How does a study trip to Iceland work with the new geography curriculum?
The new Geography curriculum is set to be taught in September 2016. This post will explain why a study trip to Iceland is now as relevant as ever as it focusses towards the new geography school curriculum.
The table below, which identifies Iceland and its relevance to the new geography National Curriculum, marks Iceland as a study trip destination which is suited to 15 out of 17 topics. We have selected the top study topics in the curriculum that shows Iceland can improve a student’s understanding of exam-level geography classwork.
1. Glacial processes & Landforms & Management
Around eleven percent of Iceland is completely covered in permanent ice. Icecaps and valley glaciers are clearly represented – their margins are easily accessible and the landforms that they produce are readily studied. GCSE students will be learning about the processes that sculpted the UK’s glacial landscape in the last ice ages. A study trip to Iceland offers the opportunity to effectively travel back in time to see the power and influence of ice on the landscape. Students are given the chance to take an excursion out onto the frozen glacial tongue of Solheimajokull, to experience a hike over the surface of a glacier itself.
Glacial Walk Video
Being temperate, glaciers produce a lot of meltwater which carries vast quantities of fluvioglacial material towards the sea. The characteristics and features of these outwash deposits, glaciations including fjords and glaciated valleys, can be studied in several locations in both the South and West regions.
2. Climate change
Iceland’s glaciers are in relatively temperate environments compared to others at similar latitudes and so are sensitive and responsive to variations in climate. A study trip to Iceland will examine the impacts of climate change on the glaciers of Solheimajokull and Snaefellsjokull which are both retreating at a significant rate each year. Sea-ice has also become thinner in recent decades, with arctic-wide average thickness reductions estimated at 20% Students can ask themselves: does this confirm the established theory of global warming and what does the future hold for Icelandic glaciers?
3. A sense of place, Urban change and growth
The new geography specifications have a heightened emphasis on a sense of place and to support the 2016 curriculum change at GCSE and A level, we have introduced two new activities to help add further value to the urban change and growth modules. Students will have opportunities to use quantitative and qualitative field techniques to investigate the development and present day functions of Hveragerdi, a unique Icelandic settlement.
Iceland offers fascinating comparisons with UK settlements at Hveragerdi. It has many similarities with a large UK village in terms of services and development, but its identity and history are very different. It owes its existence to the hot geothermal springs that has a varied history of fuction and landuse, today providing for the advantages of living in a tectonically active area. Discover the World Education offer the optional case study trip to Hveragerdi town trail for GCSE case study fieldwork.
Hveragerdi Case study highlights
Hveragerdi is a town of 2,400 inhabitants in south-west Iceland. It is the first significant settlement reached by the Route 1 national ring-road as it heads south-east out of Reykjavik, a half-hour drive out of the city.
- The town lies in a rift zone as the North American plate drifts westward and the Eurasian plate moves eastwards, creating a separation rate of 2.5cm per year. This leaves the area prone to earthquakes, but usually weaker ones, rather than those at conservative or destructive boundaries which see a greater build-up of friction.
- At 15:46 on 29 May 2008, an earthquake with magnitude 6.3 struck with its epicentre just 2km from Hveragerđi and at a depth of 10km. It was the third strongest earthquake in Iceland in the last century. It lasted just eight seconds.
Students can also examine the sense of place and urban change of the capital city, Reykjavik. They will investigate how the physical geography of Iceland influenced the local culture and traditions of Reykjavik and also compare the similarities and differences of the Reykjavik infrastructure with other major European cities. Reykjavik provides a case in difference compared to most European cities, with rural-to-urban migration prominent through recent decades. Students will experience the changes and challenges that have led to and resulted fthe regeneration of zones of central Reykjavik
With a growing population and increasing tourism, Reykjavík is undergoing rapid changes. Spending time exploring the city is a great way to demonstrate how the nature of a city changes following the transition from an industrial to a service-led economy. In contrast to most European cities, Reykjavík is still experiencing rural to urban migration, so there are contrasts to be drawn with changes in UK cities. Iceland is seen as one of the most equal societies in the world. How do they maintain such a good quality of life and a sustainable urban environment? You can take a tour of the city on foot, by bike or in a coach to find out.
