Young People, Place and Identity

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1. Introduction

How do their identities influence these contexts?


The textbook is one of the first books to map out the scales, themes and sites engaged with by young people on a daily basis as they construct their multiple identities. Each chapter explores how social identities such as race, gender, sexuality, class, disability and religion are constructed within particular contexts and influenced by multiple processes of inclusion and exclusion. Drawing upon research from a range of contexts, including Europe, North America and Australasia, this book demonstrates the complex ways in which young people creatively shape, contest and resist their engagements with different places and identities.

The range of issues, topics and case studies explored include: ethical and methodological issues in youth research; youth subcultures; experiences of home; territorialism; youth and crime; political engagement and participation; responses to global issues; engagements with different institutional contexts; negotiating public space; the transition to adulthood; drinking cultures.

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The author explores these issues through blending together original empirical research, theory and policy. Individual chapters are supported by key themes, project ideas and suggested further reading. Details of key authors, journals and research centres and organisations are also included at the end of the book. Jones and Garde-Hansen is an edited collection that explores the dynamics of identity, place, and becoming by attending to the relationship between geography and individual memory in a rather interdisciplinary fashion.

Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, Despite the title, the books offers a comprehensive introduction to the notion of place, how it is implicated in processes of identity formation, and how it also intervenes to normalize and naturalize identity.

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The final chapter contains a list of useful resources for students. Jones, Owain, and Joanne Garde-Hansen, eds. Geography and Memory. Explorations in Identity, Place and Becoming. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, DOI: Through academic, literary, artistic, and therapeutic approaches, the book offers a variegated introduction to the importance of personal memories in subject formation, attending to what the editors call geographies of memories and memories of geographies.

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Massey, Doreen. For Space. A compelling argument for thinking of space as an open, relational, and ongoing production, providing the necessary condition for the formation and transformation of identity and difference. McDowell, Linda, ed. Undoing Place? London: Arnold, This reader introduces the student to how collective and personal identities are shaped through their relations with place. Multiple scales home, locality, region, and nation are analyzed through perspectives of gender, race, class, and age, although the focus is mainly on United Kingdom and the United States.

Paasi, Anssi. Chichester, UK: John Wiley, A key reading for understanding the construction of identity of places and place-identities, based on a detailed account of the Finno-Russian border land.

The impact of environmental education on sense of place among urban youth

First, we developed and pilot tested a sense of place survey with youth in urban settings in the Bronx. We also used Pearson's correlation to explore whether place attachment becomes more based on ecological place meanings after urban environmental education programs. To explore the impact of urban environmental education on Bronx students' sense of place, we adapted an existing place attachment scale Jorgensen and Stedman and created a new ecological place meaning scale appropriate for the urban context Box 1. We adapted these items from Jorgensen and Stedman's scale, a reliable scale used in previous research projects e.

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Although other place attachment scales have been adapted for youth Vaske and Kobrin , Rioux , we decided not to use them because some of their items are not completely consistent with our underlying theoretical constructs. To ensure that our place attachment scale could be understood and used with urban high school students, in January we conducted a pilot test of this scale, along with the ecological place meaning scale described below. We administered the scale to ten high school students approximately 15 years old in the Bronx participating in summer youth employment programs that were not related to the environment.

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We are not the first to employ a quantitative approach to explore place meaning. Although researchers have called for the development of a scale to measure an ecological dimension of the relationship between people and places Davenport and Anderson , we are not aware of ecological place meaning scales per se, especially those applicable to the urban environment. Based on conversations with the educators we created an ecological place meaning scale that initially included 17 items.

The final ecological place meaning scale was reduced to 12 items to avoid redundancy. We decided to word all items positively in the ecological place meaning scale because we were focusing on meanings that have a positive valence. Content validity of the ecological place meaning scale, i. Students in both groups earned minimum wage, except for 16 students within the experimental group who earned high school credit toward graduation. Programs in the experimental group can be broadly categorized as urban environmental education.

This is the term preferred by educators in these programs. Although a number of studies have focused on environmental education in cities Krasny and Tidball , Tidball and Krasny , a comprehensive literature and theoretical framework for urban environmental education is lacking.

