The Joy of Migraines – not!
After a very long, 3 impacted and growing wisdom teeth, migraine filled, ear popping night. I finally stopped puking and pacing about in agony thanks to the last of the tramadol I brought with me from the UK. (Need to find a new supplier ready for the next tooth growing episode until I pluck up courage to get the surgery done to remove them), and sank into a very surreal, Sherlock Holmes-esque morphine filled state of bizarre thoughts and ideas, with everything of late banging around in my brain.
Am feeling post migraine fragile today, and its a very dark and cold morning in Tbilisi, not typical of 8.30am and no one seems to be about either. Perfect for post migraine sensitivity, dark and cool and quiet. So I’m having a day of taking it easy after a very fitful night, as the migraine could very easily return if I’m not careful, and I feel a bit precious. Thankfully I only seem to get migraines these days when I’ve been too hot or dehydrated, or when my wisdom tooth happens to grow and irritate the nerves on my face and right ear, good job I’m not scuba diving at the moment as it seems to do strange things with my ear and management of pressure changes, something apparently typical of wisdoms when they are impacted according to my dentist in the UK. But as a child, I would often get migraines, especially in the summer. Migraines and nose bleeds and burst blood vessels in my left eye when I had them. They were awful and I would always end up being sick and once it got to that stage, there was no way of keeping any medication down, although as a five year old, I never recall anyone ever giving me any medicine, and instead I was usually left to bash it out myself, rolling around the sofa, feeling very wretched and being shouted at either because I was whinging or because I had been sick all over the carpet. I had no idea as a kid what to do with myself, and the only comfort I ever had was when my dad was home, as he was the only one I ever remember taking care of me. Mopping my brow with a cold flannel and checking up on me to see if I was ok. Sadly, he worked away a lot, so wasn’t always home, but it was nice to wake up and flit in and out of consciousness or sleep and to find that I wasn’t on my own and that someone was at least about checking on me. Thankfully cold flannels on the forehead still seem to help a little, although they always feel like they get hot quickly and are never quite cool enough, and usually once I’ve been sick, I can take medication these days and then its just a question of time and trying to fall asleep in the hopes that once I wake they have gone. But sleeping is usually fitful due to the intensity of the pain, and never being able to find a good position where my head doesn’t feel like all its blood vessels will explode and pulsate. If I am really lucky and I get the dosage right then thankfully if I catch the migraine in time, I can takes medication and nip it in the bud before it turns nasty, but sometimes I fool myself into thinking it will pass or that other medication will work or that a sleep will help, only to wake up or get to the point where it is too late, and I can’t keep anything down. I’ve actually lost track of the number of foods that I now associate with migraine induced vomiting, and they are usually foods that were previously my favourite!
Anyway, that isn’t the point of my blog today. The point I was about to get to, was that in this mad mix of consciousness, opiate-based products, and lots of weird things flitting around my head, I had a eureka moment, which seemed to make perfect sense at the time, and which in the light of day may now still be a great idea, or in fact a totally lame one. But I plan to get it down anyway, as maybe there will be something good to come out of it. Bearing in mind that the night was full of passing things about adoption, geography, the zoo, salamanders, teaching, exam papers to mark, and a strong craving for ice cold apple juice! Go figure that Mr Freud???
The Opioid Induced Teaching Plan!
There is a lot to remember and to try and make sense of, and I’m sure I will forget and remember bits as I go, so please bare with me on this one. As I try and string things into sentences and order.
A Joint Project about the Environment
My plan is to develop an educational programme between: school, Oceans Project Georgia, and Tbilisi Zoo.
Aim: It will be aimed at geography students from my school, from Oceans Project Georgia, and young visitors and educators to Tbilisi zoo, as well as those around Europe and beyond.
Staff: Two of the Oceans Project staff also work full time at Tbilisi Zoo, which is right across the road from my school where I teach Geography to grades 3-10, and Oceans Project Georgia (OPG) is currently run from the school building on Saturdays. One of the members of the zoo and OPG is also on our Land Rover Bursary expedition, and we need to submit our application for that and other funding within the next few weeks.
