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Park Hall Country Park, Stoke-on-Trent

Project Introduction
© GeoconservationUK ESO-S Project, 2018

It is anticipated that the ideas and materials presented here will be adapted by schools, and others, to be more appropriate for their own purposes and programmes of study.

In such circumstances please acknowledge the source as the Earth Science On-Site project.


Regionally Important Geological and geomorphological Sites [RIGS]

In the United Kingdom, important geological and geomorphological sites are protected in several ways. Nationally important ones are protected in law as Sites of Special Scientific Interest [SSSIs]. Several of these have been designated National or Local Nature Reserves. Non-statutory sites have less protection and are called Local Sites. These include Regionally Important Geological/ geomorphological Sites [RIGS], as well as Wildlife Sites, and are protected through the local authority planning process.

RIGS were established in 1990 as part of a national review of all sites. The four nationally agreed criteria for their selection are: Educational value, Scientific study, Historical value and Aesthetic value.

More than a thousand sites have been designated throughout the UK, mostly for their educational value. Two of the aims of GeoConservationUK are to increase public awareness of geoconservation and geodiversity, and encourage the educational use of sites by teachers and others.

The UKRIGS Education Project - Earth Science On-Site

The UKRIGS Education Project [Earth Science On-Site] uses former aggregates sites to develop and publish examples of high quality Earth Science field teaching activities for schools. They have been produced in collaboration with partners in the Earth Science Teachers Association [ESTA], the Earth Science Education Unit [ESEU] and the National Stone Centre [NSC]. The materials have been devised to address the requirements of the National Curriculum at Key Stage 2 [7-11 yrs], KS 3 [11-14 yrs] and KS 4 [14-16 yrs - GCSE]. These are intended as exemplars and may be adapted by teachers for use at other sites.

The Project is funded by DEFRA’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, administered by Natural England (formerly English Nature).

The pilot project ran from August 2004 to March 2005 and four sites were chosen:

The major grant ran from May 2005 to March 2007 and a further eight sites were completed:

The continuing grant from July 2007 to March 2008 and enabled us to run several teacher-workshops and to work on three further sites:

As part of the Black Country Geodiversity Action Plan we were able to produce field teaching materials for:

The selected sites are designated RIGS or SSSI sites, mostly have open access or are owned by public bodies.

It is hoped that Earth Science On-Site will be extended with further funding.

Purposes of the Project

The purposes of the project are:

  • to encourage non-specialist science teachers to undertake Earth Science fieldwork with pupils from primary to GCSE level;
  • to demonstrate the educational value of RIGS and SSSI sites to local planning and education authorities, to the aggregates industry and to the wider public community;
  • to foster the wider use of RIGS and SSSI sites by providing teaching materials as exemplars that may be adapted for use at similar sites elsewhere;
  • to provide links between these field teaching activities and the classroom or laboratory practical activities produced by the Earth Science Teachers Association, the Earth Science Education Unit and other partners, hosted on the Joint Earth Science Education Initiative web-site.

The Earth Science On-Site Guides

The guides to the sites will include the following information to assist group leaders and teachers when planning field activities:

  1. details of location, access and initial risk assessments
  2. background information relating to the site and its geological (Earth science) and geomorphological (landscape) interest
  3. materials to support field activities, their preparation and follow-up primarily by teachers and their pupils. These are informed by the National Curriculum at Key stages 2, 3 or 4, and the requirements of the syllabuses of the various GCSE examination boards. Although use is made of specific terms, they are written for appreciation by a wider, less technical, audience

The guides have been written on the assumption that Earth-Science On-Site visits by Key Stage 2 pupils in year 3; Key Stage 3 pupils in year 8; and Key Stage 4 visits will take place in year 11. However, it is anticipated that teachers, and others, will freely adapt the materials here to their own context and their own programmes of study as they see fit, and in the light of their own experiences.


This project has been supported by: DEFRA’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, administered by Natural England (formerly English Nature); Earth Science Teachers Association, Earth Science Education Unit, the National Stone Centre, the team of ESTA writers, members of RIGS Groups and the schools which trialled the materials.


For further information about UKRIGS and the Earth Science On-Site project, contact: GeoConservationUK or

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