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Fieldwork sessions at Wythenshawe

Two one hour trips were organised by the geography department at Wythenshawe on successive weeks. The students were asked to think about several possible routes from the school with a brief to show and explain their local area in a one hour lesson.

On the first day the students followed a walk designed by the teacher to show different areas. They took videos and stills in addition to using prompt cards to think about place. The students still found it difficult to describe what to them is ‘just houses’ and they struggled to get an idea of quite what we wanted. They carried out the tasks with enthusiasm but weren’t clear of the learning.

However, on the second trip when the students designed their own route through the local area, they showed a better understanding of the purpose of the activity.

During the walk they were asked to direct the community geographer to take a photograph of something that really interested them. We passed nature areas, nursing homes, schools, parks, a variety of housing types, the police station, crossed over the motorway and arrived at the Forum and then the Civic – this is Wythenshawe’s shopping centre and something the students were proud to show off.

The community geographers were informed about the variety of shops including travel agents and card shops. We were told that everyone in Wythenshawe would visit the Civic.

Who manages and controls places?

During our visit we were stopped from taking photographs by security guards. On the journey back to school the students were very vocal about this. Although they didn’t like the idea of CCTV in the shopping centre, all the students we spoke to were in favour of CCTV at school.

Following this the students invited the shopping centre manager into school. He was extremely helpful, recording a podcast and video that we were able to play prior to his visit, where he gave a short presentation and made himself available for a ‘hot seat’ interview.

The students were able to explore the reasons behind the centre’s use of CCTV as well as the nature of shop locations and other issues. Listening to his views on the area was surprising to a number of the students as he explained how much he enjoyed it and found the people both warm and welcoming.

As a result of this and other earlier discussions, we went on to explore ideas around perception of place. One student noted that the most important thing he had learnt was that ‘you don’t know a place properly until you have listened to other people talking about it’.

The meeting with the centre manager gave the students a focus for further study. They started to question the ownership of land (public/private) and who controls and manages it. This led to a further discussion on why shops are watched, what the problems are with taking photos and plans for the future regeneration of the Civic.

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