After an afternoon travelling we arrived at our destination - the ProNatura education centre ‘Villa Cassel’, perched at 2200m on the top of Riederfurka mountain. This impressive and unique building was built at the turn of the 20th century by a German banker from London as a summer home for the Cassel family and welcomed several notable guests from the world of European politics, including a young Winston Churchill. As one of the first structures built specifically for tourism in the area, the centre, which was to to be our home for the duration of our visit, also represented the geographic and historic context for our study.
During the first evening’s class, students quickly set to work on defining hypotheses and outlining methods to collect primary data in the field. The following days were dedicated to data collection, presentation and analysis, with students using the centre’s classrooms to write up their work in the evenings. We learned about erosion, the development of services, environmental degradation and sustainable development in mountain communities and through their investigation they could critically evaluate the extent to which tourism is a sustainable Swiss industry, balancing the various positive and negative economic, social and environmental impacts resulting from mass tourism.
Time was also taken for students to hike up to study the glacial environment. It was on hikes like these that in depth geographical discussions took place and students really experienced first-hand the way all of the various aspects of Physical and Human Geography can interrelate in our complex and changing world.
In addition to their important IB work – which is 25% of the final grade, the students have gone away with unforgettable memories of new friends, beautiful landscapes, working together and helping each other. They have learnt new Geographical and interpersonal skills in addition to deepening their appreciation and understanding of the natural world.
For more information and photos from the trip, please consult the geography webpage www.geo41.com/ibfieldwork.
Mr Roberts and Mr Sykes (Geography teachers)