Introduction | Map Interpretation | Photograph Interpretation |Weather maps and weather data | Figure Interpretation | Census of population data
Time Allocation: This unit in full i.e. the learning or practice of the geographical skills and the completion of the geographical skills and the completion of the geographical investigation, is allocated 54 class periods at Higher level and 67 class periods at Ordinary level. In other words the Dept., sees this as taking up 20% of Higher students time and 25% of Ordinary level students time.
A list of core skills required by all students is given in this section. These skills will not be examined on their own but will be incorporated into the overall examination process. The teaching and learning of these skills are to be integrated into the work of the core, elective and optional units where appropriate. There are a number of key skills which fall broadly into the following categories:
Weather Maps and Weather Data
Census of Population Data
Map Reading Skills
The Discovery Series Ordinance Survey (O.S.) Maps are supplied with a “key” to explain the symbols. You must be able to use this key when interpreting the O.S. map. Height in metres is represented on the map by contour lines, spot heights and changes in colour shadings. The basic skills to develop are measuring distance, calculating area, drawing cross sections and sketch maps and, most importantly, giving specific locations with a grid reference. Grid references consist of the map’s sub-zone letter, followed by an easting value (across the top) and northing value (along the side). Six figure grid references are generally required. Sketch maps should be framed and well-labelled, they should include only the details required, and they should never be traced. Finally, all answers should consist of a statement, map evidence and an explanation.
Interpretation of O.S. maps
The interpretation of Ordnance Survey (O.S.) Maps is an essential skill for Leaving Cert. Students. Basic map reading skills are required, and the student must also learn how to use knowledge acquired throughout the study of geography to interpret the map in detail. The topics that arise in O.S. interpretation include:
It is important to be able to link the knowledge acquired in physical geography to O.S. map interpretation. Patterns of drainage, e.g., dendritic, trellised, radial and deranged, and river features such as a V-shaped valley, meander, ox-bow lake and floodplain should be easily identifiable on suitable maps. The most obvious features to be seen on a coastal map include a bay and headland cliff, beach and spit. Corrie lakes, U-shaped valleys, ribbon lakes and drumlins are easily spotted on O.S. maps of regions influenced by glaciation. Finally, one should be able to identify Caledonian and Armorican fold mountains from Irish O.S. maps.
Distribution of woodland
The distribution of woodland in Ireland is influenced by factors such as altitude, aspect, climate and soils. Woodlands are generally found either in upland areas, in lowland areas that are prone to flooding, or as part of an estate or demesne. They can be coniferous, deciduous or mixed in type. State-planted coniferous are the most typical and are mainly found in upland areas. The ability to acquire all of this information from an O.S. map is vital.
The influence of the physical landscape on communications
Another necessary map reading skill involves knowing how to determine the way in which the physical landscape influences communications. One should, for example, be able to note, with regard to communications networks, that roads avoid upland regions and floodplains where possible, are concentrated in low-lying areas, cross rivers at bridging points, etc.
The location and development of a town
Features evident on an O.S. map which may explain the location and development of a town include: a river or port or other transport facilities; low-lying terrain; a defensive feature such as a castle or fort; industrial development; service provision; leisure facilities; and tourist attractions. With respect to land use in a town, be ready to identify whether a place is used for transport, residential, educational, religious, industrial, or commercial purposes.
The location of a suitable site for a factory etc.
You may be asked to find a suitable site for a factory, school, shopping or sports centre, housing estate, etc. In your response it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of a particular site to both the local community and to the prospective builder or developer.
An O.S. map can be used to account for the development of the transport infrastructure over time in a particular region. Remember that water was the earliest form of transport used in Ireland, that this was replaced by railway, especially for the movement of goods, and that today the road network is the dominant form of transportation.
It is important to develop the skill of identifying patterns of settlement on an O.S. map. These patterns may be linear, nucleated, or dispersed, or it may be evident that there is an absence of settlement. Houses are represented by a black square on the map. It is also necessary to be able to trace the history of settlement in a region by examining land use over time. For example, megalithic tombs are evidence of the earliest settlements in Ireland and castles are evidence of settlement in the Middle Ages.
