We started working with pupils in September at the beginning of a unit called the Cultural Map, which is part of a module on Identity for their GCSE. The unit requires visual research, analysis and experimentation using a variety of media that culminates in a single cultural map. The basis of the unit is a pupil sketchbook.
We decided to use the Seeing More Things project to take a more innovative and experimental approach to the unit than is traditional. We were hoping to find some creative elbowroom in the curriculum, working with pupils to use photography as a tool for research, analysis, visual learning and representation. At the outset this felt exciting and full of possibilities. Prior to the start of the GSCE (and to the Seeing More Things project), students had been invited to choose a particular country as a focus for their projects. Their choices reflect the diversity of pupil backgrounds and experiences: Algeria, India, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Jamaica, Brazil, Spain, China, Spain, Portugal, Japan, Mexico, France, the US, Switzerland and Australia. This decision to fix on a country for their Cultural Map project was designed to help pupils focus and structure their work but has in practice it has become a limiting factor, as ‘country’ is a such a rigid interpretation of the idea of culture. As the weeks go on we realise that so much of the Unit has been mapped out in advance that there is little room for our photographic intervention.
Written by Liz Orton