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  • Urban environmental education programs involve urban youth in restoration, stewardship, monitoring, recreation and activism with the ultimate goal to improve ecological and social aspects of the urban environment. A shared goal in most urban environmental education in the Bronx is reconnecting urban communities with the urban environment. In addition, these programs pursue other goals such as youth development, which we did not evaluate.

    Our sample included youth participants at all available urban environmental education programs whose curriculum focused on the environment along the Bronx River watershed in the Bronx, New York City in summer The content of urban environmental education programs in our study varied. Four activities dominated each program: 1 environmental stewardship, 2 recreation, 3 environmental monitoring, and 4 trainings and workshops Fig.

    Photos: Alex Kudryavtsev. Environmental stewardship activities in the experimental group were embedded in civic ecology practices Tidball and Krasny ; Krasny and Tidball, in press , e. Recreation activities included canoeing, kayaking, or rowing on the Bronx River or other waterways. Environmental monitoring activities took place in parks, botanical and community gardens, or along waterways, and included creel surveys, bird surveys, or water quality testing.

    Trainings and workshops led by invited community leaders, professional ecologists, and staff from local colleges included indoor and outdoor sessions focused on learning about environmental science and developing environmental skills such as tree pruning and plant identification. In addition, each program in the experimental group included several unique activities such as a food survey at farmers markets and stores; a trip to a farm, island or historic area outside the Bronx; or watching a movie related to environmental justice. The shared focus on the urban environment and overlapping educational approaches justify categorizing these environmental programs as one experimental group, despite some differences in actual activities.

    In contrast, students in the control group participated in office work and mentoring younger students in summer programs, while engaging in activities related to mixed media, arts, dance, and sports, which took place mostly indoors. Most students in both the experimental and control groups also participated in team building activities and college visits.

    According to educators, except for 2—3 returning students in the experimental and control groups, students were participating in these programs for the first time and had limited prior knowledge about the programs. Participants' ethnicity was not recorded, but we observed that both experimental and control groups were comprised of approximately equal numbers of African Americans and Latinos.

    At the same time, we found that the mean score for ecological place meaning increased significantly in the experimental group from 3. As the global population becomes increasingly urban Bloom , attention needs to be paid to how humans can foster sustainability and provide for ecosystem services in cities Andersson The survey results in the experimental group suggest that relatively short yet intensive summer urban environmental education programs may significantly increase students' ecological place meaning, i. Our finding is consistent with the idea that place meanings are not solely inherent Greider and Garkovich and may be influenced through direct experiences and interpretations of places Cuba and Hummon Indeed, ecological processes in urban places can become part of sense of place through participation in the environmental restoration activities Newman and Jennings that were a significant component of the urban environmental education programs in this study.

    However, based on our survey data, we are unable to determine the effect of specific aspects of urban environmental education programs on ecological place meaning. For example, recreation in natural areas and environmental monitoring activities may have a different effect on ecological place meaning. Our explanation of these scores is based on ideas that place meanings are rooted in characteristics of the physical environment Stedman a , which is far from pristine in cities, and social and interpretive mechanisms through which place meanings are developed, negotiated and shared Stewart et al.

    Kennedy, personal communication. Some of these students rarely experienced the natural environment in the inner city because of highways, industrial facilities, or other infrastructure blocking access to waterfronts or other green areas in their communities J. Terrell, personal communication. In addition, some parents in the Bronx discourage their children from involvement with the urban natural environment including community gardens because of its perceived lack of safety J. Plewka, personal communication.

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    Contrary to place meaning, urban environmental education programs in the Bronx did not significantly strengthen place attachment. This result may be explained by research that suggests that place attachment develops over long or frequent experiences of places Tuan , Hay The environmental education programs in this study were only 5—6 weeks long, which is perhaps not enough time to increase attachment to a place where most participants already reside.

    Sometimes people do not bond with a place even if they grew up there Johnson and Zipperer , which may be another explanation of Bronx students' weak place attachment. It is also possible that, similar to environmental stewardship activities in other studies Ryan et al. Whereas we measured place attachment only to the Bronx, one could hypothesize that urban environmental education may be more successful in strengthening place attachment towards specific places where education activities are conducted, such as a certain park, section of a river, or particular community garden.

    We may hypothesize that pedagogical approaches, curriculum, audience demographics, location and length of residence, the scale and characteristics of places, and other factors determine the effect of different types of education programs on place attachment and sense of place in general.

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