Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Environmental Quality Assessments

Dear All

Today and yesterday the focus of my lessons has been the fieldwork options for the 4B paper, both of my A2 classes have been working on the same question, which was focused on primary data collection options. Although I did photograph the board with my iphone, and i have uploaded it (see below) to my blog, and the link will be on the Facebook page (I am always suprised by where IT has taken education since I left college - and thank you so much to the student who pointed out today I was probably educated with a chalk board), the photo actually wasn't that clear, and it appears some of you are overly reliant on IT as opposed to making notes for yourselves!

In short, the key points for a question on fieldwork were as follows:

1) Justify and explain your choice for data collection - we don't have the time to organize time off from college, staffing and to research a trip for this paper, the information is only released on the 1st of November and it takes time to sort out a trip for an entire year group. Also, we are dealing with a sensitive issue, and questionnaires need careful wording and experience of using them to be effective, sending them out without incentive for return will not yield results, and sending out poorly worded or potentially offensive questionnaires would not reflect well on any school or college they are linked to.

2) The Environmental Quality Assessment (EQA - not use of full name first, then subsequent use of abbreviation for the rest of the article/answer). Why have we chosen this method? Mostly because with the advent of advanced forms of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) that are also free - ie Google Earth - and provide us with up to date, high resolution images from the air, and in some cases a three dimensional image from ground level if Google Streetview is available. The EQA works by the user forming a set of criteria by which to assess quality, this needs to be defined clearly, You form five usable criteria, such as the quality of green spaces within the area, and having been in the lesson with the Ipad this week, you have all seen what kind of data we can get from Google earth. Some of the best suggestions from the two classes were the quality of the roads, the quality of green spaces, quality of housing and gardens. This is not necessarily enough to secure full marks, remember, all the marks come for JUSTIFICATION AND EXPLANATION - there are very few absolute right and wrongs in this paper, reasonable suggestions are all creditworthy as long as there is a suitable explanation! The very best answers include a sentence such as "for example, in order for green spaces to receive the highest score of 1, it should demonstrate a clear purpose, be accessible to the local population and clearly be well maintained, whereas a score of 5 would be awarded for areas that are unkempt, potentially dangerous with rubble or partially destroyed buildings and serve no clear purpose".
By doing this, you are demonstrating to the examiner that you actually know how to do an EQA! You know what is reasonable in order of gaining primary data from a secondary source such as Google Earth, and perhaps you have been prepared enough to try doing it!

3) Now you know what you are doing, how are you going to decide where to do it! Systematic, Pragmatic, Stratified or a Random sampling methodology? (Does anyone else always think of the song in the car workshop from Grease - It's systematic / It's hydromatic / Why it's grease lightning!) Again, there is no right or wrong, just a justification of which you think and an awareness of its limitations (see "What I learned in Geography This week" blog via Richuish Geography). You can link them together, ie perhaps a grid lain over the wards to be sampled on a scale of 500m between grid lines, and the the central point can be assessed, or the nearest point to that for which streetview, or a photograph on Google Earth would be available, a Pragmatically Systematic sampling methodology. Any answer is valid, just explain why!

4) You finally need to demonstrate that you have not just learnt a good answer and read a textbook, but that you  can think for yourselves and have a good idea on presentation, you have your skills booklet from last year, you could graph the results, map them and draw Isolines, draw proportional symbols on the map, divide into grids and shade in (a chloropleth for those of you who remember!).

Do remember, you don't have to do one point on the map, but could assess a small area,

The example EQA from the wednesday afternoon class was useful, I have retyped it below:

Green Space (Houses)
1 = Front and/or back gardens, well kept, no rubbish/rubble and well maintained borders
5 = Evidence of damage, rubbish/rubble clearly evident around the houses, lack of gardens

Community Green Space
1 = Purposeful, well used, well manicured, close proximity/easy access for population
5 = Unkempt, evidence of fly tipping, damaged structures, poor quality scrub vegetation

1 = Good Surface, clearly marked, no plants growing in the roads
5 = Potholes, unmarked edges and central lines, overgrown roads and pavements

Quality of Housing
1 = Solid, well maintained roof and intact windows on all buildings, garages and/pr parking clearly available
5 = Collapsed or damaged roofs, evidence of vandalism/damage, empty properties

This is not meant as something for you all to learn, and i certainly would not expect you to repeat all of it in an exam, but it provides a useful template for developing your own ideas and EQA.

Once again, your language needs to be geographical, for those of you that struggle, forgive the poor language (and appalling spelling - sorry the Ipad is pretty but it doesn't automatically spell check!), but you need to "geographerise" you answer, think what you want to write, then think what words you have learned that are of relevance to the answer and try to work them in.

Hope this helps, tomorrows post will include my finalized list of essential words you need to work into your answers.

As discussed with some of you, and mentioned in my blog on Tuesday, my geography film of the week was "the age of stupid", partly chosen as we will soon be starting our final (sob/eek!) module - climate - and partly as Pete Postlethwaite, one of my favourite actors, passed away recently.

The movie is an alternative to "An Inconvenient Truth", which I know most of you have seen at school (if not, its in the library - check it out), but it is a very factual movie, and does of course have a political slant to it (surprising that). "The Age of Stupid" is set int he future, 2055, and is one man (Postlethwaite) taking a retrospective slant on why we were so blind to the signs of environmental change (note the new terminology - global warming is too confusing - go figure) that are happening with ever increasing frequency. Postlethwaite has access to all archive footage from news channels (all real) that portray the worst climatic events of our time, and the increasingly regular occurrence of extreme weather events. He reviews the NIMBY's who "care" about climate change but dont want a wind farm in their village, the oil industry worker who lost everything in Katrina and the family "doing their bit" in the countryside. Was it enough? No. Postlethwaite's world is post-apocalyptic, we are flooded out, starved, out of resources and out of time to find new ones.

I enjoyed the movie, it didnt break any new ground in terms of the science, and is by no means a replacement to learning the theory, but as an introduction to the issues and to give an excellent view of "different perspectives on the issue" (something our exam board are exceptionally keen on - take note), it cant be faulted. Why are we so reluctant? Because we like our lifestyle, other countries want our lifestyle (Westernisation/Americanisation of culture), the only way to get it, is to use fossil fuels. They took millions of years to form, their formation changed our climate into the nice low carbon one we know today, and yet we burn through this resource like we can make more of it when we want to. Wake up folks, we cant! But that's a discussion for another module!

Overall, well worth the 90 minutes it lasts for, I doubt that we will have time to watch it in class, but there is certainly enough time for you all to check it out of the library for a night or watch it in a free period in the library - that is of course after I remember to return it tomorrow!

See you all in class!

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