The sense of place – voices from a schoolyard

Heli Villanen* (Corresponding Author), Eva Alerby* (Corresponding Author), Education in the North

*Corresponding author for this work

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In what way does the place, in the form of a schoolyard, influence students and teachers in school? Is it possible to understand and describe the relationship between the activities and the place? In this paper we explore some aspects of the schoolyard as a place from a phenomenological life-world approach. The aim of this paper is to elucidate and develop greater understanding of the significance of the schoolyard. The following research questions have guided the study: (i) how can the relationship between humans and the place be understood and described? (ii) how is a schoolyard experienced by children? We will highlight and discuss these questions by exploring previous research from a general perspective concerning the relationship between a human and places, but also with a special focus on children’s relationship with places. We will also explore children’s own experiences. Altogether, 28 children in grade 6 reflected, both in writing and verbally, on their experiences of the schoolyard. Furthermore, we will discuss how place-based education can use children’s experiences of the schoolyard as an anchor for pedagogical work. The paper should be viewed as a theoretical contribution to the field of educational research, but with the theory exemplified by, and connected to, children’s experiences. According to the analysis of the children’s written and verbal responses, three themes emerged: (i) The schoolyard as a place for learning, (ii) The schoolyard as a facilitator for social relations and (iii) Beyond the boundaries – desire for freedom. The place acquires its significance when people experience it. Consequently, there is a mutual interplay between human beings and places. One consequence of taking the life-world as a point of departure is that a place must be understood as a lived place – it is neither purely mental nor purely material, but actual experienced reality in all its complexity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-38
Number of pages14
JournalEducation in the North
Issue numberSpecial Issue
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013


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