Young People's Geographies

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Why I Got Involved

Students and teachersWe asked two teachers to tell us about their involvement with Young People's Geographies, including reasons for taking part, any challenges they faced, and the impact it has had on their students.

Thanks to the Heads of Geography at Arnold Hill School and Bramcote Hills School for talking to us.

Why did you become involved?

A: There was quite a lot of disengagement from Year 9 and it seemed a good opportunity to be involved in a national project to see the sorts of things that other schools are doing and involve some of our students in the decision making process; and think about the teachers as well, how we could teach and deliver more relevant and interesting geography.

B: Even though we are taken very seriously in our school, I do sometimes think that geography gets fobbed off as the unfashionable poor relation. You hear it on the news all the time, there are initiatives trying to make geography better than it is, when actually I think itís splendid and students respond very positively to it. So it was nice to think, this is a project which will be taken seriously and could make considerable changes.

What do you currently understand Young Peopleís Geographies to mean?

A: I think it is using current, everyday things and seeing how they relate to geography and picking themes with the help of the students which are relevant to their lived experiences. And that doesnít mean they have to be living in a tsunami or a flood but itís the things they are experiencing on TV or even on computer games - I think there are parallels you can draw.

B: As far as the project is concerned I think itís an opportunity to give students a bit of a voice, to show us what they are interested in and to show how their focus has shifted and changed somewhat.

What have been, for you personally, the benefits of working with the academic geographers?

A: I wouldnít have thought about doing womenís space in community or looking at mobile technologies and how they are monitored and looking where parts of mobile phones come from. So I think in a way it has been quite refreshing as a teacher who is going to be planning the curriculum to see some of those ideas and think about how we could make them accessible to students from KS3 and upwards.

B: It has offered me quite a lot of reflection time, itís challenged me to not just have the National Curriculum as a document, to think this is the be all and end all of what geography should be. Itís allowed me to do something about things that I thought as a younger teacher were no longer appropriate or applicable to our students' lives, to look at them and think maybe there is no need to cover this in a great deal of depth because there are other areas that warrant more investigation.

And any challenges?

A: I think you do have to be realistic as well about the amount of time you can invest in a project and also the practicalities of perhaps putting all those types of activities or schemes into the school curriculum from the off.

Looking now at students' involvement, what do you feel your students gained from their involvement in the project?

A: I think they probably enjoyed coming out and being with other schools and being in an environment where they are perhaps allowed to be a bit more free and creative than they usually are within the general school environmentÖ But actually working with them and observing the other schools made it clearer to me that there are massive varieties in what actually interests young people.

What impact has YPG had on you and/or your department?

B: The students have produced a report and it was actually very productive, itís been passed onto the Head and is going to be moved onto the Governors at some point. So that in itself was very productive. It has encouraged me to improve some of our technology, so I have bought 15 digital cameras so the students can go out on paired exercised. I have also really started to see the benefits of students working with other students from different schools. Not just different kids that they are used to seeing around school but actually the whole new school environment.

What sort of factors influenced your choice of focus for the YPG teaching?

A: We felt that we wanted to do something which wasnít totally abstract, with it being our first project, the first SOW for the project and something that could give the opportunity for fieldwork even though it would be around school. But also to incorporate students' feelings about where they live and starting off with the local, because I think we actually do a lot of global geography, which I think is important, but also I think appreciating where you live and your own place is very important. And also for them to think about where they actually fit in school and their own responsibility towards the school environment.