Andrew Young is the geography and social science teacher you wish you’d had. At G.P. Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay, B.C., and as a summer sessional geography instructor at the University of British Columbia, Young uses real-world examples to bring the discipline to life. Here are his top five lessons.
- Get out of the classroom I had my university students take a photo on campus and explain why they thought it was geography. I try to get them outside so they can see it’s OK for their future students to do the same.
- Relate geography to real life My Grade 12 geography students have to determine if a new college should be built in a small town in a valley below a large stratovolcano (such as Mount Garibaldi, in B.C.). The students act as city councillors and decide whether the project should go forward.
- Connect geography to other subjects In my junior law class, we map break-and-enters in the Comox Valley and find areas of high risk.
- Shares students’ work online My blog is a communication piece for both my high school and university students and their parents to help explain what we do on a daily basis. I update it every day, and include videos and other resources.
- Take class trips The best part of my class trip to Washington’s Mount St. Helens is students’ reactions when they see the volcano. As we head up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, nervous energy ripples through the bus. Just as we come around a ridge, there’s a broadside view of the volcano, and everyone goes quiet. Students are overwhelmed by the reality of the things we talk about in class.