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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG): the heart of geography
Who am I?
What is Britishness?
What do landscapes mean to me?
Am I a global citizen?
Come into my world part one
Come into my world part two

Who do we think we are? - What do landscapes mean to me?

Who do we think we are?

This lesson explores landscapes and how we feel about them.

Key questions

  • What meanings do rural and urban landscapes have for people?
  • What is your favourite landscape and why?
  • Do different people from different places identify with different landscapes?

This lesson investigates the association between people and landscapes, considering how people value landscapes and give them meaning. Identification with particular landscapes indicates a connection with the world around us. Landscapes make up part of our personal geography and, it can be argued, help us to understand our identity. In her article in Teaching Geography (January 2005) Vimmi Vatish comments that "Place is intimately entwined with identity..." and that the value we attribute to landscapes results from the connection and meaning they have for an individual. It has become recognised that "certain landscapes are associated with certain groups of people" and that "this contributes to national identity" (RGS Exploring the Archives learning resource), further reinforcing the argument that landscapes have meaning.

In her article Place: an exploration (Teaching Geography spring 2005), Liz Taylor cites Relph and his work on the meaning people find in places. Relph suggested that people make connections between the characteristics of the physical world and the activities that take place there, using this to construct a meaning or sense of place. Relph's sense of place can be used to refer to the connection that people may feel with a place, "a profound association with places as cornerstones of existence and individual identity".

Exploring landscape meaning and its association with identity can first be tackled through asking students to identify their favourite landscapes. Using their geographical imaginations and personal experiences, students are able to question what it is about their favourite landscapes that makes them special, and what particular meaning they have attributed to these landscapes. From here, investigations can begin into why different people identify with different landscapes.




How does geography influence our identity?

With your partner, discuss your favourite geographical landscape and what it means to you. Find some pictures online of these landscapes and use these to explain how you feel about them and why they are important to you.

Can you see differences within the class as to the landscapes that people have chosen? Why might these differences exist?



What do landscapes mean to me?

On the map your landscapes worksheet, map your meaningful landscapes. In other words, you should draw and annotate one of your favourite places - it can be natural or man-made - explaining what it means to you. You could choose your favourite beach, or even a city you enjoyed visited.

When we visit some places, they can have a big effect on us, and this is a very personal thing. But do you think that a landscape can make up part of your identity? This is something you could discuss with the people around you.



What do landscapes mean to other people?

Have a look at the photo sheet, which shows images of a range of different landscapes.

Can you suggest which sorts of people might identify with each of the landscapes shown? (Tips: you could think about people's age, gender, ethnicity, culture, hobbies, etc.) Do not forget to explain your answers.

  • What are the problems with completing this task?
  • Why might different landscapes mean different things to different people?

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