4. Food, Water & Energy Resource Management
The new geography curriculum is placing a renewed focus on resource management. It is well known that Iceland is a country of extremes. An abundance of water, geothermal power and fishing grounds contrasts with scant opportunity for many forms of agriculture, thanks to challenging soils and climate. The nation‘s mid-Atlantic isolation and spare population provide both threats and opportunities to their resource management. How do the Icelanders do it?
Iceland’s precarious climate and remote location have caused a history of food insecurity. Today, innovative strategies from hydroponics to geothermally lit and heated greenhouses are used to provide a reliable and more varied food supply for the country. Food export is of great importance to the Icelandic economy. How do they ensure sustainability of fragile supplies?
Students are presented with a number of optional activities and excursions which present the issue of resource management in Iceland:
- Geothermal Greenhouses Tomatoes are grown all year, using state-of-the-art technology in an environmentally - friendly way. Green energy, pure water and biological pest controls make for tasty and healthful tomatoes. Geothermal stations are found along the north-east to south-west axis across Iceland, where mid-Atlantic divergence creates magma intrusions as the plates separate.
Ljosafoss (Golden Circle)
- One of three hydroelectric plants that harness water from the River Sog as it travels between the lake and Iceland’s southern coast. Iceland’s hydroelectric stations are found along major rivers, mostly sourced by the nation’s glaciers. Iceland produces more electricity per person than any other country. Much of this is utilised by the expanding aluminium industry that contributes 5% of the country’s economy and represents a third of export values.
Both hot and cold water are plentiful in Iceland, yet conflicts over its use and supply can arise. Rivers and lakes cover 6% of Iceland, mostly sourced from glacial areas. Students can investigate how present and future climate change are impacting on the resources needed to sate the country’s increasing demand for residential and industrial water supply.
Iceland is blessed with abundant renewable geothermal energy, which has been harnessed for power and heating. Most homes in Iceland are provided with natural hot water and in the south it is widely used for horticulture. Visits to a geothermal and a hydro-electric power station provide excellent first-hand opportunities to view renewable and sustainable energy in motion.
Working in partnership with the Field Studies Council to provide field study courses in Iceland means Discover the World Education’s study trips provides students with invaluable hands-on experience and excellent case studies for both coursework and exam preparation.
Click here to enquire about a study trip to Iceland for your students.
Six Fantastic Reasons Why Morocco Should Be Your Next Study Trip Destination
Two adventurous teachers and their partners visited Morocco on our Hidden Gems trip at May half-term. Despite initial preconceptions about the country, they returned with glowing praise for both the destination and the wonderful people they met along the way. Discover the World Education caught up with the teachers to find six fantastic reasons why Morocco should be your next study trip destination.
