The Boy on the Bike
Clark Denby, Faculty Manager for Higher Education at Petroc, has recently undertaken a key piece of research which focuses on how teaching staff, through pedagogies of listening, can support and empower the legitimisation of children’s voices within the active travel debate.
Clark, who is also a Director for Vista Wellbeing CIC which supports people with lifelong limiting illnesses to maintain active bodies and minds, said: “I really enjoy talking about mobility and modality and this article has been a long time in my thoughts and imagination. Having both a professional and personal interest in the area of mobility and modality within our communities, I was drawn to and invited to write for Primary Geography.
The article, titled “The Boy on the Bike” stemmed from a video of a 5-year-old boy cycling to school that was posted on Twitter by his father (@azb20019) in November 2022. The video went viral and has been viewed by 2.7 million people.
Having research interests within both urban geography and mobility, Clark was drawn to the comments section. What struck him was that the issue of independent and shared childhood mobility within their communities was clearly a contentious issue for parents, teachers, planners, geographers, legal experts, road users and others; the one set of people missing from the conversation was children.
This led Clark to think that how children feel about their own travel was a conversation that really needed to involve the children themselves.
Clark highlighted that children are rarely involved in questions such as ‘Just how do children feel about their journeys within their community?’ and ‘Where do we see and hear their voices and ideas expressed within our active travel infrastructure?’. However, the fact that they are not involved in the planning of active travel within their communities gives teachers the opportunity to collaborate with pupils on this issue and ensure their voices are heard by those involved in the planning and provision of active travel infrastructure.
Clark believes that teachers can, and should, open up these explorations by looking at different types of settlement and inviting pupil-use of digital tools to map, create and document sketches of our communities as well as other areas. Pupils can then begin to develop their sense of place and relational mobility within transitional spaces by extending their KS2 project work, knowledge and skills. Through a pedagogy of listening – involving different voices and methods – pupils can explore their own and others’ lived experiences within the geographical spaces and places of their community.
Clark said: “I would like the article to open up discussions amongst a range of people involved within the community active travel debate; children, parents, teachers, active travel professionals, planners – in fact as wide an audience as possible. We need to be incorporating children’s voices into these debates.”
The full article was featured in the summer edition of Primary Geography and you can read it here.