UWE Bristol and ETE Teachers invite schools to explore impact of South West Storms

Issue date: 19 February 2014

Railway tracks destroyed by coastal flooding at Dawlish, Devon. 2014

The UK is currently experiencing its wettest winter on record, with strong winds also battering the country. The South West of England has been worst affected by the storms and persistent rain, with the MET Office reporting that the South of England has experienced one of the most exceptional periods of winter rainfall in at least 248 years. This unusual rainfall combined with strong winds of around 60-80mph, and high spring tides have resulted in high water levels and huge waves causing coastal flooding and damage to the coastline.

UWE Bristol and Education Through Expeditions (ETE) are inviting schools from across the South West and the UK to join in with an online discussion and debate about the recent storms, and to evaluate their environmental and economic impact.

The online debate, delivered through the ETE Teachers web platform, will involve various environmental experts from the University. It aims to promote interest within schools for current and local affairs in the media whilst also engaging them in their learning about geography and climate change.

A major impact of the recent bad weather has been on the town of Dawlish in Devon, where the strong waves have caused a large section of the railway track to collapse into the sea, with huge implications for the national travel network and businesses across the Country.

Dr Chris Spencer, Senior Lecturer of Geography and Environmental Management at UWE Bristol said, “This project provides a fantastic opportunity for schools to make use of the storms which have done much damage to the UK's infrastructure and economy in a positive way. This is a real-life, constantly evolving story and one which directly links to the school curriculum and the UWE Bristol Geography degree courses in a number of areas. I'm also looking forward to hearing the views of young people about what they think should be done in the future to protect our coastline, and their thoughts about the future of the Dawlish railway link and ways in which we can manage present day and future coastal hazards."

The final aim is to collate and summarise young people's input from the online discussions into a report which will be presented to the Environment Agency and other related organisations.

This is just one of many initiatives to emerge from the partnership between UWE Bristol and ETE. The relationship will enable students of geography and science to share their subject knowledge and experiences of fieldwork with local schools, and benefit from a range of volunteering and personal development opportunities.

The ETE Teachers web platform uses learning resources developed in partnership with students on fieldwork and research expeditions to places such as Iceland and Kenya. The platform uses videos, blogs and an interactive discussion forum so that children can ask students questions in real time while they are overseas. This is aimed at helping engage pupils in schools with their geography and science courses in new ways, and inspire them to pursue these subjects in higher education.

This project is completely free of charge to take part in, but schools are asked to contact the ETE Team to obtain a username and password in order to contribute to the debate. Schools can do this by e-mailing gemma@eteteachers.org or calling 0117 32 87071.


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