On October 26th , the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers (SAGT) held its annual event at the fantastic location of Dollar Academy. This years theme was ‘making connections’ which resonated across the various keynotes and seminar events throughout the day.
Attended by over 100 delegates with around a dozen publishers in attendance, the event was both a useful networking, professional development and clarion call for improving the visibility and relevance of geography as an academic discipline in schools. The very real relevance of the subject was admirably highlighted by the two keynote addresses.
First up was Professor Lorna Dawson CBE , Head of Forensic Soil Science at the James Hutton Institute. A geography graduate, she went on to illustrate how place and location permeate all aspects of her post university professional career and provided a clear and inspirational exemplar of how geography matters in the real world. As a forensics soil scientist she illustrated how her work, founded in geography, is used to help prosecute criminal cases and how she assists fiction authors to improve the science behind their writings – from Val McDermid to Ian Rankin and Ann Cleeves. More soberly, she described a range of criminal prosecution cases in which soil science has been used to implicate or confirm the whereabouts of suspects. As an example of a career path to which geography can lead this was an immediately engaging and exciting one to entice the younger geographers of tomorrow and several delegates requested access to some of Lornas presentation in order to help engage students in the classroom!
In a similar but very different vein, the second keynote speaker, Doug Allan FRGS, Wildlife and Documentary Cameraman whose work includes the award winning polar bear and penguin scenes seen in the David Attenborough documentaries, was also fantastically engaging. Using both stunning visuals from his work (including video footage of a near miss with a a collapsing glacier), and a humorous series of anecdotes of life in the wilderness (anyone keen to ‘mintify’ their peas for dinner might not immediately think of adding toothpaste!), the talk was an impassioned plea to act now to stop climate change and preserve our planet for all its denizens. Geographers are ideally placed to lead the charge and in many ways today’s geography teachers can ride the crest of societal focus on the environment to better engage and enthuse tomorrows geography citizens.
A range of separate seminars in morning and afternoon sessions covered a variety of topics from school resources for learning and teaching to more introspective assessment of the current state of and the future of Scottish school geography and the Scottish curricula.
Finishing off the day was the annual SAGT AGM and a final round of thanks to all participants and delegates for making the day interactive, fun and informative.