The start of the academic year is always a busy time for the Geography Department in terms of fieldwork around the region. Fieldwork is a vital element of learning for our students, not least because they find out exactly what conducting experiments in a real-life context entails. Visiting a site nearby also means that they find out more about their local environment.
In September, Year 11 GCSE students conducted their fieldwork investigation into the impact of groynes on longshore drift at South Beach, Blyth. Groynes are low walls that are built out into the sea from a beach to provide a barrier against erosion and limit drifting. A warm late-summer day provided the perfect conditions for data collection. The students looked at management of the coast and how sand dune ecosystems evolve from the sea to inland. Some were lucky enough to hear a talk from Arthur Cranson, a local coastal warden, on the importance of coastal management and the constraints under which he works. The field trip to Blyth was an excellent experience for all students. What is more, we rounded off the day with a visit to the local ‘chippie’ and ice cream parlour.
In October, the same group of Year 11 students went to Gosforth High Street to investigate sustainable transport along a busy urban thoroughfare. Given that Newcastle City Council is in full public consultation over planned changes to how we travel, not least the possible introduction of the controversial congestion charge scheme, this is a very topical issue to investigate. Recent data, including information collected outside 22 Newcastle schools, shows that the amount of nitrogen oxide in the air is regularly well above what can be considered a safe level. Students also explored the value of more sustainable means of transport, such as cycling, the metro and busses, and compared and contrasted these to less sustainable methods. It came as no great surprise that the modal (or most common) number of people in a car was just one. Students found that, although busses in particular are reasonably well used, more people prefer to travel by car. Added to that, some busses have so few people on them that their sustainability as a means of transport needs to be called into question. There is certainly more work to be done by Newcastle City Council.