Sunday, 12 December 2010

Where the hell is Matt?

The Year 8 geographers have enjoyed watching "Dancing Matt" and finding out more about the huge range of places that he's visited.

You can find out more about Matt and his dancing on his website - but there are one or two rude words on there... you've been warned!

This is where it all began:

The first video sponsored by Stride:

And the second:

And most recently, in the run-up to the World Cup, Matt danced the Diski around South Africa:

For their homework this week, my Yr8s were asked to think about where in the world they would most like to dance with Matt and why... Here are the first two:

Charlie: The place I would like to dance with Matt is Paro, Bhutan because the scenery is very nice and it looks very interesting because all of the different colours.

Regan: I would dance with Matt in Andorra, because the views and heights make Andorra very relaxing in the summer. It is a very warm place in the summer and a very cold place in the winter. Andorra is well known for all the snow in the winter, the heights make Andorra very good for winter sports and the snow would make the views even more special.

Interesting choices gentlemen - I'll add some more as they arrive... And if you're not in my Yr8 Geography group, leave a comment and let us know where YOU would most like to dance with Matt, and why!

Thursday, 2 December 2010


Following on from the #uksnow map started last year, Tom Barrett has set up a UK Snow Depth map... Measure the depth of your snow, and add it to the map:

View #UKSnowDepth in a larger map


If you're getting bored (?!) of sledging and snowman-building, have a go at one of these geographical snow challenges:

1. Measure the depth of undisturbed snow in different places - how and why does it vary?

2. Collect a cup of snow... Bring it inside and let it melt. How much water does it produce? Is this more or less than you expected?

3. If you have a thermometer at home, keep a record of the temperature... How does it change? Why? Keep a record of the times when it’s snowing... Watch the sky and how it changes... How do the temperature, the weather conditions and the state of the sky relate to each other?

4. Choose a particular spot – somewhere in your garden... or out of your bedroom window. Take a photo every hour. Put them together in MovieMaker to make a timelapse movie... (Email me the finished product, or upload to Vimeo or YouTube and email me the link.)

5. Wrap up warm and put your wellies on... Then go for a walk. Put together a snow/ice/cold weather hazard map for your local area.

6. Find some black paper and freeze it. When it snows again, take your frozen black paper outside and catch some snowflakes. Look at them carefully (with a magnifying glass if you have one). Describe them. Have a go at taking some photographs of them.

7. Make a glacier... Send me photos and/or video...

8. What does the snow look like? Feel like? Smell like? Sound like? (Taste like? H&S!!)

9. Make a geographical sculpture... The Eiffel Tower? The Taj Mahal?

10. Make some icicles or freeze some bubbles...

11. Go follow some footprints in the snow... Who or what made them?

12. Make a Frozen Earth video - Grace in Yr11 made a fantastic Urban Earth style video in January, taking photos every 8 steps on a walk through her snowy village... Upload it to Vimeo or YouTube and email me the link.

13. Something else!!! Can you come up with your own interesting educational snowy geographical challenge?

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Snow Missions...

I've posted a few times about the excellent Mission: Explore... but now there are Snow Missions! Try some of them out and leave a comment or send me an email with your evidence Or have a go at creating your own snow mission...

If you're a Twitter type, search #SnowMission...

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Work for 8D

Good morning 8D! I'm sorry that I am not there for your first lesson back... However... Your challenge for today is to use Google Earth to produce a fantastic piece of art work... Below are two of my favourite examples from Year 8 groups over the past couple of years, and you can see some of the others by clicking here.

To make your own...
1. Open Google Earth (Start, Swanwick Hall, Humanities, Google Earth).
2. Spend some time exploring, and find yourself a beautiful view.
3. Open a new Ppt presentation.
4. Back in Google Earth, make sure you are happy with your view - do you want to zoom in or out, or tilt it? You'll probably also want to turn several layers (Gallery, Panoramio, Borders and Labels, etc. off - do this towards the bottom of the sidebar on the left - this will remove "clutter" from your view), then take a screenshot (hold down Ctrl + press PrtScn).
5. Paste your screenshot into your Ppt slide.
6. Crop your screenshot until you are happy with it.
7. Right-click on your picture, and select "Save as picture..." Give your picture a sensible name, and save it in your user area (preferably in a Geography folder!). Check that the filetype (in the dropdown box below where you type the filename) is .png or .jpg.
8. Go to the Big Huge Labs website. Upload your picture, and then experiment with colours, etc. and give your work a caption.
9. When you are completely happy with it, click Create. Once your finished poster appears, you can either go back and edit it, or click Save. Save the file to your computer, giving it a filename that includes your name.
10. Open your school emails. Type vel into the address bar, and then attach your finished work (not the screenshot from your ppt). Send!

