Geography as a lever for social and political change? With its Making My Place in the World project the Geographical Association is not expecting to influence global change but is anticipating schoolchildren will see the bigger picture whilst investigating local issues.
An 18-month pilot, initially taking in two inner-city schools from Sheffield and Manchester, will boost the confidence of disengaged pupils as they discuss their localities with local planners, architects, politicians and policy-makers.
"Young people understand their own areas uniquely," says the Association's programme director, John Lyon. "They are very confident in their 'personal geographies' so it's a small step to encourage them to talk about these spaces and debate the issues with others."
Introducing young people to local decision-makers is nothing new but it hasn't been attempted in the context of geography before. "Pupils might not see this dialogue about the power and significance of space as geography but they will nevertheless be empowered by having their views heard."
Working with community geographers - someone who will broker the relationship between the schools and the decision-makers - the Key Stage 4 pupils might at first use techniques such as walking interviews and audio diaries to develop their speaking and listening skills.
Early fears that schools might be under too much pressure to commit to such a project have proved unfounded. "It's encouraging to find schools are still up for innovative and exciting projects despite demands on teachers and timetables," says John.
"We will support teachers and encourage them to take on our ethos of letting the young people be experimental in their approach. That's often a challenge for teachers locked in a target-driven system where learning can become heavily structured, restricting challenge and individuality."
Following the pilot, the Geographical Association hopes many participants will become advocates - young community geographers themselves - not only for their local areas but for the project itself, even participating in workshops at national conferences.
Lessons learnt will be highlighted on a project website and debated in academic and teacher-led journals. The nuts and bolts of the project will be available as an online professional development package so geography teachers - the Association has 6,000 members - can run it for themselves. Following workshops, student geography teachers will also take mini versions into their training placements, further disseminating the project which has the potential to involve hundreds of schools and communities.