participate in this cross-curricular project are to fill in the participation form which is available here.

Preliminary report on Population Census

The Preliminary report on the population census has been released and can be downloaded by clicking here.

It shows that the Maltese population has doubled in the past 100 years, reaching 416,000 in 2011. The rate of growth is however declining.

The northern harbour area remains the most densely populated – home to 28.9% of the population. However, the northern area is seeing the fastest growth.

Birkirkara still has the largest population total with 21,533 residents and Mdina the smallest with 237 inhabitants.

Malta has an average of 1,562 people per square kilometre while Gozo has 454. Sengles (17,027 persons per square kilometre) is the most densely populated locality while Għasri  (85 persons per square kilometre) is the least densely populated.

Language Issue

Until now the language policy regarding the teaching of geography general is still the prerogative of each individual school. It is therefore recommended that for this scholastic year teachers teaching the general classes discuss the language issue during their subject meeting to establish a language policy for their school.

It is imperative that after this decision has been taken teachers are to contact the Senior Management Team to indicate the number of annual papers needed in each language according to related Form and Track. Such details are to be provided to the SMT at your earliest as this information is required by the Educational Assessment Unit.

Thunderstorms leave a path of destruction

Three thunderstorms swept through Malta between 2nd and 3rd September 2012, dropping more rain on the Maltese Islands in two hours than its normal monthly average for September.

The storms drove traffic to a standstill for hours on end and wreaked havoc on the roads. The torrential rainfall triggered floods that swept and overturned cars, uprooted trees, flooded houses and collapsed walls. Besides all this a man died when he was fatally struck by lightning while taking shelter in a field in Marsascala.

In a statement, the MIA Met Office reported that in 24 hours, 42.4mm of rainfall was measured at Malta Airport Met Office in Luqa, while the peek wind gust reached 48 knots.

The thunderstorm was the result of cold air penetrating into the western Mediterranean which led to the formation of a very slow moving cold pool. The cold pool system extended southwards on creating warm and moist south-westerly air streams close to the central Mediterranean. In the meantime a depression developed over Libya and continued to extend northwards merging with a wide low pressure system over northern Italy. This long area of low pressure across the central Mediterranean triggered the development of thunder clouds which, finding a very warm Mediterranean Sea with a lot of available moisture grew rapidly into large thunderstorms with copious rainfall and strong wind gusts.

Streets were flooded in several localities particularly in Birkirkara, Msida and Qormi, but also in other areas such as Bir Id-Deheb, Bulebel and Burmarrad.

 

A man died when he was fatally struck by lightning while taking shelter in a field in Marsascala.

 

Rain came down in bucketfuls

 

Watch these videos on the devastation caused by flash floods (1) (2)

Crises in the Sahel

A severe drought is again affecting the Sahel region of West and Central Africa threatening millions of people with hunger. This is resulting into a potentially catastrophic food crisis in eight countries namely, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal. Millions of children are at risk of severe malnutrition. This year rain was sparse and came late and this will have a devastating effect on most people who live on what they grow. When the rains don’t come on time, harvests fail, animals die and people start going hungry. Sahel is one of the poorest regions in the world where children already face daunting odds of survival. The current crisis makes their survival even more tenuous.

Tchyllah, a desert village in the Sahel belt of Chad – a donkey is used to pull up water from deep below the ground. Even so the water is not clean and unsuitable to drink.

Visit this interactive map  of the Sahel for a quick overview of the situation in each country.

Preparing for the Crises in the Sahel region in Africa.  Watch this video produced by UNICEF on food crisis in Sahel.

Environmental Studies Project 2013

The list of topics for the project to be submitted by students sitting for Environmental Studies has changed. Candidates may now choose any one of the following topics: 

Topic A The human impact on a stretch of coastline in the Maltese Islands
Topic B The use of Solar Energy by Maltese Households
Topic C An architectural legacy from the times of the Order of the Knights of St John in Malta
Topic D The Maltese way of life about two hundred years ago
Topic E An EU-funded project in Malta
Topic F Lifestyle of Maltese youth in the past and present

  

The project should consist of a report of approximately 1500 to 2000 words about the chosen topic. In their write up candidates are expected to develop the topic in their own words and to supplement their account with appropriate statistics, graphs and photos/sketches/diagrams (with appropriate captions). While candidates are encouraged to use the available literature and the Internet for their research, they are reminded that plagiarised work will be heavily penalised. This work shall carry a total mark of 30/200 or 15% of the global mark of the examination. 

This practical component shall be assessed by the schools during the candidates’ course of study. Projects are to be available at the candidates’ schools for moderation by the Markers’ Panel. Moderators sent by MATSEC have been advised to apply the following Marking Scheme during the moderation exercise.  

a)   Planning and the candidates’ initiative to work on their own;

b)   Development of the work indicating the candidates’ ability to face situations and people

      so as to be able to make observations and collect and assess information;

c)   Effort to ensure that the report is the result of personal work, observations and ideas;

d)   Ability to make use of information, surveys and statistics;

e)   Conclusion indicating ideas, observations and suggestions which the candidates make as  a result  of all that they observe and judge. 

Candidates may also be called for an interview to verify authenticity and to check for plagiarism.

 For further information teachers are strongly advised to consult the syllabus at: http://www.um.edu.mt/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/137671/SEC13e.pdf

July Inset Course 2012

More than 60 secondary school teachers attended an in-service training course held by the geography section within the CMeLD aimed at teachers currently teaching Form 1 and 2 students. The 3 day-course was held at St Margaret College, Boys’ Secondary School Cospicua. The purpose of this professional training course was to help teachers improve the quality of their teaching and thus enable students raise their level of educational attainment. The course also focused on revisions applied to the Form 1 curriculum following feedback received from teachers who were implementing it for the first time during the present scholastic year. All the participants had the opportunity to reflect and discuss important aspects and approaches put forward by this the new curriculum mainly student-centred learning, enquiry approach and differentiated learning.  

Teachers were also provided with support material including an interective DVD containing all the new documents and all the resources required to implement the curriculum units including maps, images and diagrams, videos, interactive games as well as an extensive list of related websites.

 

3-day programme 

A new textbook for Environmental Studies

A new textbook entitled Environmental Education – Malta and Beyond, edited by Mr George Said Zammit, has been published. It provides students and teachers with a resource from which to get the most out of Environmental Studies as offered in schools.

It follows the requirements of the Environmental Studies SEC 13 syllabus.

The book is written for students of average and above average ability and encourages both students and teachers to address the wider environmental issues of the 21st century.

The book, whose authors are experienced practising teachers, follows the specifications of the syllabus closely, covering the six themes: The World-Our Home, Management of Resources, Human Resources, Human Population, Human Communities, Work and Leisure and Managing a Nation.

Contemporary issues such as climate change, biodiversity, renewable sources of energy, waste and water management, housing, health services, transport, heritage, the economy and work in Malta are also covered.

This textbook provides clear and precise information, facts and case studies; well-explained concepts and current issues; full colour photos, maps and diagrams to help illustrate points; a bright and colourful layout; coverage of the three-year course; a clear explanation of geographical processes; ideas for the practical component of the exam; an easy-to-follow format, with difficult words explained in the glossary and a list of related references and websites.