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Geography and Modern Studies

The Geography and Modern Studies Department aims to prepare our pupils for life in the 21st Century. Our pupils gain an understanding and appreciation of the environmental, social, economic and political systems which shape our world and allow them to make informed decisions.

Geography and Modern Studies

Geography and Modern Studies Department

Geography is the interaction between humans and the environment, studying contemporary issues such as global warming, urban change, ageing populations, famine and poverty or even monitoring the infamous Icelandic volcano. By examining the physical and human environments at all levels, local, national, or global, we are better informed about these issues and, in the long term, able to contribute effectively to our local communities and wider society.

At all ages, the department aims to develop pupils’ understanding and appreciation of environmental systems and their interactions, as well as the ever-changing society in which we live. We hope to inspire a sense of world citizenship and interdependence as well as a lifelong interest in, and concern for the environment.

Geography is studied by all pupils in Transitus, S1 and S2 where we offer a broad general curriculum in line with A Curriculum for Excellence. In S3, we work towards progression to National 5, to be sat in S4, with Higher and Advanced Higher courses for our S5 and S6 pupils. Our exam results are very strong and a number of pupils have pursued Geography at university, including Oxbridge.

Learning and teaching extends beyond the classroom with our pupils enjoying a number of different fieldwork experiences. See our Fieldwork and Foreign Trips sections for further details.

Staff

Miss Nickie Cowan (Head of Department)
Mr Barry FitzGerald (SQA Coordinator)
Mr Iain Leighton (Deputy Rector/Geography)
Ms Kirsty Macpherson
Miss Jane McAteer (Modern Studies/Assistant Careers)
Ms Claire McKeown
Mr Graeme Robertson (Deputy Rector/Modern Studies)

Swiss Alps trip - Summer 2019

The Geography Department is offering pupils in S1 and S2 a chance to explore all that Switzerland has to offer on a five day, four night trip in August 2019. The activities complement topics studied in class and pupils will also have plenty of opportunity to practice their French. The trip is based in the resort of Les Mosse, set in chocolate box surroundings and close to many wonderful geographical sights and destinations.

Application forms must be returned by Wednesday 28th November at 11.30am to Miss Macpherson.

Click here for Parent Letter / Click here for Application Form

 

Iceland trip - February 2018

60 S3 and S4 pupils had the opportunity to take part in a life-changing trip in February 2018, taking in the dramatic landscapes of Iceland.

The party enjoyed some time in the nation's capital, Reykjavik, before venturing further afield to take in a number of impressive features of the rugged landscape including the infamous Eyjafjallajokull volcano and Solheimajokull glacier, as well as waterfalls, geysers and the black volcanic beaches of Reynishverfi and Dyrholaey.

The group visited the famous Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa on a final day curtailed by one of the worst storms of the past 15 years!

Find out more about this trip and see some images from a snowy Iceland by clicking here.

 

Uganda trip - Summer 2017

A team of 34 pupils and 4 staff visited Uganda in the summer of 2017 to rebuild a classroom block at Kinyerere Primary School.

Over £7,000 was raised in order to help rebuild a classroom block at the School near the town of Masaka, amongst a number of other projects undertaken by pupils and staff of the school.

Pupils also took the chance to help out in the school, teaching lessons and bonding with the children of Kinyerere, as well as meeting the families within the local community.

You can find out more about this trip by clicking here.

Find out more about the Foreign Trips put on by the Geography Department by clicking here.

Find out more about Geography Department Fieldtrips and other activities by clicking here.

Gallery

Curriculum Information

National 5

In S3 and S4, pupils are in mixed ability sets and will normally sit the National 5 exam at the end of S4.  A wide range of teaching approaches is used, tailored to each individual class.  This allows for differentiation, a high level of individual support for pupils and the opportunity to set targets based on ability.

