Doing Geography: Expanding Students’ Spatial Narratives through Inquiry and Citizen Mapping

Authors: Beth Schlemper*, University of Toledo, Victoria C. Stewart, University of Toledo, Sujata Shetty, University of Toledo, Kevin P. Czajkowski, University of Toledo
Topics: Geography Education, Qualitative Methods, Urban Geography
Keywords: Urban education, spatial narratives, critical geography, citizen mapping, participatory approach
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Napoleon A1, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Preparing students to become active, participatory citizens is more than promoting personal responsibility; it requires actively engaging with others in order to improve one’s community. This paper describes research with underserved, urban students, engaging them in fieldwork, using geospatial technologies and secondary sources, to support their understanding of and enhance their spatial narratives of the neighborhood around their high school. A critical geography approach integrates students’ spatial narratives and prior knowledge into the learning process to promote critical thinking and give the students a voice. Student groups worked together to identify and investigate topics of their choosing, producing and presenting citizen maps to convey their findings and recommendations to community stakeholders. Student-suggested inquiry topics highlighted both community assets and challenges, such as crime, housing, parks and community gardens, and youth employment. Our methods for collecting data were primarily qualitative, including pre- and post-sketch maps with related open-ended questions about neighborhood boundaries and characteristics, a retrospective transformative experience questionnaire, daily exit slips, interviews, and observations. Analysis of this data revealed an increased understanding by the students of their neighborhood, and an appreciation for the use of spatial thinking and technologies in addressing issues that they care about as citizens.

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