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Children’s voices, school partnerships and geography. Fran Martin, University of Exeter GTE annual conference, Southport, Jan 30 th – Feb 1 st 2009. Mexico (1). Y1 and 2 class Studying Tocuaro, a village in Mexico Predominantly affluent, white, middle class school

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children s voices school partnerships and geography

Children’s voices, school partnerships and geography.

Fran Martin, University of Exeter

GTE annual conference, Southport, Jan 30th – Feb 1st 2009.

mexico 1
Mexico (1)
  • Y1 and 2 class
  • Studying Tocuaro, a village in Mexico
  • Predominantly affluent, white, middle class school
  • Pupils asked to do drawings, and had group and individual conversations with teacher
mexico 2
Mexico (2)
  • Pictures children drew included:
  • Drawings of the desert (clearly thinking back to what they had learnt about Egypt)
  • A wise man (from a pupil basing his ideas on his knowledge of the nativity)
  • Drawings of volcanoes and dinosaurs
mexico 3
Mexico (3)

T: Has anyone heard of Mexico?

  • It’s a place
  • It’s a place, a country
  • There’s all wooden houses and all forest and mountains and a river which goes through all rocks and goes down a river and then I think went to an old shop where its just no doors and its just, you just go in and just pay and just go to another shop and just go.
t has anyone got a picture in their head of what mexico is like
T: Has anyone got a picture in their head of what Mexico is like?

Mexico (3 cont…)

  • It’s got mountains
  • It’s got like skyscrapers
  • It’s for like flower necklaces
  • It’s very hot
scoffham primary geographer spring 2007
Scoffham (Primary Geographer Spring, 2007)
  • ‘Many of the pupils used ideas about the past to inform their images of modern Mexico. For example, there were references to cave life, dinosaurs and Egyptian style pyramids in both the drawing and the discussion’
  • ‘These historical references are likely to be reinforced if pupils learn about the bloody rituals and warfare associated with Aztec, Maya, and Tula civilisations’
kaptalamwa 1
Kaptalamwa (1)
  • Y1/2 class
  • Geography unit of 6 weeks
  • Kaptalamwa, a village in Kenya
  • UK school, rural village in West Midlands
  • Pupils asked to draw a picture of what they thought the village might be like
  • Pupils had a discussion with teacher
kaptalamwa 4
Kaptalamwa (4)

T: What do you think homes might be like in Kenya?

  • Tim: Mud houses, or caves with little doors on
  • Ben: Yes, mud and straw

T: What do you think the people might be like?

  • Tim: They don’t speak English, they speak African
  • Ben: They have brown, black skin
martin primary geographer spring 2005
Martin (Primary Geographer Spring 2005)
  • Developing a language for lack of certainty (maybe, might, could, possibly) is crucial to understanding that photographs do not tell us the whole story.
  • The knowledge in a photograph is subject to the purposes the photographer had for taking it, to the selection made by the teacher, as well as the ways in which it might be interpreted.
  • Developing a language of uncertainty is the first step in helping pupils to begin to recognise that ideas can change once new information comes along.
goa 1 within a school link context
Goa (1) Within a school link context
  • School link between primary schools in Northamptonshire and Goa
  • Curriculum activity at beginning of partnership
  • Y5 children in England asked what they thought their partner school locality might be like
  • Standard 6 children in India asked similar question
goa 2 english pupils perceptions of indian locality
Goa (2) English pupils’ perceptions of Indian locality
  • Stereotypical, traditional, rural Indian village straw and mud ‘huts’, people carrying baskets on their heads, wells
  • Complex flat roof houses, markets, palm trees, bicycles
  • The exotic domed buildings, snake charmers, in keeping with stories from Arabian Nights
  • Undifferentiated could have been of England
goa 3 indian pupils perceptions of english locality
Goa (3) Indian pupils’ perceptions of English locality
  • Snowy scenes rural & urban scenes dominated by snow
  • Skateboarding children skateboarding and roller-skating
  • Urban scenes cars, buses, traffic lights, shops, Houses of Parliament, Prime Ministers house, schools. BUT mostly depicted in the traditional Goan Portuguese architectural style
  • Rural scenes hills, rivers, flowers and trees
goa 4
Goa (4)

