I took the day off work and instead went back to school and had a great time today helping out at the BCS Restless Earth workshop at Crofton School in Stubbington near Fareham, Hampshire.
The workshops are free to attend for Year 10 (14 to 15-year-old) pupils taking Geography and are supportive of the disaster and hazard planning modules of some of the examining boards.
The exercise is centred around the city of Sendai in the Miyagi prefecture of Japan and we imagine it is Monday 14th March 2011, three days after an earthquake and tsunami hit this region of Japan.
The students are asked to work in teams of five. Each must assume one of five roles of responsibility: UN Military Liaison Officer, UN Search and Rescue Coordinator, Head of International Red Cross Medical Team, Leader of ShelterBox Response Team and Lead Coordination Volunteer.
As helpers, we each briefed the students on one of the five roles and offered some advice and tips to get them started. BCS past-president Peter Jolly also gave an introductory presentation on the disaster and talked them through the resources at their disposal which included an array of paper maps; some in English, some in Japanese; a translation of important building text; shared access to books; and relevant stationery including coloured stickers, crayons, mathematical compass, etc.
They then went back to their teams and had to work together to plan what hospitals they could use, which airport should be used for aid and supplies; where to put their headquarters, the helicopter landing sites, the shelters for the displaced and which transport routes could be used to join it all up.
Given more time and GIS, then factors such as wind may also have been considered but unfortunately being out of term time we had to stick to a pure paper-based exercise.
They presented all of this back to us in the form of three maps, one small-scale overview, one midscale plan and one detailed map of the activities in Sendai. We also encouraged them to add annotation to their maps, use common symbology, clearly mark the unsafe zones including the nearby Fukushima plant and to consider adding extra detail such as the mountain ranges.
I was pleasantly surprised by how well everyone worked, especially considering they had come in on a day of their Easter holidays! I am not sure they would all admit to it, but it was evident that almost all, if not everyone, actually quite enjoyed the day. The groups were all working really well as teams and the enthusiasm was really nice to see. Maybe I can convince the BCS to add an element of cartographic design education to the workshop to improve final presentation but in general the selection of content was achieved really well by all of the teams and the winning team did present their maps very well. Each member of the winning team was presented with a wall map.
The event was a great success and really good fun. I only hope that the local volunteer helpers and all of the children at the other events find it as rewarding as I did!