May 132012

The title of a short presentation for Teachmeet Clevedon featuring students looking creatively at their local area, finding creative, playful and occasionally subversive responses to their surroundings. Witness the extremely incompetent presentation here, thanks to organizer Mark Anderson.

Turning Space into Place

Links to the first and second videos that are not embedded in the presentation.
Unfortunately I ran out of time during the Teachmeet to discuss Mission Explore in the depth that I wanted. Year 7 have been extremely receptive to the initiative and 60 students are members of our group Court Fields Guerrillas. I shall be devising some homework activities for the group to complete over the next few weeks and I look forward to seeing Guerrilla Geography occupying a place in our new KS3 curriculum.
Dec 162010

The concept of History Pin from We Are What We Do and Google is beautifully simple. Young people spend time talking with people of an older generation about their old photographs and associated memories. The photos and stories are uploaded to the History Pin website, where they can be viewed through Google Maps and Street View. A little piece of history is created.

Here’s a short video explaining more:

It took a little while, but we finally persuaded some wonderful older people to visit a small group of Year 8 & 9  in our Student Support Centre. Over the course of two sessions, the students found themselves asking dozens of questions; in fact the original purpose of discussing photographs was quite subverted by the quality of the dialogue itself. In the end we only got to add one photo to the History Pin data base, but we’ll certainly run future sessions and try and expand the project further. History Pin is my discovery of the year!

Feb 182010

Developing brownfield sites is generally held to be a “good” thing (at least GCSE students are programmed to think so), however at times it’s worth considering that buildings such as power stations represent a substantial part of our industrial heritage. Hams Hall was a series of three coal-fired power stations at Lea Marston in Warwickshire, constructed between 1928 and 1968. Demolition of the last of the stations took place under cover of darkness in 1993

Hams Hall power station

photo Wikipedia transferred from Geograph. Copyright Tim Marshall

The only building that survives is the control room of Hams Hall substation. The exterior is vaguely reminiscent of a mosque, though guarded with razor wire and liberal coatings of anti-climb paint. Indeed on my first visit, late on a stormy November night, the place was less than welcoming, and I failed to get inside.

Hams Hall substation

Thanks to information from some helpful locals, I was able to return for a closer look. I knew what to expect; a circular control room with an extraordinary glass “flower” roof.

Hams Hall control room

I planned to make a 360 degree image to show the room properly. The floor is covered in glass and it’s extremely dark inside, meaning that the exposures had to be lit with a torch. Here’s the finished panorama on 360 Cities:

Hams Hall substation control room in England

I’ve published the image as a full screen, high quality panorama on a personal page as well, since 360 Cities is getting a little cluttered . Click the image below:

Hams Hall control room

Decrepit old buildings can hide all kinds of fascinating secrets. I don’t believe this building is protected in any way, although it is very well sealed up. Maybe it should be listed? Either way, it’s an important part of the local built environment, and a pretty special place. Perhaps we should get students to think more critically about the value of certain brownfield sites? The substation would make a really great local studies classroom, or some other kind of publicly-accessible building, where the unique roof and control panels could be protected from further damage.

Jan 172010

Since August, I’ve pushed blogging and other forms of time-wasting activities firmly to one side and dedicated myself to a series of adventures in hidden places. Every weekend has been a new experience, learning new skills and going deeper and further into the hidden parts of the built environment that surrounds us. It’s a simple, yet hugely fulfilling activity, filled with remarkable characters and stories, risks and rewards. This Flickr River stream randomly serves up a taster of some of the places I’ve been:

psychogeographer - View my 'psycho-geographical investigations: a taster' set on Flickriver

The hobby has benefited both History and Geography lessons. This weekend we visited a hidden deep shelter, built to house 2,500 people during WW2. It was a surreal time walk:

1939 returning

I made this video for a local teacher (I had the song going around my head while exploring the shelter) Others might also find it useful:

Jul 042009

Fox's Factory Wellington (26)

My Year 8 project Wellington Stories aims to create a series of geo-located, short stories, poems and videos; and is reaching maturity. The students have created a really interesting series of short pieces that explore their relationship with place. These have all been mapped and the real-world locations tagged with QR codes. The final stage of the project is to publish a photographic record of the QR codes, and to contact the local press with details of the project. Thanks to all those who’ve commented on the work so far.

For those who haven’t seen “Wellington Stories” yet – here’s a short sample:

GC’s poem: Upon Cloud 9
KC’s video poem: The Wellesley Cinema
JV’s story: My story of Woolworth’s
GA’s movie: Wellington Youth Centre
EB’s story and videos: Bike Jumping

google link Download all the stories as a Google Earth file

Related posts here and here.

May 162009

The personal geographies project outlined in part 1 of this post has now been published.

Setting up the website:
While the students have been busy creating their stories, I’ve been experimenting with the best way of publishing their work, given the constraints of a filtered network and the e-safety imperative. Originally the plan was to publish the stories on Posterous as this site isn’t filtered (yet) and it offers the advantage of overwhelming simplicity. However it didn’t seem to work well in school (an IE6 issue?) and it doesn’t support the embedding of Google Maps. I was also attracted towards Google Sites because many of the students have Google accounts, and it would have been easy for them to contribute and edit their work and manage photos and video from within the Google network. I wanted members of the public to be able to comment on the students work, but niether Posterous nor Google Sites feature comment moderation, so I looked elsewhere for a solution. I’ve settled on a blog – with just one post on the home page and the rest of the content published as pages. It’s not ideal – for example there’s no point in subscribing to the RSS feed, but it’s easy to manage comments and embedded content, and hopefully I’ll be able to give some of the students authoring rights. The project site is located at Wellington Stories.

The stories:
The students are busy creating their stories and many have opted to use photos and video. In order to sustain momentum, I got them to produce a short placeholder story for their individual page. Each story gets it’s own page on the blog, a unique QR code, and a placemark on a Google My Map.

View Wellington Stories in a larger map

I was delighted with the placeholder stories which are short, funny and completely immersed in local place. Try a sample – the poignant My Story of Woolworths, and a response to antisocial behaviour: A tree caught on fire are good introductions.

Next steps:
During the course of next week students will start tagging the physical locations of the stories with QR codes and we’ll start a photographic record of the project. We’ll also start uploading some of the more detailed multimedia work and the local paper will be contacted in order to encourage people to download a QR code reader.

Please visit Wellington Stories and drop the students a comment or two!