I have always found exploring the concept of a sense of place difficult. The National Curriculum demands that young people use their geographical imaginations and build upon their own personal experiences. In addition, this lesson equipped the young people with a strong vocabulary to use when describing places so there are links to literacy. I should add, that this is a parallel group to the one talked about in the Our Place series of posts.
The lesson has been inspired by Noel Jenkins’ Flickr photostream.
We started by watching a slideshow of this set. Pupils wrote down adjectives. I was stunned by the response, for example: ‘dank, dark, dusty, musty, drips, water.’ The images were also excellent for spotting evidence from photographs- an important geographical skills. Most of the class thought that this was a place for children and had been bombed. Not bad when the only information they had to go on was the images. The collection of adjectives was important in order to support the later activities.
We moved on to talking about the senses. We used some other photographs from the collection and explored what we would smell, taste, hear, feel and see. The class used the adjectives collected during the first activity. We also discussed the fact that when we talk about places, we often speak from personal experiences, memories and stereotypes. I gave some examples from my own childhood that had framed my view of places, for example, as I grew in in an industrial rural area, I have always felt slightly threatened in large urban areas and get itchy feet when I can’t get to the great outdoors.
Next up was the crucial learning point: what makes a sense of place? I used the concept of a geographical back pack and explained that all of our experiences are collected there and used to judge the places in which we live, explore and visit. The class then wrote on Post-It notes about Portsmouth. Again, the adjectives used at the start of the lesson encouraged some deeper thought. This is what the class cam up with:This image summed up that classes’ sense of place. The reinforce the role of imaginations and feelings I asked the class to think of a secret place. This had to be somewhere real that they had no access to. Places ranged from the school basement to the crown of the Statue of Liberty. Following this, and some silent thinking time, the class wrote a paragraph about exploring their secret place. The image was used to start the following lesson.
In the spirit of assessment for learning, I tweeted some extracts as the class went along. Here are some examples:
As this was a low ability Year 7, the results were very pleasing. The class had used adjectives well to describe a sense of place, used and developed their geographical imaginations of real places and explored thoughts and feelings. In the following lesson, where we focused on Portsmouth, this work was used again to support the land-use related learning objectives.
Overall, I felt that the class had a better understanding of the concept of Place by using this lesson.