|Title||A Local Field Trail|
|Department||Department of Geography, Lancaster University, LA1 4YB|
|Tel.||+44 (0)1524 593740|
|Fax.||+44 (0)1524 847099|
Too often Geography is thought of as being about distant and exotic places - ice sheets, Los Angeles, ghettos, car factories. This is a common fallacy particularly in the early years at university - that distant places are interesting examples of geographical phenomena whereas one's immediate vicinity is mundane and not worth much consideration. One can speed up students' appreciation that 'geography is everywhere' (so important for later field work and dissertations) by trying to sensitise them to the geographical changes and processes at work in their immediate 'taken for granted' neighbourhood.
A solution to achieve this is to take your group out of the tutorial room for the normal one-hour period and lead them on a local field trip or trail around the immediate environs of your university department. How much geography lies outside your own front or back door now?
The tutor needs to reconnoitre the local area so as to piece together a one-hour itinerary (with time for pauses to stop, observe and discuss) which will illustrate the maximum number of features of geographical interest. Clearly it will be helpful if these features are illustrative of other aspects of a parallel lecture course.
By keeping the trail to one hour one minimises timetabling problems and restricts the work to a general sensitising of the students with a focus on observation and interpretation of evidence. The fieldwork element will engage the students' attention and will involve them as proto-researchers because their own observations of daily life in the area will be a valid source of evidence.
It would be possible also to provide the students with some background material before you all set out, for example in the form of maps or photographs of the area as it was, say, 20 or 50 years ago. Clearly the focus of the trail will depend on the actual location of your university - inner city or suburban campus, for example.
One variant on this idea (which would take longer) would be to ask the students themselves as a group (for safety reasons) to explore the neighbourhood (you define its boundaries) in the period between two tutorials and to prepare a more or less formal report on the geography of the neighbourhood to present to you at the next tutorial.