Natural tourist attractions evident on an O.S. map may include mountains, rivers, lakes, coasts, forests, etc. Popular activities in natural regions include mountain climbing, walking, water sports and fishing. Facilities and services in towns, historical buildings and recreational activities such as golfing are also attractions easily identifiable on O.S. maps.
Interpreting photographs is a fundamental skill of geographers and it may be required in the study of physical, social and economic geography.
Firstly, you must know the appropriate vocabulary for writing about a photograph and the right procedure for sketching it.
Then you need to be able to acquire detailed information from it. For an urban aerial photograph, for example, this may include identifying the location of a suitable site for a factory or a housing estate, recognising traffic control measures, pinpointing traffic problem areas, and recognising the various elements of the transport infrastructure.
Other issues that might be examined here are the layout, the land use, and the presence of tertiary activities in a town or city. Photograph interpretation can also involve an identification of physical geography features and rural land use.
In answering photography questions, you must make a statement and back it up with an explanation which includes reference to the photo evidence.
In providing evidence from a vertical photograph, refer to compass locations, e.g., northeast of the town centre. If the photograph is oblique, reference to background, middle ground and foreground is required.
The ability to draw a sketch of the photograph is a vital skill. The following points should be noted when sketching:
• Never attempt to trace the photograph
• Always use a key or legend to label items
• Draw the sketch outline and buildings to be included in a shape similar to the original
• Never draw a sketch larger than the photograph
• Frame the sketch and give it a title. It is best to draw your sketch with a pencil
Location of a Suitable Site for a factory, housing estate, etc.
The key points to remember when looking for a suitable location for a factory or housing estate on a photograph are:
They need a large level site with good transportation facilities.
Factories and residential areas should, for environmental reasons, be a considerable distance apart.
It is also necessary to be able to suggest a good location for buildings such as a school, shopping centre or sports ground. Mention both positive and negative points of any site chosen.
Transport Infrastructure/Traffic Control Measures
An ability to identify the various features of the transport infrastructure (e.g. roads, railway stations or lines, ports, airports, etc.)
It is necessary to locate places of likely traffic congestion. These include bridges, road junctions, and narrow streets near schools or shopping centres.
It is important to pinpoint traffic control measures active in an urban centre, e.g., roundabouts, traffic lights, yellow boxes and lines, car parks, etc.
Functions and Land Use in a town or city
This is a very important topic. The main functions of a town which can be identified on a photograph are transport, residential, industrial, educational, commercial, religious, medical and recreational.
The functions of an urban area determine how land is used. Linked to land use, you must be able to identify and explain the different types of residential buildings, to pinpoint the uses of green belts (and indicate why they should be maintained), and to provide evidence of active tourism..
The Development and Layout of a Town
The location, layout and development of a town or city can be determined by studying an aerial photograph.
Major influences which should be referred to as evidence in this regard include the presence of a river, coastline, focus of route-ways, defensive features (e.g., a castle), market square, and features indicating economic activities.
Rural Land Use and Physical Geography
It is necessary to be able to identify land use in rural areas from a photograph. This means recognising settlement patterns (e.g., linear and dispersed settlement), agricultural land use (e.g., tillage and pastoral farming) and forestry (e.g., coniferous and deciduous plantations).
The information learned through a study of physical geography can be put to use in interpreting aerial photographs. The ability to identify and explain river, coastal, glacial and karst features on a photograph is vital.
Weather Maps and Weather Data
You will be expected to have a basic ability to read and interpret a simple weather map. This is seen as a basic skill for life. Students should be familiar with daily weather maps, with information shown and symbols used. A synoptic chart, similar to those used on T.V. bulletins or in the major newspapers will give all the information a student is expected to know about including; isobars, warm and cold fronts, depression, anticyclones and reports from specific weather stations.
Students should be able to understand, analyse and evaluate information in the form of figures, graphs and tables. This skill can be applied to all areas of the syllabus and should be used in the presentation of the Geographical Investigation.
Census of Population Data
The interpretation of census of population data is another valuable geographical skill. Students should examine census returns for Ireland and their local area. They should understand population trends in their locality. Census material and population statistics can be used and applied as primary or secondary sources within the Geographical Investigation.
Ordinance Survery Ireland
Visit http://www.osi.ie/en/intro/education.aspx to learn more about mapping and using spatial information