The Launch: The benefits of muddy spaces (Nov 05.08)
From Case Studies Wiki
The post is just replicated here to catch all the words for archive purposes, to read the post in its original form and see the links, photos, videos etc., go here: http://good.group.shef.ac.uk/blog/?p=385
Today Clare Rishbeth (CILASS Academic Fellow and Lecturer in Landscape) posts about thoughts stimulated (?) by the teachingcommons Launch theme “valuable spaces and connections”.
Valuable spaces for teaching and learning include places that are muddy, places where the wind whips up your hand-outs and a nearby digger drowns out your discussion.
I’m a lecturer in the Department of Landscape, and teaching ‘Landscape Architects to be’ involves getting out and about and exploring places. Though most of the time you’ll find us in the studio, many modules are based on designing real sites around Sheffield, so we’re either looking at places with a view to how they might change; or as exemplars, how we might learn from them.
For the last two years, I’ve used as a case study Bingham Park, the wooded steep slopes of which reach down to the Porter Brook near Endcliffe Park. The visit is a component of a one week intensive study on topography in the first year of our Masters in Landscape Architecture. The students first have two studio based sessions on calculating gradients, interpolating contours from spot heights, and the basics of grading land, and it’s useful for them to see what all this looks like ‘in the real’. But with over 60 students it’s not possible for a meaningful tour with a lecturer pointing out important features, both acoustically, visually and in terms of scope for learning. The danger with large groups on site, or any groups on site, that there’s so many distractions it’s easy for eyes, ears and thoughts to wander. So instead I devised a ‘self-guided field trip’ around Bingham Park, which the students would complete in groups of five (of their own choosing). The booklet, combined with maps (printed from Digimap), guided them round a route, posing a range of questions for discussion and activities to complete. The question scope includes identifying grading techniques on a golf bunker, comparing and guesstimating gradients on different paths, and looking at the integration of woodland, topography and paths. Students compare how the site has changed over the years by looking at historic maps on site, and fill in indicative contours and tree cover for the area, and nominate ‘star trees’. Each group was designated one specific area where they had to make a combination of drawings on blank postcards to communicate the landscape character. Tutors flit around, engaging with groups with the questions, encouraging stragglers, and looking at the site together.
The exercise has been fantastic in focusing engagement on site, and the buzz of discussion in small groups spread through the woodland indicates the way that students thrive on being able to do something out of the ordinary, and to connect their paper learning with real life examples. In being out and about, I hope they increase their knowledge across different sectors of our curriculum… how people are using the park, tree identification, drawing skills, industrial history. I hope they go back in different seasons. And that these kind of days set them up for a lifetime of asking questions of places.
Though last Thursday, as luck would have it, intermittent rain and an increasingly cold wind prompted some different learning outcomes: the importance of wearing a hat, and the location of the nearest bus stop home. Informal learning includes the unexpected.
Clare Rishbeth, Landscape