I was planning on making an application to the European Voluntary Service for OPG anyway, but could instead apply on behalf of all three organisations as the brief for EVS fits perfectly with what we are trying to achieve overall here in Georgia:
‘The European Voluntary Service (EVS) provides young Europeans with the unique chance to express their personal commitment through unpaid and full-time voluntary activities in a foreign country within or outside the EU. In this way, it seeks to develop solidarity, mutual understanding and tolerance among young people, thus contributing to reinforcing social cohesion in the European Union and to promoting young people’s active citizenship’. (http://ec.europa.eu/youth/youth-in-action-programme/european-voluntary-service_en.htm).
This makes much more sense if the three organisations join force, and would be far more appealing and of interest to the EVS volunteers who could then come to Georgia, stay at my house once the renovations are finished, and then spend their time working on projects at the zoo, at the school in teaching or being Geography (or other subject) teaching assistants, and also working on projects for OPG. EVS volunteers are able to stay for a maximum of 12 months each, so it would be really great to train them up so that they could take on particular roles in terms of the project, especially since three of us are away on Land Rover expedition over summer, and if they have specific skills such as web site building, or ESL, then we can give them the opportunity to bring something new to the project too, to undertake a personal activity or project.
Another group of people who may be interested in taking part in this project, may be volunteers who are teaching in Georgia through the government’s TLG project. Most of the OPG staff have or have had connections with TLG either on the Ministerial or employee side, and still have connections with other foreign volunteers who are keen to do more than simply teach English in schools here. So there may be opportunity to invite TLG volunteers to get involved with us, perhaps arranging to bring their students to the zoo for special educational sessions, or getting them to help us with the development of an educational programme for schools.
The group that most excites me in terms of staffing, is our current OPG young people, our Oceans Ambassadors. Many of them are just amazing and are really fired up by the environment, but even though they are passionate about the environment, very few have ambitions to work as scientists, something that is really lacking in Georgia, and which the government is now trying to encourage by paying their university fees. At present the main interests are law, journalism, and economics as those are the cool subjects, but there is an over abundance of professionals in that field already. Perhaps if we can make opportunities for them to get involved with real wildlife and to learn from what is on their doorstep, will promote science to them somehow and show them that it can be great fun and very rewarding.
It would also be great to use the skills that they will gain over summer on their Earthwatch expeditions, and get them hitting the ground running once they get back to Georgia from the field and to encourage them to apply their new skills to this new and joint project with the zoo. We currently have one space on the Land Rover, so it might be that we can choose from the Ambassadors who are currently 17 years old and give them opportunity to join us on that expedition across Europe and to get them to develop an educational project with us for Georgian children. Perhaps keeping them involved with OPG and giving opportunities whilst they are at university, and then maybe even being in a position to offer them full time employment once they graduate??? Which would also enable us to develop the best staff and team that we can for OPG long term.
Funding: There is a large amount of funding available to us, especially as a joint venture, and I think this process will be much easier if the three organisations sit down together with a joint plan and then apply for funding together.
Training and Team Building: One of the key points for me as Director and Founder of OPG is to try and provide the staff (who are volunteers and give up their time and energy without complaint) the opportunity to have not just a salary longer term, but also opportunity to develop professionally and for us to do things as a team. Land Rover is a massive part of that as we will be spending 6 months on the road together over summer potentially, but will be heavily reliant on the ground staff and team here for all manner of things, so even though we will be in different places, we will all be necessary, especially with our Ambassadors going off on their expeditions. Many of the staff have never had the opportunity to travel outside of Georgia before or to work on such scientific research projects before, so just being able to go on the expeditions with the Ambassadors over summer will be an amazing experience, but to all have opportunity to grow on return from the field would be truly awesome. And to apply for funds for extra training and courses in each person’s specialist area of interest would be a massive bonus. For myself I want to take my PGCE, but I also want to know more about cetaceans and there is a perfect course for that over the Christmas break, which one other member of staff would also benefit from as that is what she studied as a conservational biologist. Another member (also a conservation biologist) has a passion for the bears and wolves of Georgia, so to offer her extra training or opportunity to work with scientists outside of Georgia for that would be great, and other staff members are passionate about developing as educators, so if we each identify courses we are interested in, then together we can apply for funding which will have great impact on all three organisations working together.