1. On Morocco
Pre-departure, both teachers held several misconceptions on Morrocco, which were soon debunked on their arrival. ‘“I had some preconceived thoughts about what it would be like, with the main one about being a white English speaking female in a Muslim country. I could not have been more wrong; the people were honestly the friendliest bunch I have met in all my travels. They are such a proud and happy nation, who welcomed us with open arms, wherever we were.” SB
“We had many misconceptions of Morocco before we left for our trip: we thought we’d get hassled by people trying to sell us their wares constantly, that we’d probably get a bad stomach and that the country, especially Marrakech, would be frenzied and chaotic. This could not have been further from the truth. Moroccan people are genuinely some of the nicest I have met on my travels (and I’ve been lucky enough to visit a lot of different countries on various continents)”TB
2. The People
“My narrowed perception, clearly influenced by those who had never been to Morocco before, made me feel embarrassed. Moroccans are a warm and sociable people, who want nothing more than to help make your stay as enjoyable as possible. ‘In Imlil and the Atlas Mountains area especially, the locals say ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning. How are you?’ as you walk by. Bearing in mind we had never met these people, and were clearly tourists, we were humbled by their genuine friendliness and manners. In Marrakech, when we were approached by Moroccans asking us to go to their restaurants or peruse their stalls, they were welcoming and a simple ‘No thank you’ if we didn’t fancy visiting was enough to make them say ‘Ok. Have a nice day’.” TB
3. The Food
”The food was also incredible, whether you’re eating a tagine in a riad, sipping on fresh orange juice in Djemaa el Fna square or eating fragrant olives in a café. The dreaded stomach issues? They never materialised. Even my usually rather belly-sensitive partner was absolutely fine with anything and everything we ate (and the cuisine was so appealing that we ate a lot!).” TB
“They went to great efforts to ensure the food offered met my yeast allergy requirement, with plenty of delicious vegetables and fruit! I was so caught by how wonderful the food was that I bought my own tagine pot! Googling how to cure and cook in it, I was rather confused by conflicting reports and how food was cooked in saucepans/frying pans and only presented in the tagine. Mike was kind enough to let me loose in his kitchen to learn under the expert eye of Saied, where we cured and cooked my very first tagine! It was a wonderful opportunity that I will never forget! I actually cooked a lamb tagine following Saied's instructions when I got back, and my word...it was gorgeous!” SB
4. The Accommodation
”The Riad Siltrine was stunning… and the staff incredibly friendly. The accommodation had a rather romantic feel to the place. Dar Imlil was up another level - I don't think I've ever stayed in such fancy accommodation! Once again, the quality of our stay was seriously high, and the staff filled with good humour and smiles.” SB
5. The Itinerary
“The activities were pitched perfectly, and Mike was an outstanding host. He was very relaxed about what we wanted to do, and was keen to show us the different things Marrakesh and Imlill could offer. Not travelling for hours getting to various places was an absolute bonus. We had plenty of free time around the activities in Marrakesh to explore on our own, to try the different food, speak to people in the souks, and to chill by the pool. It was wonderful!” SB
“‘I spent longer at Education for All (a local charity whose goal is to provide education for girls in rural Morocco) whilst the others cycled, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the girls, learning about where they were from, their families, how much they love school and their aspirations for the future. What Mike has achieved with the schools is nothing short of inspirational, and it would certainly be a wake up call for many English students to see how grateful these girls are for the opportunity of an education. I was touched by their kindness and joy, and will not forget my time there.” SB
6. Morocco As A Study Trip Destination
‘In terms of potential for future study trips, we are still discussing the options. Morocco is now a contender and would have to be an outdoor classroom experience to enhance their understanding rather than coursework data collection. It might be that we conduct fieldwork local to us and use the residential as an experience instead. Doing it like this could put north Iceland back in the running, although after chatting to our students, they say they would much prefer to visit Morocco now!’ SB
‘I have a feeling we might change to visit Morocco in a few years when we are done with Iceland.’ TB
It’s clear the teachers had a fantastic time by praising Morocco for being a “brilliant country with great people”, and have now promised to return in the near future.
“I’ll be telling everyone I know about this gem of a country.” TB
“One thing is for certain; I will definitely be returning to this wonderful country myself for further exploration and to build more fabulous memories. Thank you, Sue, for putting together such a wonderful trip. If there are any other teacher inspection trips coming up, please do let me know.” SB
Earthquakes at Katla volcano, Iceland
A series of small earthquakes has hit Katla volcano in Myrdalsjokull on July 13th and 14th, up to magnitude of 3.1. This has caused no alarm but hit the news in Iceland.
