Geography is a compulsory subject at Junior Level, and is optional at Senior Level. The Geography Rooms; Room 3, Room 11 and Room 42 continue to be a hive of activity throughout the year. Geography classes at both Senior and Junior Level occupy the designated rooms daily. Evidence of activity‐based learning can be seen in the Geography rooms where numerous posters, projects and models are on display. At Junior Level, there are three classes per week, while five classes per week, (one single class and two double classes) are allocated at Senior Level. In our teaching of the curriculum, we place emphasis on the interesting geographic elements of our local area by using local examples, case studies and maps.
Members of the Geography Department have attended ongoing in‐services on the Geography Syllabus at both Junior and Senior Level as part of their professional development. The department meets regularly to co-ordinate geography trips, in-school activities and classroom teaching. A number of formal and many informal meetings were held during the year to plan and review work and progress and to examine the report by the Department of Education and Skills, in-service resources etc. As a department, we are extremely encouraged by the overall standard of results and by the large number of students taking Higher Level Geography at both Junior and Leaving Certificate. Geography continues to be a very popular subject option for Leaving Certificate.
At Junior Level, there are three classes per week while five classes per week (one single class and two double classes) are allocated at Senior Level. At Junior Cycle, there are two Classroom-Based Assessments. They relate to specified learning outcomes and are scheduled to be undertaken by students in a defined time period within class contact time to a national timetable (as advised by the NCCA) in the school calendar. Following the second of these assessments, students, in Year Three, complete an Assessment Task which is sent to the State Examinations Commission, with the final examination script for that subject, for marking.
The first CBA, entitled Geography in the News, provides opportunities for students to engage in practical, authentic learning experiences that reflect the relevance of the study of geography to the world around them. Geography in the news provides students with opportunities to actively observe the interactions and interconnections between people, places, environments, and spatial patterns. This Classroom-Based Assessment asks students to research and draw conclusions on the implications of geographical events through a real-life example.
The second CBA, entitled My Geography, provides students with the opportunity to apply the knowledge and experience gained through the first Classroom-Based Assessment to undertake an active investigation into geographical aspect(s) of their local area. Having experienced and engaged with the key geographical questions of who, what, where, when, how and why during Geography in the news, students will continue to develop this learning in their on-going classroom learning and through an investigation of local geographical aspect(s). My Geography provides a frame for students to actively explore and engage with the interactions and linkages between people, places, environments, and spatial patternsin their local area and consider the related implications for the human and physical environment.
Students undertake a written Assessment Task (AT) to be submitted to the State Examinations Commission (SEC) for marking as part of the state-certified examination for Geography. The Assessment Task is allocated 10% of the marks available for this examination. The Assessment Task is directly related to the second Classroom-Based Assessment, My Geography. The Assessment Task will assess students in aspects of their learning including:
- their ability to reflect on the development of their geographical thinking through engaging in the research process in completing the My Geography CBA.
- their ability to evaluate new knowledge or understanding that has emerged through their experience of the Classroom-Based Assessment.
- their ability to reflect on the skills they have developed, and their capacity to apply them to unfamiliar situations in the future.
- their ability to reflect on how their appreciation of Geography has been influenced through the experience of the Classroom-Based Assessment.
- their reflections on how their experience of My geography has influenced their attitudes and values.
ICT & Geography: All classrooms in O’Carolan College have computers and interactive overhead projectors which are used daily. Google Earth and specialised software are available to the department courtesy of LMETB. Other resources that the department use include the Internet, DVDs, rock samples, maps and aerial photographs, weather stations, excursions, field trips and posters.
Junior Cycle: Real World Geography (Folens), Peter Lydon and Tara Fitzharris.
Senior Cycle: Planet & People (Mentor) by Sue Honan and Sue Mulholland.
Teaching & Learning / Course Content
The department is currently implementing the new Junior Cycle. The focus is on the study of the Earth’s landscapes, peoples, places, and environments and how it empowers the person to explore and understand the world around them. Students develop the skills to read their environment, enabling them to interpret the physical landscape, observe climatic events with an informed eye and discuss world events in a knowledgeable manner. Students are growing up in a globalised, dynamic world and geography provides a medium to explore current events in our world.
The skills developed through the subject are transferable and will benefit students in study and life. Geography encourages structured inquiry: this critical thinking involves students asking questions, gathering data, evaluating and interpreting, and presenting information. It encourages collaboration and communication with their peers.
Junior Cycle Geography focuses on developing students’ knowledge and skills. This is achieved through the three interconnected strands:
• Exploring the physical world;
• Exploring how we interact with the physical world;
• Exploring people, place, and change
The overarching concept of Junior Cycle Geography is entitled Geoliteracy. This refers to students’ ability to develop far-reaching decisions through geographical thinking and reasoning. Geoliteracy provides the framework for understanding in geography and is threaded throughout learning and teaching of geography. The core components of Geoliteracy are the three I’s:
• interactions refers to how systems, both human and natural, interact
• interconnections refers to the linkage between people, places, environments, and spatial patterns
• implications refers to the individual’s ability to reason the consequences of their decision making and that of others.
We had two Fifth Year classes and two Sixth Year classes in 2019/2020. The senior cycle course is divided into core, elective and optional units of study. Students studied physical geography, regional geography, patterns and processes in the Economic Environment and Geoecology. Students developed important geographical skills and an understanding of the changing relationships between the physical and human worlds. Through their study of geography, students develop geographical skills that will help them to make informed judgements about issues at local, national and international levels. Students had ample opportunity to acquire the practical skills of a geographer in observing, presenting and interpreting evidence from a wide variety of sources. Students studied the Bunnoe River in Co. Monaghan and completed a detailed investigation of the geomorphic processes of a fluvial environment. This was part of their compulsory fieldwork unit and is worth 20%.
Transition Year Environmental and Economic studies (EES):
There is a Geography module as part of the Transition Year course in O’Carolan College. There were two classes in Transition Year and both groups took part in the Global Worldwise Schools programme. This programme encourages students to engage with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Students visited the Ballymun Rediscovery Centre to see some ideas in action.
Geography Tours / Extra-curricular Activities
The department endeavours to promote among students a keen awareness of the environment which surrounds them and to facilitate this, students were involved in many geographic activities and field trips this year in O’Carolan College. First Year students completed projects on tectonic activity by creating models and posters, completing experiments and examining rock samples. Sixth Year students travelled to the Tannagh Outdoor Training and Adventure Centre in Dartrey, Co. Monaghan in September to carry out their Geographical Investigation project in the Bunnoe River.