Phase 1: Spring Term as a Geography Teacher
As you know, I have been trying to figure out a new way to make my geography curriculum interesting for my classes from 3rd grade to 10th Grade, and often without resources, books, field trips, or maps. The intricate details that my older students need for their GCSE and later for A’Levels is just fact learning at the moment as they don’t have sufficient world experience or field experience to relate to half of the things I am trying to teach them and get them passionate about.
But I think that this joint project might actually offer a fresh approach to my teaching geography. I’ve already decided to flip my teaching on its head this term, by making videos of the lectures, in order to generate more time for them to use for activities and fun things that will encourage their learning. Most of the time they don’t do their homework, so I have decided to make videos for them to watch instead, and to do what were previously homework activities, in the classroom. That way, for homework, all they have to do is to watch a ten minute video each week. Those who struggle with English or concepts then have ample time to get to grips with the topic before they get to class.
But what if, instead of doing activities in the classroom, we go on zoo visits instead? It is right across the road from school, and I always have double lessons, apart from third and fourth grade. So what if I use the zoo as a mini world that we can explore instead? It is self contained and it gets them outside of the classroom! Better still, what if we could apply for funding that allows us to build a full time education centre at the zoo, a classroom that could be used by schools visiting the zoo, by my geography students, and by OPG??? That way, class teachers can bring students to my geography lessons at my geography classroom at the zoo???? That way I could have a dedicated room, akin to my dream for a field studies centre in Georgia, with aquariums with things to look at, with a weather station, maps on the wall, and resources???
Obviously that depends on a lot of factors, but keep it in mind for now. In the meantime, what if I take my students to the zoo across the road from school each lesson? And then, working with the two members of staff from the Zoo/OPG we can develop British National Curriculum focused activities which cover the syllabus and which the zoo can add to their website for children and teachers, particularly in Britain to use as part of their lessons at school. We can also make videos and set up webcams as part of this concept of ‘virtual fieldwork’. This UK based website gives a brief flavour of this: http://www.google.ge/search?ix=heb&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=virtual+fieldwork
We can start with making videos about things at the zoo, which OPG and school students can also get involved with, and from those videos, we can design activities and worksheets to relate to them, both for my classes and for students abroad. This can then be expanded to incorporate my coming trip to Austria, and then our Land Rover expedition across Europe over the summer, this would generate lots of stimulating material for our students, but would be available on the web for anyone to use.
The British Geography Curriculum
Since my school is an International school, we teach from both Georgian and British curriculum, and so my Geography teaching is based around the ‘Key Stages’ of the British National Curriculum. My third, fourth, and fifth grade are working from the Key Stage 2 syllabus, but at different intensity depending on their grade, but the curriculum looks pretty much like this:
Key Stage 2 Curriculum
seven continents, compass, countries and counties of the UK, postal addresses, maps, scale, physical and human features, map symbols, aerial photos, route planning, co-ordinates/grid references, where we live, settlements, early settlers, human impact on the environment, school environment, traffic, noise pollution, rubbish, waste reduction, case study of a Low Economically Developed Country such as India, how is it the same or different to where you live, where do we get our food/shopping from, where does water come from, why do some places have more water than others, crop irrigation, uses of water, saving water, cleaning water, water and diseases, aid agencies, traffic in towns, counting traffic, surveys, planning, how to express opinions, case study about tourism such as Wales, water cycle, where does rain go to, puddles, river features, erosion, deposition, why do rivers bend, how do people use rivers, case study of a river, coastal erosion, soft and hard rocks, beaches, coastal features on maps, coastal land use, seaside holidays, protecting the coastline, mountain features, mountain environments, mountain tourism case study: Lake District, mountain weather, planning a holiday, connecting to the world, fax machines, emails, the news, world weather, different world climates, weather symbols on maps.
