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Fieldwork: Sensory mapping of place


Sensory mapping using a range of emotions to allow a sense of place to be discovered at different locations.

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Length of time

5-15 minutes but can be repeated at several places to allow for comparisons to be made.


Suitable locations

Anywhere to allow a sense of place to be discovered, this can be rural, urban along continuum, along a transect or at selected locations.


Description of the activity

Students work in pairs or threes. One is the ‘sensor’, another the recorder, a third can be health
and safety/timekeeper. Students can swap roles if multiple sites/techniques are used.

Sites can be selected using:

  • systematic (every X meters/paces/strava measure)
  • stratified (based on category e.g. busy road junction/market square/park/suburban terrace
  • random, using a random number generator and map of place with a grid from 0-9 (across and
    top to bottom) to select coordinates for locations.
At each site:

Timekeeper sets the timer for X seconds 15-30 depending on age and attention span of group. Selects a safe spot away from danger where the group can be for a minute or two. Sensor asks each person to note down the following:

  1. What they can hear (best done with eyes closed)
  2. What they can smell
  3. How they feel (using a psychology feelings wheel to assist)

Recorder notes down what the sensor is saying for this location.

Students can swap roles at each site, giving 3 sets of data to combine and increase validity.

Word clouds are very popular for this activity, using a larger font for the more common words
used at each site. Hand drawing these is popular or online websites like Word Art and Word
Cloud UK (free to use at the time of writing) are fairly simple and intuitive to use, students enjoy
the freedom to select shapes, colours, weightings.

Post data presentation analysis can include a tally/observation, interpretation/comparison.
A follow up study investigating perceptions of place based on people’s characteristics, e.g. age.
(e.g., Repeat with people from different age groups) also a nice homework task.


Useful websites

Childhood101 – More information about emotion wheels and a template.
Shape – More ideas on what you might want to include in your own emotions wheel.


This sensory mapping idea is credited to CPD from 2017 with Cardiff University.

This collection of Fieldwork activities were created by Paula Richardson and the Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning Special Interest Group (FOLSIG) for the National Festival of Fieldwork, the GA invites everyone to take part during the summer term.

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