Children’s geographies: “which island are you from?”

October 29, 2012

world view of Pacific child

8 year old son’s visual depiction of the world view of his 5 year old brother

How do children perceive their place in the geography of the globe? Probably my earliest memory of some place outside my immediate region is of a place called Arabia that I imagined as an “island” somewhere “down there”. I can still see it like that in my head. I think it must have come from adults around me – in Switzerland – talking about the 1974 oil crisis and my misinterpreting the French word for peninsula, presqu’île (literally ‘almost-island’). Later I learned that geographers and psychologists have made considerable advances in studying the differentiated perspectives and experiences of place by children, Cindi Katz being the name I know the best. But my eight-year old son has been at it too: here is his spontaneous analysis of the “world view” of his 5 year old brother, showing places made familiar through family links. Towns, cities, and continents are all separate islands. Living in the Pacific has clearly influenced the little one’s insular world view, with him asking fantastic questions like “which island is Paris?”…