We’re involved in running a session at the Royal Geographical Society (Institute of British Geography) annual conference this summer whose aim is to bring academic fashion experts into dialogue with the Fashion Revolution movement. We’re asking how fashion research can contribute to what is becoming a worldwide movement for a more ethical / sustainable fashion industry in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April 2013. We’re looking for academic research from any discipline that can contribute to Fashion Revolution’s five year planning. Here’s what we’re doing. Please get in touch with Ian, Lousie and/or Alex to discuss any ideas. The deadline for abstracts is Friday 12th February.
– Call for papers –
Scholar activism and the Fashion Revolution: ‘who made my clothes?’
The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex on April 24th 2013, which crushed to death over 1,000 people making clothes for Western brands, was a final straw, a call to arms, for significant change in the fashion industry. Since then, tens of thousands of people have taken to social media, to the streets, to their schools and halls of government to uncover the lives hidden in the clothes we wear. Businesses, consumers, governments, academics, NGOS and others working towards a safer, cleaner and more just future for the fashion industry have been galvanised.
It was Fashion Revolution Day last Friday, the second anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh in which 1,129 people died making clothes for High Street brands. This year, we helped to create education packs for the global campaign, hoping to finds ways in which teachers and students of all ages could interrogate (un)ethical and (un)sustainable fashion by asking ‘who made my clothes?’ We have written about Fashion Revolution Day’s approach to teaching controversial issues here. Below, however, we showcase a blog post by Professor Becky Earley on the ‘Who made my uniform?’ project she worked on at her childrens’ primary school in London. We think this is fantastic. Here’s an extract.
“… My son loves trainers. He’s a football fan and player, and the influence of the Arsenal team and their colorful attire – and what is donned by his group of friends at school and on his team at the local sports centre – is significant to him. He got the trainers he wanted for Christmas – bright orange. They looked amazing with his lime green away kit. Yet within days he starting asking for another pair, in a different colour. I took the opportunity to explain to him again about why ‘stuff’ is special. The materials, dyes, labour, shipping… all comes at a cost, and not just to the bank of mum and dad. At 8, he knows all this already. We talk about ‘stuff’ all the time. But he just can’t make the leap to applying this knowledge to his insatiable desire to be part of the team – to look the part. At his school the lost property area is a mess of unlabelled and unloved green, white and navy cotton and polyester. I decided to start here with my research, and look at the way in which primary school children relate to their uniform – their everyday clothes. The deputy head at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Chiswick and I hatched a plan to run a ‘Who Made My Uniform’ project, in response to the FRD provocation ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ Beginning with a carefully prepared school assembly on the actual day, the project consisted of a week-long residency by myself with the help of another mum, and a series of class projects run by the teachers. The photo story below documents the project. Over the summer term we asked:
- Where was my uniform made?
- Who made my uniform?
- What is it made from?
- How can I make my own clothes?
More blog posts like this
A couple of weeks ago, we attended the Geographical Association (GA) conference in Manchester. This is a conference for geography teachers, student geography teachers and the people who train them. We talked to many who taught their students the geographies of trade through researching their own clothes. We went to a talk where Hannah Campion, a newly qualified teacher, explained how she sparked her students’ curiosity about these geographies using some of our teaching resources. With the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse only a few days away, we are publishing what she said…
A £4 t-shirt
My name is Hannah Campion. I am an NQT at The National Church of England Academy, Nottinghamshire. My fascination around the Geography of my ‘stuff’ developed from undergraduate study of commodity chains, commodity fetishism and Cook’s (2004) ‘follow the thing’ approach at the University of Nottingham. An assignment during my teacher training course on ‘Fantastic Geographies’ gave me the opportunity to bring this controversial issue into the classroom, to enable pupils to investigate and to develop a curiosity around the lives of our everyday commodities. The initial scheme is a 5 lesson sequence unveiling and unpicking the life of a plain white £4 t-shirt from production through to consumption. In 2014, I was asked to display my work at the Geographical Association conference in Guildford as part of the Ideas Zone exhibition. Since then, I have written an article for Teaching Geography (Campion 2015) and presented a Teacher-to-Teacher session at this year’s GA conference entitled ‘Behind the seams: global connections in the classroom (KS3)’.