I am expecting AT LEAST one brilliant piece of work from each of you, and we'll have a look at everyone's work when I see you on Tuesday.

Good luck and have fun! Miss Ellis :)


Not sure what has happened that has meant it's half a term since my last post here.... Especially when there have been lots of geographical bits and pieces to be blogging about... Some updates coming in the next few weeks.

Friday, 20 August 2010


Yesterday was A Level Results Day, and the Year 13s achieved the best A Level Geography results that there've been during my time at Swanwick (and quite possibly before that too!)... all nine of them got C grades or above!

They were the first cohort to go through the "new" A Level course, and this was the first year that it was possible to achieve an A* grade at A Level. And two of the geographers - Jo and Michael - did just that!! (Their A*s were two of only seven in the school!)

Well done Year 13 (and I guess that makes you officially "the best A Level Geography group"!!) - very best wishes for the future, whatever you are doing (even if it's not a Geography degree...).

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Map Addict

I have just finished reading Map Addict by Mike Parker which (as well as making me realise I am not quite so obsessed with maps as I could be) was a brilliant read - full of interesting geography, history and stories that make you nod and smile in an "I know just what you mean" sort of way. Click on the picture for the Amazon link.

Disclaimer - there are some rude words in it.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

West Yorkshire in Ten Squares

I was interested to read an article in the Yorkshire Post this morning about Alan Burnett, a blogger (and formerly lecturer, writer and bus conductor), who grew up in Yorkshire and is now three weeks into a project in which he is exploring, photographing and writing about ten randomly selected grid squares in a West Yorkshire road atlas.

I'm possibly a little bit biased, having grown up in West Yorkshire myself, but Alan's blogposts of the project so far - Little Germany in Bradford, Ilkley Moor, and Woodlesford (of which I had never heard) make very interesting reading, and I'm looking forward to seeing where he goes next...

West Yorkshire in Ten Squares

And as I was writing that, the fourth instalment's been added... Grid square 4 was Calverley, just down the road from my parents' house, and where one of my best friends from school used to live.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Fault-Line Living

On Saturday, the Fault-Line Living team will set off on their 15,000 mile expedition from Iceland to Iran, to investigate the stories of people living on faultlines. The expedition is sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society and Landrover, and the team will be carrying seismometers provided by the BGS with them.

The expedition website is here and you can also follow their progress on their Facebook page.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Mission: Explore!

Not the first time I've mentioned Mission: Explore, but as well as the brilliant book (if you haven't bought it, you should) there's now an iPhone app - Mission: Explore London. The app contains a variety of missions located around London, and some "anywhere missions", that, surprisingly enough, you can do anywhere.

You can report on your missions via the app and on Twitter, but it would be great to hear some of your stories here too... Leave a comment or send me an email with tales of your adventures, preferably with photographic evidence... There might even be a prize for the best one...

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A geographer in New York...

Back in Feburary, at half-term, it was far colder than it is now, and I was standing in a [very long] queue with a bunch of sixth form historians to go through super-sensitive metal detectors to get on a ferry to Ellis Island (woohoo - it must be named after you Miss!) and the Statue of Liberty. Partly, I was concerned about whether a certain student would be allowed through security with her very attractive leg splint and walking stick, but mostly I was hoping that the Battery Park Busker would not pick on me next... Luckily, he didn't - that leg splint and walking stick were far more interesting topics for the next song.

Several months later, I had some nice memories of the USA trip, and am hoping to go and visit again soon, but had forgotten all about the Battery Park Busker until I heard he'd been tracked down on YouTube and identified as Freddy Harrington. There are various videos of Freddy and his songs on YouTube, but I was particulary interested to find this one, in which he is interviewed, and he talks about the fact that he is a teacher, and about teaching his daughter about USA geography, and about our increasing connections with the rest of the world... If I go to New York again, and Freddy is there, I'll be sure to have a chat to him about some geography!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Strange Worlds

Strange Worlds is an amazing set of miniature landscape models, made by a New Jersey artist called Matthew Albanese, from all sorts of things ranging from paprika to feathers to fireplace ash!

Check out the Strange Worlds photostream on Flickr... Could you make your own??

Young Geographer of the Year 2010

"Sorting the wood from the trees; the future of forests" is the title of this year's Young Geographer of the Year competition, organised by the RGS-IBG.

It would be brilliant to have some Swanwick entries this year... Find out more on the Geographical website, or come and speak to me next week...

Good luck!!

Saturday, 5 June 2010


One of my most recent discoveries is Historypin - essentially, people (including you, if you like) can scan old photos and "pin" them to a Google Map, and also add stories to the photos. Explorers of the map can compare the historical photos with what's there now, and the photos can also be viewed in StreetView. It's still in Beta so a bit temperamental at the moment, but potentially a very interesting and useful resource...