A lot of these topics could be based on/at the zoo and used to generate lessons for my younger classes. Activities which should also really benefit the zoo, and make geography more fun. We could get the kids to design a map of the zoo, to use a compass and points of a compass to find their way around the zoo, and even use scale to build a model of the zoo. Maybe we could apply for funds to install signposts around the zoo or draw our own? Maybe they could make a children’s guide to the zoo? And we can use Google map to see what the zoo looks like from the air, using aerial photographs, or maybe the zoo already has maps of the zoo that we can look at?
We could write a guide for the animals at the zoo: where do they come from originally, add a map of where the country is and their distribution. What is the climate like, what people live there, do the animals live in cities or towns or in jungles? Where does their water come from, how much do they eat and drink everyday, where does the zoo get their food from, and how much rubbish do they make? Do they come from a mountain environment or coastal environment?
And what about the people who come to the zoo, we can survey them, where are they from, how old are they, how often do they come to the zoo, what is their favourite animal? How far have they come to the zoo, do they live in the city or do they live further away? What are the good and bad things about having lots of tourists at the zoo, is it busier in summer or winter, weekends or week days. What happens to the rubbish from the tourists, how much do they leave? How much water does the zoo use everyday, what for, are there ways that it could be saved, or alternative ways of getting that water? What happens when it rains, where are the best puddles, where does the water go?
And then, if it is possible, we could even set up a zoo/geography club and perhaps set up a weather station at the zoo, where children can record the weather and make a chart of it over the year and see how it changes. Maybe we could have an area where we grow flowers and then use them (perhaps a joint project with the science teacher) to make the zoo look pretty for visitors? Maybe we can make a wildlife garden and install a bug hotel:
And bees and honey are a massive part of Georgian culture, with almost every monastery in Georgia keeping bees. I remember seeing a bee hive similar to this as a kid and it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, so if we had space and funding this could be another fairly simple new addition to the zoo and a place to instal a webcam:
Bees are in decline in Britain because we no longer have our hedgerows and wild flowers, so being able to involve the kids in the making of this hive and maintaining it will be a great way to do a virtual field trip and to keep the bee keeping skills alive too.
Educational conservation programmes are nothing new, and one of my happiest memories as a kid was going to a field studies centre on the south coast and really get a sense of the outdoors, but such a programme doesn’t exist in Georgia as far as I know, and the zoo would be a perfect place to start one:
Bats live in the Caucasus but little is known about them, although most are on the endangered list, so another very simple project we can do both and on expedition is to get the kids building and learning about bat boxes. We could even give a small bursary to others to set up their own across Europe, and we have two regular visiting bats in our cellar at my father’s house in Latvia over winter. So again, webcams could be a way of collecting data on them. We could easily instal bat boxes, as well as bird boxes at the zoo:
And what is more, it would also be super cool and not very expensive to install a wormery and an ant nest for students to learn more about them. This one is a ready made kit, but they are easy enough to build yourself with wood and glass and I’m sure kids would have great fun running around the zoo looking for places where worms live so they can collect them for their wormery:
Key Stage 3 and 4 Curriculum
The syllabus is fairly similar for these two key stages, but just at different intensities again, and I am sure it could still fit around the zoo as a central component. This is what the syllabus includes:
tectonics, plates, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, supervolcanoes, LEDCs, MEDCs, surviving tectonic hazards, types of rock, weathering of rocks, rocks, landscapes, people, rivers and drainage basins, rivers and valleys, upper/middle/lower stages of a river, flooding, power of the sea, coastal landforms and erosion, coastal deposition, coasts and people, flood and erosion control, glacial erosion, world climate zones, microclimates, types of weather, weather forecasting, hydrological cycle, clouds, world biomes, biome vegetation types, ecosystems and humans, deforestation and conservation, sustainable development, population distribution, population density, population growth, population structure, migration, settlement site/situation/hierarchy/function, urban and rural land use, building new houses, industry type/location/changes, farming classification/distribution/EU/in LEDCs, tourism and LEDCs/conflict, development, wealth and poverty, obstacles to development, world aid, aid, development projects, use and abuse of resources, energy and power, acid rain, global warming, pollution, water and demand/supply, farming and soil erosion, national parks, case study: Brazil, case study: France, comparison of Brazil and France, geographical enquiry, sources of information, maps, plans and photos, graphs and charts, fold mountains, case study: the Alps, case study earthquakes: Pakistan and Italy, rock cycle and landscapes, quarrying, depressions and cyclones, extreme weather, global climate change, tropical storms, drought, world ecosystems, temperate deciduous forest, tropical rainforest, hot deserts, rivers on maps, managing water, reservoirs, glaciation and ice levels over time/budget/erosion/deposition/transport/landforms/retreat/tourism, rising sea levels, coastal ecosystems, ageing populations, employment, retailing, globalisation, food supply, energy supply and demand, tourism in extreme environments, ecotourism.
