Daniel Raven Ellison - Extra Bits
‘Adults might not think these subjects are really geography but I think, in what way aren’t they geography?’ says guerrilla geographer and alternative educator Daniel Raven-Ellison.
‘”Where do you sit on a first date to the cinema and how do you arrange yourself when you get there?” is a great question for older children,’ says Raven-Ellison. ‘It’s something they’ll definitely be interested in from the age of about twelve onwards and it raises all sorts of questions that are very geographical in nature.
'I asked some children in Hawaii where they would sit and they said in the middle. I asked them why they wouldn’t sit at the back and they told me it was because it was dirty. They didn’t mean it was actually physically unclean, they meant it was dirty because it was where people went to kiss. And that’s fascinating because dirty as a concept is just something that is out of place. Soil in the ground is soil, soil on your knee is dirt, and therefore doing something socially out of place is seen as dirty.
‘But you can also use the question as an introduction to global issues through the use of key geographical concepts. In terms of a visit to the cinema, I’d immediately start thinking about occupation of space, boundaries and borders, proximity and distance. And this question could easily be scaled up over time to look at international borders, and how conflict can break out when someone encroaches on someone else’s space.
‘Another great geography subject for children of primary or secondary school age is lost pets. Lost cat signs are seen in many children’s communities and they immediately present a question: where’s it gone? And to work out the answer requires geography. Has it been “catknapped”? Is it high on catnip somewhere? Is it giving birth in someone’s shed? Has it been run over? Or has it just run off because it’s a bit bored of you and you’re not feeding it properly. There’s a geography to where each of these things could take place and an intense amount of scientific and mathematic enquiry is needed to work out the radius a cat could have become acquainted with during its lifetime.
ORGANISING A RAVE
'Another geography subject that’s of interest to young people is festivals. For starters, you can’t have a rave in the middle of the British countryside without doing some really aweseome mapping because you’ll need to work out all sorts of things including how you’re going to get the food in, whether the site will flood, and how you will get the artists to and from the stage areas. And, then, perhaps even more fascinating, how will you create an amazing experience for people, whether in the field or in their tents? What lighting will you need? What will you do about sound? Sound can be picked up by air currents and dumped somewhere else, as happened a few years ago and led to a festival nearly losing their licence. These are climatic processes. And very much geography, as are all the other questions. But they’re so much more interesting for children than counting how many banks are in a town, like many parents had to do when they were at school.'
See the Royal Geographical Society’s ideas for geography lessons based around festivals
And find out more about Daniel Raven-Ellison and International Guerilla Geography Day (7 November) on The Geography Collective’s website