Learning neighbourhood environments: the loss of experience in a modern world

Maria loves cakes. She can always tell you which local cake shop has the freshest whipped cream, the richest cheese cake, the vanilla slice which melts in your mouth or the lightest puff pastry. She also knows which of these shops is nearest to home and which is furthest away, yet she can't explain to her friend, who lives in another part of the town, which of them would be her nearest cake shop.
Anna often takes her dog for a walk and she likes to let him wander off the lead. On one of their walks she discovered a car-free track between two rows of houses: an excellent shortcut for walking to school.
It's always David who decides where he and his friends will play football in their neighbourhood: he not only knows where, but also when to play so that the neighbours don't complain about the noise.
Mark stopped wanting to go to school on his own because of a menacing drunk he always encountered on the way. When Louis showed him another route, frequented by more people and with less risks, he was very relieved.
These fictitious, but plausible, examples illustrate some of the types of skills which form part of environmental competence. They also show the different types of relationships which exist between children and their everyday environment. What does knowing your own neighbourhood or, on a wider basis, the environment in which one lives, mean? It obviously involves knowing the important landmarks and finding your way around; knowing the location of the things that interest you, how to reach them and evaluating the best route to use. It also means being able to pass on this knowledge to other people, who are perhaps in other places, and this implies in turn being able to view the area as a whole, independent of your position in it - in short, having a map of the environment in your head. But it also means knowing the rules and customs of places: knowing who can be found where, which places are better avoided, what you can do in one place but not in another, and when. Knowing your own neighbourhood also means being able to recognize what you like and what you would like to change; the needs of the other neighbourhood inhabitants - the list could probably be continued.
The aim of this chapter is to discuss some of the problems currently faced by children as they develop this knowledge. We will examine some of the significant contributions which have occasioned a re-evaluation of the role of the child in the city: from a developing individual, with imperfect skills, to an individual with specific competence and needs.

Tipo Pubblicazione: 
Contributo in volume
Author or Creator: 
Rissotto, A.
Giuliani, M.V.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, GBR
Children and their environments: Learning, using and designing spaces, edited by Blades, M.; Spencer, C., pp. 75–91. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006
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