Saturday, 21 August 2010

Researchers in Residence

I mentioned this scheme earlier.
It is designed to link academics with teachers.
I am grateful to Nanasha Oyofo for passing on this report of an example...
If you like the sound of this project, the details of how to potentially get involved are included at the bottom of the blog post.

Sustainability in sport: a geographical analysis

The world cup and 2012 Olympics were used by a researcher in residence to link the geography curriculum to real-life situations, and enrich teaching even further at Cardiff High School. The project was part of a UK-wide scheme that is looking for geography teachers to host enthusiastic researcher scientists.

The scheme, Researchers in Residence (RinR), funded by RCUK and the Wellcome Trust places geography researchers in schools to enrich 11-19 year old classes. ….

With anticipation high prior to the 2010 World Cup, Lesley Williams, Geography teacher at Cardiff High, was inspired to host a researcher who could apply their technical expertise to a sport themed study, sourced through the Researcher in Residence scheme.

“I wanted to improve links with Cardiff University and to tap into a nearby pool of experts who could add so much to the curriculum and our students’ learning experience”, Lesley explains.

“One specific goal was to highlight to the students the real world application of elements of their geography study, through the sustainability in sporting events project for example.”

The placement…

RinR regional coordinators matched Lesley with Dr Andrea Collins, a social science researcher from BRASS[1], whose research involves assessing the environmental impacts of sport and major events. Working in consultation with Lesley, Andrea developed a range of engagement activities that would enable pupils to think creatively about the negative impacts big events can have on the environment and how they could be reduced. Andrea explains, “my placement was spent with Year 9 pupils and teaching staff from the Geography Department.

The Stadium is one of London 2012’s venues for the Olympic Games.

My placement involved; contributions to classroom sessions on ‘London 2012 Olympics and Sustainability’ and ‘Greening Events’. Judging a poster competition on ‘Making Big Events more Sustainable’, and organising an educational tour of Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

The year-long poster competition involved students creating a promotional poster highlighting the issue of sustainability in sporting events and recommending preventative measures that could be taken to reduce environmental damage. Winners of the poster competition went on a bespoke tour of Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium, that included a talk from the stadium’s environmental manager on the different measures taken at the grounds to make games more sustainable.

Many of the in-class activities Andrea developed encouraged students to use their creativity, problem-solving and reasoning skills to find solutions and fully grasp the subject matter of the project.

Groups of students worked together to create mock ‘bids’ for the 2012 Olympic games and presented their ideas to the rest of the class. They were also tasked with evaluating the 2004 FA Cup in Cardiff, an exercise that involved analysing past data on visitor numbers, modes of transport and food consumption relating to the event. Following an initial analysis, students then recommended measures event organisers could have put in place to limit the environmental impact of the event.

Suggestions included care sharing, advance travel planning and the use of ‘combi’ tickets, (tickets that are redeemable on public transport as well as grant access to the stadium).

Interactive activities like a poster competition and visit to Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium provided a context and stimulus that students could use to apply the concepts they were learning about in class. Such activities required students to appreciate the many factors incumbent in organising large scale events and the precautions that must be taken in order to mitigate their environmental impact.


On reflection, all parties involved in the placement have noted specific benefits gained as a result of the experience. Andrea notes, It [the placement] forced me to think hard about the best way to communicate my research to that particular target group. I developed a range of teaching activities to engage pupils at an individual and group level, and I plan to use these in future public engagement activities.”

According to Lesley, both the students and staff at Cardiff High benefited markedly from the experience. “The children have certainly benefited. The prize which Andrea arranged was wonderful and the powerpoint presentations based on her research were most informative. The project on sustainability in sporting events was educationally valid and relevant given that when we started it in school, the World Cup was just beginning - allowing students to explore the impacts of such big events.

This fed nicely into the London 2012 Olympics and given our proximity to one of the Olympic venues, the Millennium Stadium, the work took on even greater significance. It was definitely worthwhile and demonstrated the relevance of geography in our everyday lives thus also promoting the subject.

It was a valuable and enjoyable project which has enhanced the experience of our students and was excellent for my own professional development.

It has been a superb experience and I would certainly repeat it.

Lesley’s advice to prospective teachers/schools interested in hosting a researcher…

“Teachers need to bear in mind that the subject specialisms of researchers should enhance the taught curriculum at key stage 3 or the examinations syllabus at GCSE , AS or A2. / The teacher needs to check that the work is relevant at the outset, therefore maximising the potential impact of collaboration for all stakeholders.

To apply to Researchers in Residence or for more information on hosting a researcher, call 0845 365 7470 or visit

[1] Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society centre

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