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Where Will I Live? Place Studies

This section explores the innovative approaches that the Where Will I Live teachers took when exploring place. More about how the concept of place was explored through the project can be found in the Key Concepts section. Here we share the place studies themselves.

The project was troubled by the perception that some geography teaching rests on a simplified representation of place. This can be unhelpful in preparing young people for a changing and complicated world. An over-descriptive approach to geography can reduce learning to a culture of answers, that is a series of givens.

The project was eager to promote a more creative critical approach to geographical enquiry and thinking, utilising a more open ended questioning approach to explore geographical information and circumstance.

This section is therefore flexible – it highlights many of the resources that were used by the project teachers. You will find links to the appropriate schemes of work and original materials used, as well as the photos commissioned of each area, taken by Jason Orton.

 

Using the resources

You may wish to use a selection of these resources:

  • To create your own place study of East Lancashire or South Cambridgeshire
  • As a stimulus to create your own set of resources for your place
  • As a contrasting place study

The focus on place throughout the project was essential. It helps to empower young people to make rational informed place based decisions, not only about where to live but about the different ways in which they can participate in helping to shape that place.

Before you either use a selection of these materials, or start to create your own place study, we would like to share with you our approach to place studies. We felt that this underpinned a great deal of the success of our work.

 

Approach

The Where Will I Live project teachers’ thinking was consistent with that explored by Brooks and Morgan in their Theory into Practice book, ‘Cases and Places‘.

“Most people would agree that the study of geography has, at its core, the understanding of place. Recently enjoying an upsurge in popularity in academic geography, place is often a relatively uncontentious part of school geography, with textbooks and schemes of work generally referring to it in one of two ways: as a general ‘country study’ taking a rather touristic perspective of a far away place; or as a ‘case-study’ that examines one aspect of a place in detail. Both of these strategies fulfil particular functions and can be very effective learning tools. However what they do not achieve is a deep, holistic appreciation of place as it is currently understood in geographical thinking.”

Brooks and Morgan, 2006

Through the project we emphasised the following:

  • Places, their locations and juxtapositions matter, not just as spatial outcomes of interconnected systems, but as spaces that create or deny access to various parts of society.
  • Places should not be seen as isolated entities, but as interconnected with others.
  • The organisation and layout of a place is as a consequence of decisions made by people in power relationships. These need to be made transparent.
  • The enquiry process needs to include, release and challenge, inform and develop young people’s own geographical imaginations.
  • Place studies involve exploring the question, ‘Why is it like that there?’, rather than the less demanding, ‘What is where?’ or ‘What is it like there?’
  • Students were often motivated to find out more about a place that was initially familiar to them. Often through geographical enquiry they found that their geographical imagination (mental map) was limited and had been previously informed by a range of media that rarely included geographically accurate information.
  • The local place was used as a stimulus for further enquiry. No Scheme of work only considered one place at one scale. The use of several places was essential to building up students’ geographical understanding.
  • Looking at several places at a variety of scales also proved to be essential to this project. Redevelopment issues were better understood when considered both at a local, regional, national and even international scale.
  • Several perspectives about the same place were shared, never just one. What is the impact of this housing development on the old, the young, people who consider themselves to be ‘locals’, decision makers etc?
  • Place is not simply the background context within which things happen. How the place is determines in part the decisions to be made, and therefore needs careful investigation to develop meaningful student understanding.

More about this approach can be found in the Project Booklet particularly the sections on ‘Real and relevant places’ and ‘Perceptions of place’.

To locate these places with your students, which is of course essential, can we suggest that you use an internet based facility such as Google Earth, which is particularly useful for exploring the concepts of scale and interconnectedness.

Resource Links

East Lancashire

South Cambridgeshire

All photographs © Jason Orton. You may use the images freely in the classroom but you must not distribute them outside of your school. If you wish to publish any photograph from this page, please contact us first.

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