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Xaverian Geography students explore ancient glacial movements in the Lake District

Year 12 Geography students recently ventured on a field trip to the Lake District to collect data on the movement of ice from the last ice age between 11,700 and 115,000 years ago.

The students, who are all studying A Level Geography at Xaverian, made the trip to gather data for analysis as part of their Non-Examined Assessment (NEA) to establish the effect the movement glaciers had on landscape features in locations such as Honister Valley, Newlands Valley and Easedale near Keswick. The group of students stayed at the Derwentwater Youth Hostel during the four-day field trip and were treated to some stunning sunrises over nearby Derwentwater.

The students had already chosen subjects and researched them before going on the trip. They worked in one of four fieldwork groups where they collected data on specific features of ice movement that they would use to write their NEA. ‘Drumlins’ students looked at measuring the direction of flow and interpretation of ice retreat. ‘Ice Direction’ students interpreted the past behaviour of ice using Roches moutonnées and striations measuring angles and direction of flow. The ‘Fluvioglacial’ group documented the position, size and features of sediment eroded from the landscape and deposited through glacial meltwater. The final group looked at ‘Hydrology’ where they interpreted the impacts and effects of different land use on the drainage basin dynamics.

Year 12 A Level Geography student and former pupil of Glossopdale School, Caitlin Swan is also studying A Levels in Computer Science, Mathematics and Further Mathematics at Xaverian. Caitlin was part of the Hydrology group who studied the impacts of a disused mine on water pollution and how a treatment scheme can improve the water quality. Caitlin commented: “We gathered data from the area including the salinity, pH and metal content of the river, which we would use to write up an analysis of what we found back at the college.

“I found the trip fascinating, and it was amazing to be out in the field putting our learning into practice. I felt like a true geographer, especially in the snow! Following Xaverian, I’ve been inspired to continue studying Geography at university, perhaps related to sustainability, and I hope to go into a ‘green’ career or one that involves computer science.”

James Foster, Curriculum Leader for Geography at Xaverian, commented: “The fieldwork in the Lake District is an annual trip that all A Level Geography students participate in to gather data which is an essential part of completing their NEA. We have over 60 students looking at different aspects of glaciation whilst another 60 consider carbon, water and urban studies elsewhere.

“The students applied themselves admirably to the tasks they were set, in some challenging weather conditions on the mountains in the Lake District, and they also gained valuable insights into the role of a Geographer and the practicalities of gathering of data through fieldwork. The trip was a huge success with lots of data gathered, and the students really benefited from taking part in the experience.”

To round off the trip and to appreciate the size and power of ice movement, the whole group visited a corrie, which is a horseshoe-shaped valley formed through erosion by ice or glaciers. The students observed the results of the erosion on the corrie that was caused because it faces away from the sun allowing the glaciers build up and erode the underlying rock. As one of the largest providers of post-16 education in the region, Xaverian College offers an extensive range of A Levels in addition to several BTEC courses. Visit xaverian.ac.uk to find out more.

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