The main aims of Geography at National 5 level are to enable our students to develop:

  • A range of geographical skills and techniques
  • A detailed understanding of the ways in which people and the environment interact in response to physical and human processes at local, national, international, and global scales
  • A detailed understanding of spatial relationships and of the changing world in a balanced, critical and sympathetic way
  • A geographical perspective on environmental and social issues
  • An interest in, and concern for, the environment leading to sustainable development

Course Structure

1)  Physical Environments

We study a selection of landscape types from contexts within Scotland and/or the UK. Key topics include:

  • Rock cycle & rock types
  • The hydrological cycle
  • River, coastal, glacial and upland limestone landforms
  • Land use, conflicts and solutions within the different landscape types
  • Weather

2)  Human Environments 

We study and compare developed and developing countries drawn from a global context. Key topics include:

  • Social & economic indicators and reasons for differences in the level of development
  • Factors influencing global population distribution
  • Factors influencing birth/death rates and the impact of population change in developing and developed countries
  • Land uses zones in cities in the developed world
  • Recent developments in the CBD, inner city, rural/urban fringe in developed world cities
  • Shanty towns in developing world cities- location, cause, issues
  • Changes in the rural landscape caused by modern farming developments, e.g. diversification, GM, organic, government policy, technology, biofuels etc in both developed and developing countries

3)  Global Issues

Two key topics are studied - the impact of human activity on the natural environment and environmental hazards.

  • Environmental hazards: the features, causes, impacts and management of the following natural hazards will be studied:
    • Tropical storms
    • Earthquakes
    • Volcanoes
  • Natural Regions: the main features, use & misuses, effects of degradation and management will be studied within:
    • Tropical rain forests
    • Tundra

Fieldwork

The outdoors classroom is an extremely important resource for geographers.  Students complete urban and river fieldwork. The fieldwork data will be used for completion of the assignment element of the course assessment (for more information, see the fieldwork section of the department website by clicking on the 'Fieldwork' tab).

Course Assessment

Assessment consists of two parts - a question paper and an assignment. Both of these are set and marked by the SQA.


Higher

Higher Geography enables students to develop:

  • A wide range of geographical skills and techniques
  • An understanding of the complexity of ways in which people and the environment interact in response to physical and human processes at local, national, international and global scales
  • An understanding of spatial relationships and of the complexity of the changing world in a balanced, critical and sympathetic way
  • A geographical perspective on environmental and social issues and their significance
  • An interest in, understanding of, and concern for the environment and sustainable development

Course Structure

The course is divided into three mandatory units:

1)  Physical Environments - students develop and apply knowledge and understanding of the processes and interactions at work within physical environments on a local, regional and global scale. The main topics are:

  • Lithosphere
    • Formation of erosion and depositional features in glaciated and coastal landscapes
    • Rural land use conflicts and their management related to an upland and coastal environment within the developed world
  • Atmosphere
    • Global heat budget
    • Redistribution of energy by atmosphere and oceanic circulation
    • Cause and impact of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone
  • Hydrosphere
    • The formation of erosional and depositional features in river landscapes
    • The hydrological cycle within a drainage basin
    • Interpretation of hydrographs
  • Biosphere
    • properties and formation processes of podzol, brown earth and gley soils

2)  Human Environments - students develop and apply knowledge and understanding of the processes and interactions at work within urban and rural environments in developed and developing countries.

  • Population
    • Methods and problems of data collection
    • Consequences of population structure
    • Causes and impacts relating to forced and voluntary migration
  • Rural
    • The impact and management of rural land degradation related to a semi-arid area
  • Urban
    • The need for management of recent urban change (housing and transport) in a developed and in a developing world city
    • The management strategies employed
    • The impact of the management strategies

3)  Global Issues - students develop and apply knowledge and understanding of significant global geographic issues which demonstrate the interaction of physical and human factors and evaluate strategies adopted in the management of these issues.  An appreciation of sustainable development will permeate the global issues studied.

  • Development and health
    • Validity of development indicators
    • Differences in levels of development between developing countries
    • A water-related disease: causes, impact, management
    • Primary health care strategies
  • Global climate change
    • Physical and human causes
    • Local and global effects
    • Management strategies and their limitations

Students complete coastal and urban fieldwork relevant to the course content. Further information is available on the fieldwork section of the departmental pages (by clicking the 'Fieldwork' tab). The fieldwork data will be used for completion of the assignment element of the course assessment.

Course Assessment

Assessment consists of two parts, a question paper and an assignment. Both of these are set and marked by the SQA.


Advanced Higher

The purpose of Geography is to further develop the pupil’s understanding of our changing world and its human and physical processes. Fieldwork is an essential part of this Course, so that learners can interact with their environment. All pupils attend residential fieldwork as part of the course to learn a variety of different geographical skills (for more information, see the fieldwork section of the department website by clicking on the 'Fieldwork' tab).

The contexts for study are local, national, international and global. Geography draws upon the social and natural sciences: interdisciplinary learning is therefore fundamental to geographical study and encourages links with other disciplines.

