Stay Home Stories: mapping what matters

Posted on: 16 January 2023 by Jacky Waldock in 2023 Posts

Stay Home Stories: mapping what matters

The Stay Home Stories project has been recording how children experienced life and their lived environment during the COVID crisis. Now they have released a short video highlighting some of their findings

As part of the AHRC funded Stay Home Stories project, we have been investigating how children and young people have understood, navigated, renegotiated and articulated the meaning of home during the COVID crisis.

When we began the research, day to day lives had been thrown into turmoil as a result of the stay at home mandate. This was particularly the case for children and young people whose lives normally tend to operate around the framing of the school day.

In the midst of this moment of unprecedent disruption, we saw a real need to give children and young people the opportunity to talk and express their feelings about their lived experiences at home. Building on previous work by our partner organisations- the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG) and National Museums Liverpool (NML) and the Meaningful Maps project, we developed a national scale hand drawn map initiative. We wanted to explore how maps could represent a vehicle for communication at a time of unprecedented crisis.

Watch this short video featuring someof the children (and their maps) who have taken part in the project.

We invited children and young people (aged 7-16), via their schools, to draw us a map of their home as they perceived and experienced it during the COVID crisis. With the support of the Education team at the RGS-IBG and concurrent running of their Young Geographer of the Year competition on the same theme, we received over 375 maps from pupils in schools across the UK and, in some cases, from other countries too.

Once lockdown restrictions were relaxed, we also hosted a number of mapping workshops at the Museum of Liverpool and also in the classroom at schools in the Liverpool City region, working with teachers and pupils on the development of their maps while discussing the content with their creators.

The maps from across the different strands of work, a selection of which can be seen on the map gallery hosted by the RGS, revealed how young people’s experiences of the home space may have changed during the COVID-19 restrictions.

There are several recurrent themes represented on the maps, including the sense of being bounded in at home, with the walls of the home providing at once a physical restriction but also a defensive barrier to a hazardous outside world. Many of the maps include depictions of the COVID virus as an alien invader from outer space and there is a clear focus on the use of technology in the home, for home schooling or in terms of connection with friends and family. Outdoor spaces including gardens, yards, pavements, balconies, local green spaces and parks, assumed great prominence on many of the maps for the sense of escape they offered.

The role of our green spaces

On the theme of green spaces, we also had the privilege of working with Write Back - a young writers’ project based in Barking and Dagenham- and together produced a film My Place My Space in which this talented group of writers express in their own words the importance of green spaces for wellbeing.

Further work is now being developed looking at the relationship between COVID experience, use of green spaces and improvements in environmental competency. We have also begun extension work with the Greater London Authority, applying the methodology through schools-based workshops to co-explore how children understand and articulate concerns over local place based environmental issues.

In addition to providing a suite of maps for the GLA’s Community Insights Hub, we have worked with an independent animator, Diwas Bisht, to produce a short public engagement animation based on some of the school workshop maps, which you can watch above.

Keywords: Stay Home Stories.