Children and young people can be amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our societies. However, they also make a huge – and frequently undervalued – contribution to those societies, whether in terms of their work, play or social action.
Geographers have for several decades been interested in how societies create spatial rules for children. In particular, the young are deemed ‘out of place’ in public places whereas societies create other institutions – like schools – where children are ‘in place’. Similarly, there has been significant attention to the geographical aspects of childhood experience – how children move around, understand and feel about their (local) environments. Often, both of these phenomena are cross-cut by other factors, such as gender, class, ethnicity and disability, and so children’s geographers have sought to understand the complex, dynamic and contingent ways in which children engage with places.
A key concern underpinning our research on children, young people and education has been with the development of innovative conceptual and methodological approaches. Geographers at Birmingham have been at the forefront of nonrepresentational, new materialist, posthuman and neuro-geographical theories of childhood and education. They have also developed creative, interdisciplinary and digital methods – from apps to arts-based interventions and from biological sampling to social media analyses – that have opened out new possibilities for exploring children’s voice, agency and participation about issues that matter to them.
Our work critically examines and impacts upon some of the most pressing questions facing today’s (and tomorrow’s) children. In the UK, India and Peru, we explore children and young people’s experiences of living in urban places, and especially new urban forms like masterplanned towns and Build-to-Rent housing. Our work in this area continues to impact local, national and international policies and practices for urban planning. In Brazil, our work evaluates the complex interconnections between food, water and energy in children’s everyday lives and in their environmental learning. In the UK and Italy, we have developed leading research about alternative, informal and outdoor forms of education, critically assessing the role of ‘natures’ at sites like Forest Schools. Again in the UK, we also consider the complex dynamics of children’s family and social lives – from the mobilities associated with living in separated families, to the emotions and aspirations of expectant fathers, to living with mental health issues.
Current and Recent Projects