Anyone can explore the map - if you want to add photos and/or stories, you'll need to sign in with your Google account.

Click on the screenshot to link to the site, or have a look at this YouTube video to find out more:

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Interesting geographical things to do....

Mark Beaumont (aka "The Man who Cycled the World" and "The Man who Cycled The Americas") is doing a lecture tour at the moment, and will be at the Assembly Rooms in Derby on Friday 14th May. I went to the Loughborough lecture, and it was brilliant.... More information and the link to book tickets on Mark's website... Go and see him!

Also, if you are in Nottingham, you might like to visit the Nottingham Contemporary, where there is a new exhibition starting today - "Uneven Geographies: Art and Globalisation"... looks interesting!

How big is the oil spill?

Attempts to manage the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are still ongoing and, in amongst all the election talk, there are various news articles about the impacts of the oil spill and the consequences for BP. The BBC's coverage is here.

Below is a screenshot from a nice Google Earth interactive map that allows you to compare the extent of the oil spill (which might not look that big when it's in the sea) to various cities around the world. Click on the picture to link to the site.

Sunday, 2 May 2010


It might not be making the headlines in the UK any more, now that it's not stopping flights and inconveniencing us so much, but the Eyjafjallajokull activity definitely hasn't stopped. The image below was the view from the Vodafone webcam a few minutes ago...

US oil spill

The situation in the Gulf of Mexico and on the south coast of the USA continues to worsen following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

11 workers were killed when the oil rig exploded on 22nd April, and it is thought that upto 5000 barrels of oil a day are continuing to pour into the Gulf of Mexico. The map below (from the New York Times) shows the extent of the oil spill which has been described as a "true catastrophe", and which has caused a state of emergency to be declared in Louisiana. Click on the map to link to the interactive version on the NY Times site, and here to link to the coverage of the disaster from the Guardian.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Some brilliant Eyjafjallajokull images... And how DO you say it?

Some more stunning images from The Big Picture of the Eyjafjallajokull eruption and its impacts here.

And for those of you who've not yet seen it (and those of you who've seen it several times in lessons and still haven't mastered the pronounciation):

Friday, 16 April 2010

Planes or volcano...?

No, I'm not bored yet! Click on the picture to link to the site...

Ash Friday...

The Newseum website is an excellent website where you can access, amongst other things, front pages from newspapers across the world. Here's their top ten from today... dubbed Ash Friday...Click on the picture above to link to the site.

Eyjafjallajokull on Flickr...

Lots of amazing images of the eruption and its impacts on Flickr.

I particularly like those of steini3 and Helga*. Let me know if you find any other particularly good ones.


I'm pleased to see from some emails that you are keeping an eye on what's going on with Eyjafjallajokull at the moment. If you have missed the news (I'm not sure how you'd have managed to do that really...) a quick Google News search for "iceland volcano" will bring you up to speed!

In the midst of all the news about UK airports being closed though, there's not been much coverage of what's actually going on in Iceland - flash flooding caused by the melting of the glacier above the volcano has caused hundreds of residents to be evacuated... Find out more and practise your Icelandic with some of these news reports: (there are links to several different news clips below the video) and check out Iceland Review, where there are frequent updates (and links to some impressive videos and photos) in English.

There's also an excellent set of links here to more images, blogs, webcams, etc. and the links I've collected so far (going back to the start of the eruption in March) are here.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

My Coastal Life - Photo Competition

Fantastic photo competition from Atlantic Rising... Watch the video to find out more, and let me know if you're interested in entering:

My Coastal Life from Atlantic Rising on Vimeo.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Mission: Explore

I've posted about Mission: Explore before... But now the book is here, and it's excellent!

Check out the Mission: Explore website, follow @geocollective on Twitter, order a copy of the book, and get exploring!!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Another Iceland volcano webcam...

This is the current image from a different webcam of the ongoing Icelandic volcanic eruption... Click on the picture to link to the webcam:

Sunday, 28 March 2010

More Eyjafjallajokull activity...

This screenshot was taken a few minutes ago from the webcam mentioned in the previous post. There's been plenty going on all day, but now that it's starting to get dark, things are starting to look even more impressive...

Ejyafjalljokull eruption

Having been away all week with Year 12, I have missed out on the developments in Iceland, so catching up now.

There are further updates from Ian Hardie on this thread - well worth a read, and a several excellent webcams have been set up... Here's an image from one of them from a few minutes ago:Have a look this evening as it starts to get dark, and send me some screenshots!

Some nice aerial images here and a set of photos taken by a local farmer here on Flickr.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Icelandic volcanic eruption...

You might well have seen on the news that an Icelandic volcano near Eyjafjallajoekull glacier has erupted today, after 200 years of dormancy. About 500 people have been evacuated from their homes.

