Dr. Frances Fahy, NUI Galway
The Geographical Society of Ireland (GSI), in conjunction with the Association of Geography Teachers in Ireland (AGTI), organised Ireland’s first Geography Awareness Week, which took place from the 11th-17th November 2012. The week was dedicated to celebrating the discipline of geography in Ireland and in addition to raising awareness among the general public, one of the key aims was to raise awareness among students and parents about the importance of geography and its practical applications. During the week a number of events took place in universities and post-primary schools across the country.
Across the third level institutes, NUI Maynooth, UCD, St Patrick’s Drumcondra and NUI Galway invited post-primary geography students and teachers from local schools into their Departments and Schools. These students and teachers were provided with the opportunity to tour the laboratory and lecture facilities and hear from post graduate students and staff about what it is like to study and research in geography at third level. A series of public lectures was held throughout the country during the week – Mary Immaculate College in Limerick hosted a lecture on Mapping the City, UCD held public lectures on Geographical Information Systems, while NUI Galway hosted a one-day seminar on Planning and Sustainability. ‘Managing the Impacts of Climate Change’ provided the focus of the public lecture held in NUI Maynooth during the week and the AGTI hosted their Gwenda Hurst Lecture in TCD to coincide with GAW. In addition, throughout the week, a number of geography table quizzes and photo competitions took place. All of these events received a positive response and were well attended and supported.
To coincide with the GAW 2012 the GSI commissioned a cartoon titled ‘What is Geography?’ The aim of the educational poster is to address the common misconception that geography is narrowly focussed on knowledge regarding capital cities of the world and facts regarding counties, wine regions and lakes. The poster highlights how geography is about so much more than facts and figures and shows how geography helps us to understand how the world works with geographers exploring different systems such as human, physical, and biological, through space and time.
Ireland’s first GAW appears to have been well received by those who participated in the events. In addition, GAW received a number of citations in the local and national media as well as on online forums. Over the coming years and with the support of geography teachers around the country, the GSI and the AGTI hope to build on this first Geography Awareness Week and develop a suite of teachers’ resources and create an archive of activities which can be used in the classroom as well as out in the field.