Geography

Geography is about understanding the world around us, and increasingly, understanding how we interact with that world. Pupils at Cranleigh will benefit from becoming informed about how physical and human environments interact, how their lives are connected with other people and places, and why and how the world’s landscapes and societies are changing in the early part of the 21st century. They also develop skills that are central to modern life, such as independent and team working outside the classroom, using ICT, and analysing and interpreting a wide variety of different data sources, as well as developing a sense of social and environmental responsibility.

In the Fourth Form, pupils are introduced to geographical processes and skills initially through studying their local area, and through carrying out an investigation into the place of Guildford in the settlement hierarchy. They go on to look at three major themes in the year: the geography of China and its role in the 21st century; the impact of the London Olympics; and glaciation. The year finishes with a section designed to develop their ability to interpret maps, photographs, and other forms of data-presentation, so as best to prepare them for studying at IGCSE.

In the Fifth form pupils study an IGCSE equivalent course through the AQA exam board. This course retains a core of traditional geographical content, and also offers opportunities for pupils to study contemporary themes and events which will enable them to relate their learning to the world they live in, and to the events they experience. Our aim is for pupils to gain a clear overall view of the world in the 21st century; and we also seek to provide a foundation for those who intend to continue to study the subject to a higher level.  The course is examined through three exam papers. The Physical Geography paper uses rivers, coasts, and plate tectonics to examine natural processes, their consequences for people, the impact of people on such landscapes, and the need for this impact to be carefully managed. The Human Geography paper is concerned with themes central to many contemporary issues: population-change and globalisation.  Fieldwork is central to geographical understanding and all students will visit West Wittering on the South coast, as well undergoing a number of “virtual fieldtrips” through the use of online resources.  The third paper (worth 40%) overall is split into two parts: firstly, a Geographical Skills section, examining the ability of students to respond to unseen material; and secondly a “Decision-making exercise”. This is designed to develop analytical and evaluative skills through responding to questions based on a “resource pack” released to students before the exam.

For AS Level, two modules are studied and exams taken in June of the Lower Sixth year:

  • “Managing Change in Physical Environments” which is divided into four sections: River Environments; Coastal Environments; Cold Environments; and Hot Arid and Semi-Arid Environments. A wide variety of physical environments and the processes that formed them is therefore studied alongside the role of human impact.
  • “Managing Change in Human Environments” which is also divided into four sections: Managing Urban Change; Managing Rural Change; The Energy Issue; and The Growth of Tourism. The dynamic natures of several human environments are explored; the processes responsible for their formation and how humans have tried to manage change are also analysed.

For A2, two further modules are studied.  First, “Global Issues”: this is split into Environmental and Economic Issues (30% of A Level).  Environmental Issues comprises the study of Earth Hazards and Climatic Hazards. The first of these analyses the processes of, and problems created by, tectonics, mass movements and floods; the second studies atmospheric hazards (tropical cyclones and other extremes of weather) and global climatic change. The relationship between hazard and vulnerability is explored alongside the role of predication and forecast.

Economic Issues focuses on Development and Inequalities and you are invited to question the underlying causes behind differences in standards of living. Is globalisation widening or narrowing the development gap? How do trade and aid contribute to the process? How do differences in development affect environmental issues?

The remaining paper is “Geographical Skills” (20% of the A Level).  The module aims to equip you with the sophisticated skills of geographical field research and investigation. You will complete your own fieldwork investigation after your AS exams in the Summer Term of the Lower Sixth, which we then use as a basis for developing skills around project management.  This paper is hugely valuable for preparing you to study in higher education, regardless of the subject.

Departmental Facilities

The Cranleigh Geography Department is located in a self-contained area of the Connaught Building at the centre of the School, where classrooms are fully equipped with a PC, interactive whiteboard, and a full range of other audio-visual equipment including DVD capability. In addition, there is a computer suite of 21 PCs within the department, an extensive map collection including UK Ordnance Survey software, a wide-ranging rock and mineral collection and a growing Departmental Library including magazines and periodicals as well as selected A Level book resources.

Fieldwork is integral part of our studies. The field trip schedule is as follows:

Fourth form
– Guildford High Street – investigating local issues
Lower Fifth
– urban land-use in Guildford
– coastal habitats at West Wittering
Lower Sixth
– coastal and river processes at Cuckmere Haven and Seaford
– urban regeneration in East London
– residential trip to mid-Wales (preparation for A2 Geographical Skills paper)

Whilst all the mandatory field trips are in the UK to avoid imposing excessive costs on parents, the department seeks to offer students opportunities to explore the subject further afield. For example, a visit to Iceland in October 2011 which was open to all students that have chosen to study the subject in either the Fifth or Sixth Form. Other extra-curricular events include lecture visits (for example, to the local Geographical Association or to the University of Surrey) and evening talks. Most recently in March 2012, we welcomed the charity Population Matters to discuss the issues created by the world’s rapidly growing population.