Mapping at Swalwell Primary School

Last week (Thursday 30th June) we had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with Year 6 at Swalwell Primary School. A big thank you to the class and Mrs McCall for hosting us.

Year six is the youngest group we have worked with and we were a little apprehensive they’d understand our ideas. But once we got started the pupils were as enthusiastic as any we’ve mapped with, and they thoroughly enjoyed becoming cartographers.

We started by asking the children to draw their own worlds. Plain sheets of A3 were distributed along with pens and pencils. The thinking began and tentatively they started to map their lives. Once we gave out gold Sharpies, however, things became more exuberant (we hope it is the allure of the brand, rather than the smell).

As you can see below the range of worlds mapped was huge. Online and offline merger, fantasy lands came to life, houses were redesigned, and local streets were given a fresh look. Some of the maps were unfinished, but as we explained to the class, no map is ever complete.

After a short break, we asked the children to form pairs and gave them maps of the local area. We described the power cartographers have to erase mountain ranges and entire continents, and to make small things appear more significant. Then we gave each group two pens: one light pen to highlight the areas they would show to visitors, one dark to erase entirely places they didn’t like. The power immediately went to the children’s heads as rival schools were eradicated, the golf course destroyed and industrial estates deleted. At the same time nature was protected, the Metro Centre’s already dominant position by the river was accentuated and it quickly became clear how special Swalwell Primary School was to them (they only have two weeks left before heading to secondary schools).

The final  the class undertook was to jointly map out their futures. The aspiration and variety was really encouraging as universities were drawn, future jobs planned out, Olympic ambitions revealed and Youtube kingdoms developed.

We had a great time with this year group and we’re delighted Mrs McCall has invited us back.


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