Thursday, May 5, 2011

Watch this space: Part 2

Images above: Wordles on a written defintion of the concept of space(left)and one on the geography rationale from the January 2011 ACARA Geography Shape paper(right)

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project
Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
Email contact

Where am I??
Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

Curriculum space?

After struggling in the previous posting to come up with a concise and agreed definition of space, this posting will look at curriculums around the world to see if we can create a clear and useable definition of what geographical space is.

“…geography defines social space and territory, given its concern with boundaries (national and physical), zones of activity and notions of regionality: these are inevitably part of the process of identifying people with places, in terms of the identity and nature of a nation.”

“First, there are the visible landscapes and different ideas of territorial shape that allow us to make sense of space. Second, there is the knowledge gained through mobility and movement. Third, there is the knowledge gained through various representations. Together, these shape our understanding of space. These spatial imaginaries are not fixed – they change over time, and though they may be individually held, are often shared by large numbers of people, not least because they are shaped by institutions such as the media and education.”(Ross 2000)

The Irish National Curriculum attempts to provide clarification of the term by stating:

Through completing the strand units of the geography curriculum the child should be enabled to
A sense of space
• acquire an understanding of the relative location and size of major natural and human features, the major features of the locality and county, some of the major features of Ireland and county, provincial and other boundaries in Ireland
* begin to develop an understanding of the names and relative location of some natural and human features of Europe and the world, a small number of major natural features, some countries, capitals, major cities and continental boundaries
• estimate and measure distances and establish cardinal directions during exploration of the locality
• develop some awareness of directions in wider environments
• use and record directions and routes on maps.

In the UK the National Curriculum for geography space is described as:

• Understanding the interactions between places and the networks created by flows of information, people and goods.
• Knowing where places and landscapes are located, why they are there, the patterns and distributions they create, how and why these are changing and the implications for people.

In the US there seems to be less agreement at a national level of what space is to the Geography educator but one attempt reads as follows:

In a geographic context, "space" is defined as a portion of Earth's surface. Location, place, area, region, territory, distribution, and pattern are all closely related spatial concepts.

The January 2011 ACARA Australian Curriculum Geography Shape Paper offers this description of space to the general discussion:

“Geography teaches students how spaces are organised and designed, and the
consequences of this for different groups of people. It explores the spatial distribution of phenomena.”

Geographers using the perspective of space “to study how the individual characteristics of places—such as climate, vegetation, economic activity or population vary across the surface of the earth.”

“The geographical knowledge and understanding related to space were identified as
• Observing how features are arranged in space
• Explaining why things are located where they are
• Investigating how places are connected to each other.”

Interestingly all geography curriculum around the world talk eloquently and frequently about space as a key concept but only a few actually define it in their curriculum documents. For example, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong and the US did not state what this space thing is! These documents presume that the teachers reading the curriculum know what space is. Is this a reflection of geographers and curriculum writers treating “space somewhat as we treat sex. It is there but we don’t talk about it.”

This blog discussion and my discussions developing the Australian Curriculum for geography makes it very clear that even us geographers struggle to coherently, succinctly and accurately describe what space actually is (let alone how it differs from place). In the next posting I will have a go at creating a definition of space and develop elaborations which will support the area of spatial thinking.

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