Better late than never, but a few reflections on the joint history/geography project using Alan Parkinson's 'Ice Man' text. All the work that I put together can be found by clicking here. It is likely that the content will change slightly before the next delivery in September 2015.
I work closely with the Russel Tarr, history teacher down here in Toulouse. He has been the driving force behind the majority of the cross-curricular stuff that goes on in the school and is always very keen to work on joint projects.
The focus of the enquiry is the Ice Man book written by Alan @GeoBlogs Parkinson and we invested in 30 copies for the geography department. We decided that it would be an excellent way of starting off Y7 humanities at secondary school and give us both an early assessed task to grade as well as testing group work, ICT and decision making skills.
Russ created a series of mystery lessons that he delivered for two weeks before the Y7 students were handed over to me to continue the story. You will be able to read about Russ' lessons and his evaluation of them on his blog in the next few days (I'll add a link when done).
To launch the event, we both got into role by dressing up as Scene of Crime Investigators / Breaking Bad characters and bringing the students into the crime scene before explaining what we had found. Again, this linked in to the first chapter of Ice Man and the students then started their mystery to discover the origins and age of the body using resources that Russ had designed.
Two weeks later and when the historians had finished with their theories and written up their essay, the students were handed over to me to start the geography part of the work. Three key questions were designed and the students started off by reading the first few pages of the text before completing their Police Report activity, using their German language skills.
The work then leads on to glaciation and studying the Google Maps for evidence of U-Shaped valleys etc. The students really liked this part and seemed to understand the processes when explained in a simple fashion. I must admit that I don't really do anything else glaciation based at KS3 or KS4 and it has given me a few ideas of how we could revisit the topic in Year 9 and combine with a visit to Gavarnie in the Pyrenees. More about that another time though.
We used the example of the victims of the Indian airways Alps plane crash in the 1950's to explain why, under normal conditions, debris and bodies will move downhill under a glacier. There is a section on the video that shows some scientists pulling the leathery remains of a passenger from the glacier, fifty years later and quite unrecognisable as a human being. When compared to the images of Otzi in the book, the students began to think about why this process hadn't crushed him beyond recognition. I had to utilise my awful sketching skills at this point to put together a help sheet with a diagram of the location of Otzi's body under the ice and within the confines of the gully.
One possible other cross-over that we could exploit would be to make a link with Science next year. Clearly, DNA testing, carbon dating and body decomposition could give a nice additional element of collaboration and is something that I am keen to explore with my colleagues next year.
The outcomes of the work were mixed. I had some top class examples of work, but likewise, I also had some submissions where the students had answered the questions literally as they were structured, each response with one or two lines of text. An improvement next year will be to come up with a crib instruction sheet to help with the responses, ensure that maximum detail and understanding are included and give some sort of expected word count for each section. I will also keep examples of good work to show the current Year 6 what a good report would look like, whilst not letting them actually read the contents.
At the end of the geography and history lessons, we were lucky enough to be able to link up with the author of Ice Man - Alan Parkinson, who kindly answered questions posed by our Year 7 students and gave them some solid advice about writing reports and researching work from an authors viewpoint. They really enjoyed this and it is the first time that I have attempted a Google Hangout in a classroom environment. We had a few technichal difficulties with the weather over in the UK, but the kids absolutely loved it (even though they all use Skype and Facetime extensively), there's something quite special about a live link up in the classroom using the IWB. Alan blogged about his chat with us on his Living Geography blog here.
So, all in all, an incredibly rewarding experience but the outcomes for geography, in some cases, were below expectations. Differentiating, streamlining and further collaboration are all targets for improvement for next year.
Author of geographypods.com.