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Waveometers, inclinometers and coursework: Grade 9 Geography students putting theory into practice

Aditya Krishnan, Class of 2015, Dover Campus

Coursework is an opportunity for the student to complete tasks outside of exam conditions, while using all the required skills, allowing students to further investigate a subject. Different subjects in IGCSE have different amounts of coursework; courses like Global Perspectives are based completely on coursework, while subjects don’t have any. For IGCSE Geography students, although examinations are critical in determining their grade, a major sector of their assessment is determined by their coursework. Coursework is an assignment completed independently by the student, and in Geography involves investigating a given hypothesis.

Grade 9 Geography students completed their mock coursework on the topic of coastal erosion, investigating how processes (such as the force of the waves) change the shape of the Singapore coastline. The hypothesis was that natural processes were the only ones shaping the coast, and through thorough analysis, we could support this hypothesis or prove it wrong. To investigate this, we were dropped off at a slightly less busy section of East Coast Park, where we would analyse two beaches.

The first location has considerable influence from the government; they had placed breakwaters (strong concrete walls placed a distance from the sea to slow down the force of the waves, causing slower erosion). The breakwaters had refracted and changed the direction of the waves, and so the beach was a beautiful curve and the sand slope smooth. The second location, about five minutes walk from the first, was considerably different; without government interference, the beach was flat and bumpy and completely straight. This aesthetic difference itself showed us the difference human interaction makes.

At both locations, we measured pre-determined variables with instruments that we had built. We built ‘waveometers’ (moveable paddles screwed on a stick with a protractor) to place a little way into the sea, to measure the force of the waves (in degrees) when it splashed onto and out of the shore. We also built ‘inclinometers’ (instruments to measure incline or decline) and by taking a lot of data, managed to work out and plot the slope of the beach. We measured other variables, including wave height, the acidity of the water and the speed with which waves transported material with a variety of designed instruments. We kept variables controlled in both locations and took multiple readings for accurate results.

The mock coursework was submitted by the entire grade on Friday, 11 May, allowing teachers time to mark them according to the IGCSE standards and provide feedback for the final coursework that will take place in Grade 10 on Pulau Ubin. The mock coursework was a fantastic learning experience, teaching us far more than we could ever learn sitting in a class. We could all design our own instruments, take readings and analyse results for an area that we were all very close to and understood. We went as far as we could to get down our detailed ideas and theories, and in doing so, expanded our own skills in concise writing (we had a strict word limit!) and learning beyond the syllabus to satisfy our curiosity. The experience was enjoyable and has left all Grade 9 geographers longing for the final coursework.