The BBC report with some video footage is here and this is a link to a discussion on a Geography forum, which includes emails from Ian Hardie, who leads Rayburn Tours' Iceland Geography tours, and who has a home in the area.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Scott's on StreetView!

You may or may not be aware that Google StreetView is now pretty much nationwide. After a quick look at my house the other day (which was photographed on a Monday morning, because the bins are out...), I investigated Swanwick, and spotted Scott:

Explore where you live and see if you're a StreetView Star too! There might be a prize or two if you can find yourself on StreetView and send me a screenshot...

In the meantime, you might also find this article from The Telegraph interesting.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Weather World Record Attempt

Part of the BBC School News Report event involves an attempt to break the world record for the largest interactive weather report... Here's Aaron's report:

Schools all across the U.K today are taking part in a world record attempt to create the largest interactive weather report. Schools from the Shetland Isles to schools on Jersey and even schools on St Helena are taking a temperature reading at approximately 9:15am and emailing the temperature to the BBC Weather Centre to gather the readings and to see whether we can break the record and get into the Guinness World Record Book. Every school's temperature reading will have to be seen by an independent witness for their reading to be counted and go towards the record attempt.

At our school we took the temperature and it was 3◦C. our reading was witnessed by Mr Hickton who is a member of the Amber Valley Rotary Club.
Aaron checking the temperature

Geo School News Report

A bunch of budding Year 8 and 9 geo-journalists will be taking part in the BBC's School News Report today...
Find out more on the BBC website, and watch this space for their stories.

Good luck Geo-News Report Team!!

Sunday, 28 February 2010

A Day in New York...

With my liking for timelapse photography, and my current love of all things New York, I was very impressed with this:

The Sandpit from Sam O'Hare on Vimeo.

Chile earthquake

By now you will no doubt have heard about the 8.8 earthquake that hit central Chile yesterday, triggering tsunami warnings in 53 countries around the Pacific. There are lots of news reports, and there are location maps and more details from the BGS, USGS and Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

This map from the BBC shows the tsunami spreading across the Pacific Ocean:

The Boston Globe Big Picture, as ever, has some amazing images.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

How Earth Made Us

New Iain Stewart series starts this evening on BBC2, 9.00pm.

Professor Iain Stewart tells the epic story of how geology, geography and climate have influenced mankind.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Earthquake in Haiti

Awful situation in Haiti at the moment as a result of a M7 earthquake - the worst in the area for 200 years - that struck the capital, Port-au-Prince, last night.

Haiti is one of the world's poorest countries, with many people living in poorly constructed slum dwellings. The death toll is already thought to be in the thousands, and the Red Cross estimate that up to three million people have been affected. The lack of infrastructure is a major issue, and the absence of ambulances, fire engines and emergency rescue teams is noticeable in the images that are appearing on the various news websites.

Emergency response teams from various countries including the UK, together with aid agencies such as Oxfam and ActionAid are preparing to fly out to Haiti, and the UN have released £6 million from their emergency relief fund to help the victims of the earthquake.

Sky News

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Montserrat "explosion"

Just noticed that the Montserrat Volcanic Observatory have added some new photos to their Flickr page, so had a look at their website to find that the alert level has been upped to 4 (5 being the highest) and that there was an explosion which caused a large pyroclastic flow on Friday.

Some excellent images and a range of videos (including some thermal ones) of pyroclastic flows on the MVO website...

Friday, 8 January 2010

What happened to global warming?

Lots of people have been asking in the past few days why it is so cold when people keep banging on about global warming... A nice little video clip here from the BBC, which emphasises the difference between weather and climate.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


Fantastic satellite image of Britain this morning from Nasa's MODIS Rapid Response Gallery...

And a nice interactive from the Guardian looking at the causes of the weather and summarising the impacts... (Thanks Alan Parkinson!)

What's it like where you are?

And don't forget to send your snow photos in...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Lots that I could say about the snow which seems to be everywhere at the moment (although not so much here as other parts of the country by the sounds of things...).

Check out the Met Office website here - with severe weather warnings covering pretty much the whole country today and tomorrow...

If you've been out and about, or watched/listened to news or traffic reports, you'll already know plenty about the effects that this "cold snap" is having. I was surprised to hear that Meadowhall was closing early:
If you want to know more about why the snow is happening, check out the pressure charts on the Met Office site - there is a big area of high pressure sitting over Greenland, and low pressure over the Atlantic, causing very very cold Arctic air to keep heading in our direction. An explanation here from the BBC about what snow is and how it forms...

Snow Photo Competition

There will be a small prize for the SHS person who takes the best snow photo and emails it to me by 3.20pm on Monday... To send your pictures, log into your school emails, and then type vel into the address bar.