After 2 years of partnership activities: data from English pupils show …

  • Some stereotypical images remain
  • Majority depicted elements of the real locality, especially school environment
  • Widespread reference to modern technology
  • Wider range of buildings, people in Western and traditional clothes
  • Pictures more diverse and informed by knowledge
disney in catling martin 2004 p145
Disney (in Catling & Martin 2004, p145)

There is some indication … that the children’s estimation of the worth of their peers in the partner school is affected by the extent to which they possess modern consumer items. … Teachers may also latch onto this, as it is a much more comfortable image with which to work. … We cannot afford to dismantle some stereotypes and replace them with others.

the gambia 1 within a school link context
The Gambia (1)Within a school link context
  • School link between rural school in West Midlands and rural school in The Gambia
  • English pupils (Y1/2) images of life in The Gambia after school link established for a number of years
  • Tape-recorded conversation with teacher
the gambia 2
The Gambia (2)

T: What do you mean?

P: Because we’ve got

clothes and houses

P: Why are we so


P2: Gross things

like flies go on

their mouths

the gambia 3
The Gambia (3)

T: What about the children in The Gambia, what do you think the children are like?

  • Hmm. Well, not that happy because they don’t have many toys to play with so they have to make them
  • Operation Christmas!
  • Yes! We gave them toys. I sent a Noddy car
  • For Christmas, every single Christmas, we get boxes and put paper on it and then put toys in it and send to Gambia.
school context wood 2006
School context (Wood, 2006)
  • Prior to the activity days, much of the information that the children received came from the media and from the school link.
  • The maintenance of this link, however, appeared to be providing inaccurate information. Animals such as zebras, lions and elephants were displayed around school. None of these are native to The Gambia.
  • There was traditional craftwork scattered around the school. This was typically tourist souvenirs of crude workmanship.
  • Visitors to the school concentrated on ways that the school could ‘help’ people in The Gambia. All this appeared to lead to an environment where the children saw themselves in a position of superiority.
school context cont wood 2006
School context cont… (Wood, 2006)
  • The school link environment can be a major factor in influencing attitudes either way. Teachers need to be aware of the messages they are giving to children. Teaching about other cultures does not necessarily address negative attitudes.
  • The children recognised that charitable work had taken place in their school to raise funds for the school in The Gambia. This appeared to give them a sense that they were in a superior and privileged position to the children in The Gambian school. There was also a sense that the Gambian children’s needs were much more basic in comparison with their own.
influences on linking children s learning
Influences on linking & children’s learning
  • Teacher dispositions, knowledge & understanding
  • School context
  • Educational context
  • Political Context
  • Western cultural & historical contexts and conceptions of the ‘other’.
  • A focus on difference within as a starting point
  • Acknowledging that issues are complex
  • Pedagogy that is critical / questioning
  • Exploration of assumptions
  • Recognition that tacit categories of sameness and difference could be re-made differently
  • Access to a range of ‘voices’
geography teaching
Geography teaching
  • Teaching about distant place - when (year group, time of year, in-depth study, long unit)
  • Recognition of children’s voices – both in North and South
  • Selection of resources – how to gain access to a range of voices, recognition of the impact of our own ‘baggage’ on our choices (what is ‘authentic’?)
  • Teaching about otherness - difference within/difference without
  • Recognition of dynamic nature of places, societies, cultures and the relationships between them (frozen narratives)
  • Partnership activities and learning in geography - compatible aims or not?
further reading
Further reading
  • Burbules, T (1997), ‘A Grammar of Difference: Some Ways of Rethinking Difference and Diversity as Educational Topics’. Australian Educational Researcher, 24(10) 97-116.
  • GA (2007) Primary Geographer: Focus on School Partnerships and Global Dimension Geographical Association.
  • Leonard, A (2008) ‘Global school relationships: school linking and modern challenges’ in Bourn, (ed) Development Education: Debates and dialogues. London: Institute of Education
  • Martin, F (2008) Mutual Learning: the impact of a study visit course on UK teachers’ knowledge and understanding of global Partnerships Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices Vol 2:1 60-75
  • Wood, S (2006) Learning from Linking’ in Tide~ Talk