Earthquakes are almost a daily occurrence in the subglacial caldera of the volcano. Earthquakes preceding an eruption are known to be much stronger than these recent ones, mostly of magnitude 4-5. The current seismic activity, along with other signs such as increased geothermal activity, minor flooding of rivers and displacements of GPS stations, does indicate that the volcano is in some kind of a pre-eruption state. Some of the earthquakes, over the past decade, originate at a depth of 15-25 km. They are thought to be signs of rising magma.
Katla has an active magma chamber that is thought to have been injected by magma since the late 1990s; a slow process that may ultimately result in a volcanic eruption that breaks through the ice, showering the environment with ash and pumice as well as causing a very large flash flood, as experienced in 1918.
The annual melting season at the Myrdalsjokull ice cap lessens the ice load on Katla and increases the water discharge in the glacier. Coupled with the tectonic forces, the water pressure changes and water flow can possibly explain the known increase of seismic activity in Katla from each year's summer ablation peak to early autumn the same year. The monitoring system around Katla is well developed, so that a pending eruption will not come as a surprise.
The green star denotes a quake of magnitude above 3.
Why do we recommend that you go to the Secret Lagoon instead of the Blue Lagoon?
If you were visiting Paris for the first time, the first thing you would want to see is the Eiffel tower; if you booked a tour of New York and didn’t catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, your tour would not feel complete and imagine going to Sydney and not being able to take a selfie with the iconic opera house?
Iceland is home to some of the largest geothermal plants in the world. Once geothermal power plants have generated the steam and hot water to make electricity, they send it to the place where it is used. The geothermal plant then has to get rid of the waste water with minimal risk to the environment.
In 1981 people started bathing in the pool of excess water from the Svartsengi geothermal power station. As a result of the growing popularity and benefits offered by this by-product in treating psoriasis, The Blue Lagoon, owned by the geothermal power plant, was established and in 1992 the baths opened to the public.
The thermal pool is an accidental wonder, but this doesn’t make it any less special. Who wouldn’t enjoy bathing in warm waters in the heart of the Icelandic countryside and try out the mud mask that does wonders for your skin?
It is no surprise that bathing in outdoor thermal pools in Iceland has become the number one thing to do when visiting Iceland.
There are about 169 recreational swimming centres operating in Iceland,138 of which use geothermal heat, as well as countless natural hot springs, the Myvatn Nature Baths located in the North, the Laugarvatn Fontana and the Secret Lagoon situated along the Golden Circle route.
However, it is The Blue Lagoon that is the most famous of them all. It is attracting a record number of visitors and the luxury brand is so well known that 60% of all tourists that visit Iceland go to The Blue Lagoon, where the water is replenished every two days.
Whilst The Secret Lagoon does not have the same milky blue waters of the Blue Lagoon it is just as stunning, giving you that magical Icelandic experience. It was established in 1891 and is the oldest bathing pool in Iceland.
A natural hot spring feeds the lagoon with 38-39°C water that bubbles up from deep within the earth, constantly replenishing itself so that there is a steady supply of fresh clean water in the pool at any given time. There's a wooden walkway that goes around the baths, several geothermal spots and a little geysir which erupts every 5 minutes.
The Blue Lagoon entrance fee is in the region of £40 per person whilst the Secret Lagoon is approximately £10 per person with one free teacher per 10 students (current rates June 2016).
The Blue Lagoon is in proximity of the airport so to ensure a smooth run of your tour, we will always try to schedule your bathing session on your day of arrival or departure. However, because of the Blue Lagoon’s popularity, if you miss your allocated entry time you could end up queuing for a lot longer or in exteme circumstances even being denied entry.
The Secret Lagoon will be included in your Golden Circle tour and as it is a lot less popular these risks are eliminated, giving you peace of mind whilst offering a similar experience.
At the end of the day the choice is yours and you will have a great time whichever bath you choose.
So to answer the question of why we would suggest visiting the Secret Lagoon instead of the Blue Lagoon? At the Secret Lagoon you will enjoy an authentic Icelandic bathing experience at a fraction of the price without the crowds.