What: With the support of the National Geographic Education Foundation Urban Initiatives Grant Program, and the Spencer Foundation Strategic Initiative on Civic Learning and Civic Action, Mapping Youth Journeys is a program centered on how interactive online mapping technologies can be used to support collaborative learning, and how kids’ mappings of their everyday geographies can be used to catalyze critical thinking and civic engagement.
Who: The program is targeted toward sixth to eighth graders, and it can be adjusted to fit a variety of time frames: 12 weeks of 1-hour sessions, 6 weeks of 2-hour sessions, etc.
Where: The pilot program was developed through collaboration with YMCA-linked after-school programs at Seattle middle schools, however, it is the ultimate goal of Mapping Youth Journeys to develop learning activities as part of a long-term nationwide program.
Why: This project responds to the need for research investigating several related developments in geography, education, and geospatial technologies. The rapid emergence of interactive online geovisualization technologies, such as Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, has been accompanied by a plethora of claims about the societal benefits of these new technologies. This project aims to fill the gap in current research investigating these claims as well as to develop a comprehensive curriculum in an effort to incorporate these new technologies into youth mapping initiatives across the United States.
How: This project will seek to realize the potential of interactive geovisualization in geography education by developing, evaluating, and disseminating a web-based platform enabling young people to carry out simple mapping functions, and to implement a cycle of three 10-week learning activities for middle school students. In these activities, students will learn to use the mapping platform, map and discuss everyday geographies encountered as they move through an ordinary day, and develop skills for communicating their place-based knowledge with civic actors, institutions, and youth in other places. Incorporating geographical technologies in a society where youth populations are more connected to technology than ever will bridge the gap between the educational goals of this initiative and the interests of the youth participants.
Please see a formal description of the project below:
Investigators: Dr. Sarah Elwood & Dr. Katharyne Mitchell
University of Washington, Department of Geography
With the support of the National Geographic Education Foundation Urban Initiatives Grant Program, and the Spencer Foundation Strategic Initiative on Civic Learning and Civic Action
Mapping Youth Journeys is a three-year action research initiative examining whether and how a participatory and reflective process of learning about place can enhance young people’s civic engagement. Does the experience, observation and representation of everyday places lead to critical social awareness and shared concerns? Can these, in turn, galvanize a commitment to civic action? If so, how? What role might new interactive web technologies play in promoting civic learning and action? Our project further explores the promise of new interactive mapping technologies to promote and enhance geography education, deepen children’s understanding of the geographies that comprise their everyday experiences, and bridge the so-called Digital Divide that often prevents low-income and minority youth from accessing geospatial data and technologies.
We will investigate these propositions through an inductive, qualitative, multi-scalar research project that uses the extended case method. We will create, pilot, and disseminate interactive mapping technologies and participatory, place-based learning activities through which young teens can map, discuss, and reflect upon their experiences as they journey through their neighborhood spaces in an ordinary day. We have created an open-source web mapping platform; and are piloting this platform and three multi-session modules of collaborative learning activities with after-school programs serving low-income teens in Seattle, as well as in regular school day curricula. In the second half of the project we will disseminate our mapping platform and learning activities to youth programs nationwide. All of these activities are designed to generate data (field notes, transcripts, youth-produced maps, adult educators’ feedback) informing our research questions.
Mapping Youth Journeys will generate data, analysis, and results that elucidate the potential connections between participatory forms of learning and stronger democratic awareness, and between place-based knowledge and greater civic agency. Drawing on Dewey’s goals of creating participatory democracy, our project links theory to praxis through collaboration between academic researchers, university students, community-based research participants, and youth. Our contribution is two-fold: the creation of important insights on participatory digital learning and its links to civic engagement, and the formation of a new cohort of active and committed young citizens. Further, as the project expands to after-school programs around the country, it will become a youth atlas made by and for teenagers, inspired to map and share the stories of their daily lives.