Illustration 2: Planning your local place - fieldwork and beyond

Curriculum overview

The Australian Curriculum: Geography (and its various HASS-based iterations) content descriptions addressed in the illustration are:

  • The influence of the environment on the human characteristics of a place
  • The influence people have on the human characteristics of places and the management of spaces within them

Learning goals

This activity develops students' knowledge and understanding of the places and spaces around them by observation and recording during fieldwork. It also encourages them to build on this learning by evaluating the reasons for changes made to the local environment. 

Students are then asked to put their views into action by developing a plan for a town or city design which overcomes some of the problems they have noted in their fieldwork observations.

Geographical understanding and context

Fieldwork techniques are a central part of geography. You need to teach students how to observe and record accurately what they see, hear, smell, feel and taste in the outdoors.

This illustration encourages the use of simple fieldwork techniques in activities close to the school, followed by an evaluation of what has been observed, and finally, the imaginative planning of what could be done to overcome problems and issues that have been identified.

Teaching approaches

  • Introductory fieldwork

The starting point is a walk around the local area. Students should have a notebook with them to record the following:

  • dominant types of buildings
  • busy and quiet areas
  • evidence of changes, new buildings, planned developments, changes in land use
  • traffic problems
  • unsafe areas
  • places which are looked after well, and those which are not
  • places which have been planned, and places which have grown in an unplanned way.


  • Class discussion

Back in the classroom, a discussion of the findings can lead to a more refined focus for a second walk around the area. This next piece of fieldwork could be either 'issue-based' or 'experience-based'.

  • Issue-based fieldwork

If you use 'issue-based fieldwork' you might identify a particular issue relevant to your local area. Some examples might include:

  • good and bad changes to the area
  • litter in the streets
  • the availability of playgrounds and recreation areas
  • the volume of traffic on local roads and streets, and its effects on people.
  • When the issue has been chosen, steps that can be undertaken include:
  • walk around the area to be investigated, thinking about aspects of the issue and the types of information needed
  • use notes, counting, mapping, photographing, sketching to collect information
  • in the classroom, discuss and analyse the information gathered
  • select the key pieces of information learned about the issue.

  • Experience-based fieldwork

'Experience-based' fieldwork is more open-ended. It is intended to arouse curiosity and develop concern for the area. This experiential fieldwork involves time spent in the area to be studied, and requires an 'open mind' approach to seeing what is there. 
A major aim of experiential fieldwork is to develop a 'sense of place' about the area being studied. Some techniques that may be used to develop this include:

  • sketching
  • talking to local people about their place
  • observing and recording the activities that people of different ages are doing
  • taking geographical photographs.
  • When these observations have been made, the outcomes of the fieldwork can include some of the following:
  • drawings or diagrams
  • descriptions in words, including opinions and feelings as well as facts
  • short improvised dramas presenting opinions and attitudes
  • displays of photographs and sketches.


  • Reflection

When the fieldwork activity has been completed, ask your students what they found most interesting or concerning about their local area. The next question is: How could it be better planned?

  • Extension activity

To stimulate students' imagination, ask them to use a large sheet of paper to draw what they think a well-planned town or city would look like. They could draw a sketch, several smaller sketches, a sketch map, a labelled diagram, or some other form of representation.

Ask them to annotate the sketch or map with brief explanatory comments justifying their ideas.

What you need

Notebooks or papers in a folder for writing in the outdoors, or iPad or personal electronic device that records notes and photographs. 
Large sheets of paper (for extension activity).
Access to the Internet and digital cameras may be useful.
Preparation: Explore the best places to walk around in the local areas.
Time frame: Each of the walks around the local area could take anything from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on size of group, characteristics of the area and the class.

Curriculum connections

This illustration links with the content descriptions of the following Phase 1 Australian Curriculum. 


  • Use a range of software including word processing programs with fluency to construct, edit and publish written text, and select, edit and place visual, print and audio elements
  • Use comprehension strategies to analyse information, integrating and linking ideas from a variety of print and digital sources


  • Use a grid reference system to describe locations. Describe routes using landmarks and directional language


  • Scientific knowledge is used to inform personal and community decisions
  • Scientific understandings, discoveries and inventions are used to solve problems that directly affect people lives
  • Communicate ideas, explanations and processes in a variety of ways, including multi-modal texts


  • The role that a significant individual or group played in shaping a colony; for example, explorers, farmers, entrepreneurs, artists, writers, humanitarians, religious and political leaders, and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) and digital technologies


Milner, A. & Jewson, T. (2010). Using the school locality. In S. Scoffham (Ed.). Primary geography handbook. Sheffield: Geographical Association.