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10 easy steps for planning local area geography fieldwork

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Fieldwork is the wonderfully hands-on part of geography that really can excite and inspire children to explore more about their surroundings. And, whatever you may think, wherever you are there is a wealth of physical and human geography just waiting to be explored outside the school gates. Wherever you are is a special place which children can investigate to experience geography first-hand.

With that in mind, we go back to basics in this blog, and look at the steps required for a successful fieldwork study.

Where does fieldwork fit into the National Curriculum?

At Key Stage 2, pupils need to be able to:

· use fieldwork to observe, measure, record and present the human and physical features in the local area using a range of methods, including sketch maps, plans and graphs, and digital technologies.

Read on, and you’ll see that our 10 steps incorporate all these elements and methods!

What is the definition of the local area?

There is no hard and fast definition of ‘local area’, but as a rule of thumb teachers can think about the area around the school which can be readily visited and investigated by the children on foot. There is a truth in the old adage that ‘geography is best explored through the soles of your feet’.

All schools have a local area that can provide the children with the direct experience of features of physical and human geography. Some local areas are intrinsically more exciting than others however. There is a primary school in Dudley, for example, which has a mine shaft below its car park, a former open coal mine now transformed into parkland, a housing development echoing the form of the Victorian workhouse and a carboniferous volcanic stump all with a kilometre of the school gate. Not all local areas are so rich, but all are intrinsically geographic and provide a veritable geographical laboratory.

So, these 10 steps…

Below are the 10 steps you need to consider before you put your plan for fieldwork into practice:

1. Time the local area study

Geography fieldwork can be planned as a single hit in a particular year, fitting in with the planned sequence of geography skills development, or completed over the course of the 4 years, progressively building on your pupils’ skillsets.

However you decide to time it, it simply needs to fit into the geography curriculum as you’ve planned it.

2. Set the local area within a wider regional setting

This will vary depending on your location, but exploring how your local area sits within the county, and its significance within the county, is a great place to start.

3. Explore the area from all angles

OS maps and satellite imagery are invaluable for introducing the local area to children, as they really help the children see the location from a different perspective. Depending on where you are, you might even like to access the British Geological Survey’s Geology Viewer or the National Library of Scotland’s geo-referenced maps.

4. Explore the area in relief

The website, is a really good resource for showing pupils the relief and drainage of your local area.

5. Consider what housing exists

Investigate the different housing types in your local streets – are the houses detached, semi-detached, terraced, bungalows, high-rise apartments or maisonettes? And why? Are there any houses that are distinctive/historic, which would be worthy of sketching?

6. Understanding the retail offering

Survey the types of retail outlets in your local area, and again, ask the children to think about why it’s the case. From corner shops and convenience stores to pedestrian shopping parades and large-scale retail parks, get the children thinking about what is there and how it came into being.

7. Explore employment in your local area

It’s not always easy to find employment statistics for local areas, but you could survey your children’s parents/carers to find out what they do to give you an insight. Do the jobs have anything in common, which could help you categorise and graph them? You could use the traditional industry categories of manufacturing/services/retail or come up with your own.

8. Assess the environmental quality of the area

The Eight Way Thinking template suggested by the Geographical Association really helps with this and is a great way of simplifying what can sound very complicated.

9. Develop a walk around your local area

This could encapsulate the key findings you’ve made in your research. Alternatively, it could focus on geographical enquiry, and you could collate information to help you find something out about your local area. This could be anything from counting the number of cars along a certain stretch of road to support the building of a bypass or assessing if there is demand for a certain type of shop by undertaking a shopper survey.

Please note: Teachers must follow their school’s policies for taking children out of school, undertake the necessary risk assessments, and ensure they have sufficient support from parent helpers. They should also personally go around the route before taking the children out so that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

10. Assimilate outcomes

After the fieldwork, you will need to consider how to record and share your class’s findings and observations. Would this be best as a report, a poster display, an assembly presentation, or could you create a model to illustrate the enquiry?

Need general help or specific support?

If you’re struggling for inspiration or indeed need someone to take the task of planning your fieldwork off your hands completely, B&C Educational can help.

We’ve been supporting schools with their fieldwork for over 20 years, by:

  • Providing bespoke units for individual schools

  • Working in the field with schools

  • Providing a generic key unit, "Our Local Area"



We’re also launching our Local Area Mapwork unit very soon. Created in collaboration with Wildgoose Education, it’s a personalised pack that will support you as you focus on the Surrounding Environment and Local Area areas of learning.

It will include satellite images, Ordnance Survey maps and historical maps, all specific to your school, which can be delivered as playmats or large A2 wall displays.

If you think we could help you, please do get in touch by email ( or phone (079663 79621). We can chat through the options and your general preferences.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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