PDK Example


Conservation areas and National Parks


Duncan Hawley


Geographical Association, Sheffield, U.K.

Teaching about conservation areas and National Parks features strongly in
my geography teaching. It is easy to teach ‘factual’ information in these
topics, especially if taught by using a series of case studies of the sort
illustrated in text books. However, I have asked myself what ‘PDK’ was
key to understanding certain questions: For example, (i) why some types
of environment need special protection, and (ii) how particular types of
environment have come to be. Furthermore, I am interested in how
students might be helped to consider certain ideas: For example, (i) the
value of environments, (ii) the conflicting demands on environments and
(iii) the possible implications of changing and managing environments.
GeoCapabilities helps in thinking these questions through. Thus, we can
think about how the key geographical ideas that may be helpful to
students. If we deconstruct the idea of environmental conservation from a
geographical perspective we can soon arrive at the following statements:
1. Different places have individual (unique) characteristics.
2. Some environments are considered valuable to people (for
different reasons), and sometimes in ways that are hard to
3. Places can be altered by people's activities
4. Some types of places can be easily created and some types of
place cannot be easily re-created once destroyed or altered.
5. Some valuable places might need special protection to slow
down change or reduce to levels that are acceptable or
where ‘natural recovery’ occurs.
6. People who are directly affected by the special protection of an
environment are often involved in the creation of alternative
lifestyles, or at least new ways of thinking about the protected
These are all ‘geographical’ perspectives. They represent
generalisations that are not necessarily self-evident or obvious. And
yet they are helpful to underpin an intelligent conversation about
conservation or National Parks.

These ideas provide a very useful way of thinking about
environments and highlighting conservation from a specifically
geographical perspective. The deconstructed (key) ideas in the
statements can be reconstructed in several different ways,
depending on the particular case being studied or the resources
available or selected as most appropriate in the curriculum making
process. Using their geographical understanding students gain the
capability to reason critically: for example, to decide whether an
environment might be given a designation of being ‘special’ (whether
considering a ‘natural’ or urban environment). They can be given the
opportunity to argue over alternative scenarios for the management
of change in these environments.