Students at Smithdon High School - part of the West Norfolk Academies Trust - have been encouraged to look at the world around them with more focus than usual in the name of a school photography competition.
The contest was the idea of Steven Chapman, head of geography at our Hunstanton secondary school, and he came up with it to get Smithdon students to look afresh at their surroundings as they returned to classroom lessons after months of lockdown and remote learning.
“In a departmental meeting we discussed how we wanted to inspire students to get out of the house after remote lessons and at the weekend, to take exercise and also to be aware that geography is all around them,” he explained.
“One of my colleagues showed pictures of how his garden had changed over a period of time, and another had pictures of how new housing developments impact on and change existing communities.”
The pupils responded enthusiastically with around 30 entries from across all year groups, focusing on a variety of local topics and themes.
“We’ve had a real range, including the 1953 North Sea Flood memorial, landscapes changed by snow, heathlands, farming landscapes, snowdrops as a sign of spring, flooding, weather conditions, fallen trees – a really interesting mix,” said Mr Chapman.
“One pupil included pictures of a pre-lockdown trip to London, as a reminder of what awaits us when this is all over and we can start to move around a bit more.”
He continued: “The contest really caught the imagination of the students and revealed how much they’ve learnt about geographical processes, which they were able to express in their photo descriptions.
“The judges commented on how one of the best things was that this knowledge wasn’t something that they had looked up online, but that they had acquired in the course of their studies, and put to good use.”
The Year 7 winner came from Ella Asker, showing the lasting damage of the 1953 floods on a ruined road at Snettisham bird reserve.
More recent flooding at Hempton was the theme of Year 8 pupil Adele Carty’s winning picture, and in Year 9 Chloe Moulton won for her picture of a snowy sunset at Heacham North Beach, with the flood defences featuring in the picture.
In Year 10, Arnold Wilson won with a picture of a burst levee taken near the appropriately-named Watery Lane, Litcham, and the Year 11 prize went to Jack Bolderstone for his depiction of the impact of coastal erosion on the cliffs at Hunstanton Beach.
The school used all kinds of innovative ways to engage students in lockdown, including ebooks, podcast recommendations, fitness challenges and recipes to try, but the competition entries have shown just how keen students are to get out and about, something that the return to school means they can now do a bit more frequently.
“The competition has raised their awareness of their surroundings so we’re going to use the pictures in future assemblies, to illustrate local issues and educate students about where they live and how their lives affect that,” he said.
“I’ve love to get the pictures printed and put on display, too. The West Norfolk Academies Trust has a cross-schools geography teaching team, so in future, working more closely on this across other schools would seem a logical next step.”