I am sure that activities covering these topics could be linked to the zoo in some way, again perhaps case studies of certain animals, the kinds of ecosystems they are part of in the wild, why are some of them considered to be a threatened species, impacts that humans have on their futures, are their ecotours to visit their habitats, etc. A lot of the coastal and glacial stuff can be covered on our Land Rover expedition, and also I can make a lot of videos and activities based on my trip to the fold mountain range of the Austrian Alps next week. We do get earthquakes in Georgia, so perhaps we could even install a seismometer at the zoo to measure seismic waves, and also put a webcam on this so that people can look at it and see what one looks like in action?
Seems this kind of thing is already going on, but it would be super cool to expand this project outside of Britain too:
This could be a really good way of helping zoos around the world too, and giving them a vital role in the teaching of geography and conservation, and helping people to be connected with our planet and to raise issues of major global concern.
Phase Two: the Land Rover Expedition
I’ve always known that I wanted the Land Rover expedition to be one with an educational focus and I knew that somehow I wanted the expedition to be owned in someway by the kids at school and on OPG, but also that it should be of some benefit to geography, but more than just that.
There are currently three of us on the team, myself as geography teacher, my school director and OPG Business Partner, and another OPG leader and zoo keeper. Either way we have to collect the Land Rover from the Royal Geographical Society in London and deliver it safely back there at the end, so the start and end point will always be London in that respect, with us flying to and from Tbilisi to London.
The route has remained fairly unchanged, but I am thinking that instead of going in May, we cut the journey a little short in order to go at the end of the school term rather than before the end, or certainly to miss as little of the vital teaching element as possible.
The plan is to go to England, Wales, Isle of Man, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Hebrides, Orkneys, Shetland Isles, Faroe Isles, Iceland, and then Norway, Sweden, Finland, dropping down through Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Black Sea Basin countries, including Romania and taking a ferry from the Ukraine to Georgia, travelling around Georgia a little. The journey back to London will take us from Georgia to Azerbiijan, Armenia, Iran, and across Europe, to France and then the south coast of England back into London.
Originally we were looking to visit schools on the way, but since most of our expedition will be over the school holidays this was proving to be a little frustrating in terms of keeping life as simple as possible. One idea is to select zoos and wildlife centres from our journey and to visit them, find out how they are implementing their educational programmes and sharing data and building up close links with other zoo keepers and experts with interest in the same animals which are currently on the red list of animals under threat. Perhaps even giving each centre a small grant or webcam so that they can involve a local school somehow and set up a corner of their zoo to install one of our bat boxes, bird boxes, bug hotels, weather station or whatever. Perhaps even putting a camera into a bird’s nest on a seacoast, and doing the same at my father’s house in Latvia where we have several birds nests, or to monitor the seasonal bird migrations or something similar.
But the journey also has to go beyond, have benefit from the field and on our return. Linking up zoo keepers would be great, and looking through the list of animals at Tbilisi zoo has been fantastic and very informative, particularly as I had no idea how many species they have which are really under threat. These are the ones which really jumped out at me: