Sixth Form Geographers Win National Mapping Award

Sixth Form, Student Success

Kezia Blackman, Olivia Chick and Amy Wallis are no strangers to winning geography awards. So far this year they have already won national Geography competitions for the Geographical Association and the GDST. However, last week the students were presented with an award at the QEII centre in central Westminster in front of an audience of over 3,000 delegates who were attending the Esri annual UK GIS conference. Unfortunately the students were taking their AS Geography examination that day but Mr Heath was able to pick up the award on their behalf.

They were being awarded for a computer mapping project which they had undertaken as part of our school’s Sixth Form Geography Society last term. The students had researched and created a series of sophisticated GIS maps to examine the spatial interactions between their local, regional and international geography. Esri is the world’s largest company providing computer mapping solutions to industry. Mr Heath has been pioneering the use of Esri’s GIS technologies in schools for the last few years, and in fact is regularly invited to speak at conferences and run training workshops for teachers around the country in this. Our school’s work in this field is genuinely innovative and at the cutting edge of what schools globally are doing. Indeed Mr Heath’s work has been recognised by several national teaching awards. Esri was impressed by the high quality of the work produced by these students. Their awards are not exclusive to schools, in fact the students were up against entries from industry and university, making their success even more impressive. At the Esri Award ceremony TV presenter, Nicolas Crane, spoke about how mapping has evolved and acknowledged the current developments as truly revolutionary. He said there needed to be a new term to replace the word “map” as it did not sufficiently capture the ways in which spatial interactions were currently being captured and manipulated. Our students work is a shining example of this new and emerging field and it is great that our school is preparing students for such an important and growing industry.

In response to the announcement Mr Heath said: “It is truly overwhelming to have our students’ work recognised at such a high level. These three students have displayed extraordinary skills and insight into exploring the spatial interactions in their surroundings. It is a great pleasure to work with students of this calibre and motivation. We are lucky to have so many able students in our school which allows us to push the boundaries of what is possible in teaching. The vast majority of schools are making no use of this highly important technology, while we are using it to enhance our students’ understanding of the world and prepare them for technologies they will encounter in their future careers. I believe it is important to build close links with industry so that students are learning real life skills and building their career aspirations. This is a rapidly growing sector demanding highly skilled workers and it is great to see several of my ex-students now successfully working in this field. Geographers possess valuable qualities which can explore spatial relationships from a wide range of perspectives. Most organisations are now demanding these types of thinkers to identify the important geographical questions and to unlock solutions to enhance their operations.”

The students took time out of their busy examination schedule to comment on their award. Amy said: “It is great to have won this award. As Mr Heath is always going on about GIS mapping we thought our sixth form society should humour him and try making some maps of our own. We worked as a team to produce a series of flow line maps which did actually look quite good. I never thought we would win a national competition for it!”

Kezia’s reaction to the news of her team’s success was: “I can’t believe it, that’s amazing. I really enjoyed exploring my geographical links and creating new maps. It made me think about things which I had not considered before about my surroundings. GIS mapping can be a bit tricky at first to use, but when you get your head around it you can do some pretty cool stuff with it. For example you get live data, like current traffic flows and compare it to live data from pollution sensors around Bath.”

Olivia explained how she had used GIS mapping for her fieldwork: “Earlier this year Mr Heath taught us how to collect data in the field in order to make flood risk maps for a town. I really found it interesting to see how we could create density and interpolation maps from this data to analyse the data. These helped us to explain how well flooding was being managed in the town. It is wonderful to have won this award for our computer mapping work. I am interested in applying for Geography at university and these skills will really prepare me for this and give me lots to talk about in any interview I might have.”