Challenging myself – Geoscience Education Academy 2015

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A guest post from Geography Teacher Catherine Owen, who attended the Geological Society’s Geoscience Education Academy in July 2015. This post first appeared on Staffrm, a network for educators. The 2016 Geoscience Education Academy is taking place on 27-30 July.

I had heard about it a few times, but didn’t apply.  The offer seemed to be too good to be true – four days in London learning about geoscience, with everything paid for – surely not?  I had excuses to not go – I would be tired at the start of the summer holiday; I couldn’t expect my family to manage without me.

When I was given the opportunity to write a chapter for a new GCSE text book about tectonic hazards I decided that I should finally apply for the Geoscience Education Academy and was fortunate to be chosen to join the 2015 group.

On arrival at the Geological Society, opposite Selfridges, I felt nervous.  What was I, a comprehensive school geography teacher, doing in such a grand place?  Fortunately there was little time to wallow in worry as we began a busy schedule of activities.

The whole experience was incredible, but my top three highlights have to be:

1: Learning how to identify micro fossils behind the scenes at the Natural History Museum


2: A field trip to explore examples of geology and fossils to be found in central London


3: Fascinating lectures by speakers including Iain Stewart and Pete Loader. GEA3

The Geoscience Education Academy aims to develop geography and science teachers’ understanding of geoscience and I would thoroughly recommend it to any teachers who fit this description.

As well as meeting some fantastic people and having a thoroughly enjoyable time, I greatly improved my subject knowledge in terms of tectonic and geological processes.  I have made extensive use of the Geological Society Plate Tectonics website in the last year.

Natasha Cowie 3

However, that isn’t the only reason I am writing about this experience.  I nearly didn’t apply for a place on this course; I nearly didn’t have this adventure.  I put applying off; I made excuses.  It can be difficult to fit everything in, especially when you have a family, but sometimes it is good to take the plunge and do something different.  A challenge can be invigorating.

This year I am challenging myself again.  I have been successful in applying for an innovative teaching grant from the Royal Geographical Society and am off to Uganda for 10 days with a colleague.  Our aim is to produce an interactive map of Kampala to enable geography students to explore the extent to which the millennium development goals were achieved there.

I am nervous about this challenge, but also excited.  I have never been anywhere like Kampala.  There is a great deal to organise and the idea of the visit seems daunting at times, but I know I will learn a great deal and have new experiences.

What challenges have you learnt the most from?  What are you challenging yourself to achieve in the next year?  I would love to hear from you.


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