Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Avalanche of ideas

There are a few areas of Geography which I really enjoy but haven't had the chance to teach this year. One is good old fashioned weather. It might not be fashionable, but I think there's a real need to understand the basic principles behind air masses, fronts etc.
I would also love to teach a unit on mountain environments and glacial geomorphology, there's a nice section in the Edexcel GCSE A Unit 2 on avalanches which is right up my street. 

Thanks to MontyMIC I managed to get out for a weeks off piste skiing and touring in Switzerland in the first week of April. Although the weather was pretty warm at times, it did mean there was plenty of avalanche action to get pics of.  I thought the photo below could be used to demonstrate the power of avalanches. It's a little different to the classic shot of a ski village submerged.

Avalanche debris. Grimentz, Switzerland

But not quite as dramatic as this video from France of a ski lift being destroyed.

Then again we get our fair share of avalanches in Scotland, the Lakes, and Wales. A  good clip here of the Buchaille from Mike Pescod's blog showing how avalanches can sometimes be more than airborne powder or slab. It demonstrates the impact a sudden rise in temperature can have on the stability and consistency of the snow pack. Pupils could be asked to think of creative solutions to reducing avalanche risk and increasing survival rates. There are some pretty effective ideas already out there that they could get inspiration such as transceivers, the Avalung and avalanche airbags. The video below demonstrates the theory behind the air bag. I've not had to test mine yet, thankfully.

Avalanche forecasting in the UK is carried out thanks to the work of the SAIS. I like the idea of getting pupils to develop an App that is effective at predicting avalanches - what information would they need to include? Where would they information from? Who else apart from skiers, climbers and hikers would the app be useful for? I like to bring in my personal experiences and knowledge into lessons when it's relevant so might use this article as a prompt before getting pupils to write a news account of an avalanche accident or lucky escape.

If you're really keen you could get pupils to work in small groups to demonstrate probing and searching for avalanches with a few props, the creative use of a white sheet, some chairs as the debris and a willing volunteer to hide underneath?! 

I was going to say it's not the most seasonal post, but then I saw the forecast for tomorrow for NE Scotland!

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