In the 21st century, with growing awareness of the impact of human activity upon the environment and scarce resources, the study of Geography fosters positive life-long attitudes of environmental stewardship, sustainability and global citizenship. This Course will provide pupils with the knowledge and skills to enable them to effectively engage with challenging issues in their local communities and wider society. 

The main aims of the Advanced Higher Course are to enable learners to:

  • Understand the ways in which people and the environment interact in response to physical and human processes
  • Study spatial relationships to develop a balanced and critical understanding of the changing world
  • Further acquire a geographical perspective on environmental and social issues and their significance
  • Develop skills of independent research, fieldwork, analysis, synthesis, evaluation and presentation
  • Acquire the techniques to collect, extract, analyse, interpret and explain geographical phenomena using appropriate terminology
  • Develop expertise in the use of maps, diagrams, statistical techniques and written accounts 

This Course helps create informed and active citizens who can use modern technology. It will do this by helping learners develop a greater understanding of the human and physical processes which have an impact on their environment and by encouraging scientific rigour in data collection and interpretation.

Pupils develop high level skills which are transferable to other areas of study and which they will use in everyday life. Learners carry out independent research and take responsibility for their own learning but with support from the teacher/peers as appropriate.

Course Structure

By studying Advanced Higher, pupils develop a wide range of important and transferable skills, including the ability to carry out independent fieldwork/research, the use, interpretation, evaluation and synthesis of information from a range of sources. The ability to use a range of maps, statistical and fieldwork/research techniques to interpret, explain and analyse geographical phenomena will also be developed. 

  • Geographical SkillsIn this Unit, pupils develop a range of geographical methods and techniques including mapping skills, graphical techniques and a range of statistical techniques for analysing and interpreting geographical data. Pupils develop a range of investigating skills while undertaking independent research such as scoping or identifying appropriate research topics; how to plan and manage a complex programme of research; techniques to source, collect and record appropriate and reliable primary and secondary information; methods of independent fieldwork; techniques to present findings using appropriate conventions; and how to evaluate research methodology.
  • Geographical IssuesIn this Unit, pupils develop critical thinking and the ability to evaluate sources and viewpoints on contemporary geographical issues, including biofuels, fracking, the refugee crisis

Course Assessment

This course has two components:

  • 1) Question paper – worth 50 marks
  • 2) Folio – worth 100 marks.
    • The Folio is comprised of:
      • A Geographical Study where pupils undertake individual research on a topic of their choice using primary and/or secondary data, to gather, process and analyse their findings;
      • An essay on a geographical issue where pupils are expected to carry out a critical evaluation of a current complex geographical issue by identifying viewpoints, from a wide range of sources, evaluating these to all valid conclusions to be drawn. 

The world in the 21st century has thrown up many new challenges against a kaleidoscope of global change and development. Modern Studies is the study of social, political and economic issues at local, national and international levels and enables pupils to understand the processes and institutions that play an important part in contemporary society. Pupils are exposed to a wide range of topical and challenging issues and are encouraged to read widely to further their interest in these. For example:

  • What will be the impact of Brexit on Scotland and the devolution settlement?
  • Are poor lifestyle choices the main cause of ill-health?
  • Does prison work?
  • To what extent does China have a democratic political system?
  • Should Americans have the right to bear arms?
  • Where do British political parties stand on key issues?
  • How far does the media influence voting behaviour?

All courses seek to encourage the formation of open, respectful and tolerant attitudes. Students will also develop skills in critical-thinking, research, analysis and communication, which will allow them to participate in society as truly confident and responsible global citizens.

In Modern Studies we aim to provide an open and friendly atmosphere, a well-resourced teaching environment, and up-to-date, stimulating courses. It is offered as a subject choice in S3-S6, and from August 2018, Modern Studies will be taught at all levels. At all times, the department seeks to develop the full potential of each and every pupil, ultimately producing high quality performances in external examinations.

Modern Studies provides an ideal grounding for many careers, and previous students have gone on to study courses such as PPE, Law and International Relations at Oxbridge and many other universities.


National 5

Pupils are taught in mixed ability sets throughout S3 and S4 and will normally sit the National 5 exam at the end of S4. A wide range of teaching approaches is used, tailored to each individual class. This allows for differentiation, a high level of individual support for pupils and the opportunity to set targets based on ability

Aims

The main aims of the course are to:

  1.  Enable learners to engage as active and informed citizens.
  2.  Have an appreciation of the changing nature of modern society.
  3.  Understand and respect human and legal rights and responsibilities.
  4.  Have an awareness of social and economic issues and the extent of state involvement in society.

Course Structure

1)  Democracy in Scotland 

  • We study a selection of topics including representation and the main political representatives in Scotland e.g. MSPs and councilors; the role of the Scottish Parliament; the main political parties in Scotland; election campaigns and voting; the influence of pressure groups on decision makers.

2)  International Issues – World Power: The USA 

  • Key topics that we study include the US political system; participation; social and economic issues; government reactions and responses to these; rights and responsibilities of individuals within the USA.

3)  Crime and the Law

  • Pupils learn about the different types of crime; the causes of crime; the impact of crime on local communities; efforts to tackle crime; laws regarding alcohol, drugs and road traffic offences; criminal justice system in Scotland.

Course Assessment

The Course assessment will consist of two parts: a question paper and an assignment 

Pupils are encouraged to watch the news in order to further their interest in current affairs and develop their thinking skills.  


Higher

Higher Modern Studies helps pupils to cope with the many problems which can arise in real life, emphasising that the decisions they make may determine not only their lives but also their country and beyond. They learn about a wide range of political, economic and social issues relating to their own country along with China.

Course Structure

1)  Democracy in Scotland and the United Kingdom

  • Pupils will cover topics such as: the United Kingdom constitutional arrangement including the role of the Scottish Parliament and other devolved bodies and the impact of UK membership of the European Union; the study of political institutions and processes; voting systems and their impact; the impact of a range of factors which affect voting behaviour; and the ways in which citizens are informed about, participate in, and influence the political process.

2)  Social Issues in the United Kingdom

  • This unit focuses on social inequality and looks at the nature of social inequality in the UK, the evidence of inequality, the theories and causes of social inequality, the impact on specific groups in society and the attempts made to tackle social inequality.

3)  International Issues

  • The country that we study is the People’s Republic of China. Content includes the Chinese political system, rights and responsibilities of citizens, social-economic issues and the effectiveness of government responses to these and the role of China in international relations and its relationship with other countries.

Course Assessment

Assessment consists of two parts, a question paper and an assignment. Both of these are set and marked by the SQA.


Advanced Higher 

The Advanced Higher Modern Studies Course further develops learners’ knowledge and understanding of contemporary political and social issues in local, Scottish, United Kingdom and international contexts. The Course makes a distinctive contribution to the curriculum and adopts a multi-disciplinary approach by drawing on the social sciences of politics, sociology and economics. The Course will help create informed and active citizens by helping pupils to develop a greater understanding of democratic political and social institutions and processes in Scotland/UK and international contexts. Pupils will develop skills which are transferable to other areas of study and which they will use in everyday life.

The Advanced Higher provides good preparation for pupils progressing to further and higher education because pupils must be able to work with a large degree of independence.

The skills, knowledge and understanding that will be developed in the Advanced Higher Modern Studies Course are:

  • applying knowledge and understanding of complex political or social issues in the United  Kingdom and adopting an international comparative approach
  • evaluating, analysing and synthesising a wide range of evidence
  • structuring and sustaining detailed lines of argument, leading to reasoned conclusions
  • evaluating the trustworthiness of sources of information
  • critically evaluating research methods
  • planning and carrying out independent research into a complex contemporary political/social issue
  • organising, presenting and referencing findings using appropriate conventions

Course Structure

This Course has two mandatory Units. The Units are:

1)  Contemporary Issues

  • In this Unit, learners will develop an in depth knowledge and understanding of contemporary political issues in the United Kingdom and adopt an international comparative approach to their study. Pupils will develop skills to critically evaluate a range of sources of information and social science research methods. 

2)  Researching Contemporary Issues

  • In this Unit, learners will develop skills of: justifying appropriate research issues; planning a programme of research; researching, collecting and recording information; explaining approaches to organising, presenting and referencing findings; and using an appropriate referencing system.

Course Assessment

Assessment will be carried out through a three hour exam and a 5,000 word project. The question paper will require demonstration of knowledge, understanding and skills from across the Course. The project will require learners to extend and apply their knowledge and skills.

Miss MacPherson launched Geography Club for pupils in Transitus-S3 pupils this session.

The club kicked off with the opportunity for pupils to make their own globes showing not only the continents but also the structure of our planet.

     

 

     

As the year has progressed there has been some volcanic activity in the classroom, and courtyard, and an array of papier mache globes and lanterns decorating the classrooms.