This is the latest in our #followtheteachers series. In December last year, Ian was contacted ‘out of the blue’ by Joe Lambert, a trainee teacher at Montgomery Primary School in Exeter who had been an undergraduate Geography student at Exeter University, where Ian works and where followthethings.com is based. Would Ian be interested in working with him and the school’s 7-9 year old (Year 3 and 4) students, who were following food the following month? Yes was the answer. Here’s what happened, as described by Joe. After hearing geography was the key focus of the first few weeks of the January term, my ears immediately pricked. A geography graduate rarely gets an opportunity to use his degree but when he does you know he is going to relish it! My interests were further stoked when the topic was narrowed to identifying where does our food come from? This was the wonderful, crystallising moment when you realise maybe paying attention in the 1st year of your degree was worthwhile. Continue reading
Our latest guest blog is by Joe Thorogood, a former student in the ‘Geographies of material culture’ module at Exeter University who is in the early stages of a ‘follow the things’ PhD in the Department of Geography at University College London. His research is on poppies. In the post below, he outlines what he’s found out so far about the Remembrance Day variety. As usual with following research, you may be surprised by what he finds.
The Remembrance poppy is a symbol of memorial. In the couple of weeks before November 11th – Remembrance Day – these poppies are available in exchange for a charitable donation to the Royal British Legion, a UK charity that provides services for ex-military personnel and their dependents. It is worn in the UK in memory of service personnel who died in the First World War and in wars since then. It’s a symbol for personal grief and reflection, but also of national loss. Many countries have poppies shipped out to expatriates and families who have relatives who fought on behalf of the British Empire and British army in campaigns abroad.
I’m researching Remembrance poppies for my PhD, using a methodology that studies the lives and issues that are connected through their travels and transformations as things.
It wasn’t hard to find out about how and where Remembrance poppies are made. You could do it yourself by simply visiting the Poppy Factory in Richmond, Surrey, where they make about 500,000 of the poppies the public wear. Ex-service personnel and their dependents are crucial to this effort, as they often work in the factory or are supported by factory to find employment after leaving the armed forces. Continue reading
Here’s the latest of our Lego re-creations, made today to add to one of our first published pages: on Melanie Jackson’s (2006) digitally generated animation (and catalogue) A Global Positioning System. Continue reading
There’s a new special issue of the online, open access Geography journal ACME on the impact of academic research. This has become one of the ways in which the value of academic research is assessed in UK Higher Education, through the Research Excellence Framework.
One of the papers is by Ian Cook et al (that’s me/us), about the longstanding ‘follow the things’ research and public pedagogy that led to the creation and opening of followthethings.com in October 2008. To give a flavour of its approach to impact, here’s an extract from the paper:
When you publish academic work and make it freely available online, people read it and get in touch with you asking if you’d like to take part in work they’re (thinking of) doing. So you end up doing all kinds of unexpected things. This way of working is a core principle of ‘organic public geographies’ (Fuller and Askins, 2010; Hawkins et al., 2012). And it involves writing critical, radical, scholarly papers that are both publishable in academic journals and books, and accessible to more than academic audiences – like school teachers, journalists, filmmakers and artists: the people who make and use the work you’re researching. This is not the kind of “unidirectional knowledge” transfer that aims to make clear interventions in public debates (Pain et al., 2010, 185). It’s the kind that has critical pedagogy at its heart, that treats knowledge as “emerg[ing] only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other” (Freire, 1996, 52-3). Here, as Rich Heyman (2010) argues, academic writing should not be treated as the end point of research. Instead, it should aim to encourage research and conversation to continue beyond publication by offering its readers, for example, catchy and surprising narratives to engage with, unheard voices to listen to, unfamiliar concepts to use, tricky problems to think through, new skills to learn, and intriguing detective work to do (Cook and Woodyer, 2012).
Cook et al (2014, 48).
If you want to read the rest of the argument, download it here.
If you have any comments or questions, please submit them below.
This post began as a contribution to a special issue of the journal ACME on the new ‘impact’ agenda in British Higher Education. Our shopping bags and ‘ladybugging’ activities seemed to fit this bill, although their ‘impact’ wasn’t measurable (and that was the point). In the end, another short piece on impact was written for the journal. We have revised that original paper to post here, and hope it may be interesting for readers who are keen to use our site and/or bags in their teaching and wider ‘shopping’ activities.
Update September 2016: sorry, we have no bags left to give away. They’ve all gone. If you have one, it’s a priceless collector’s item. If you see someone carrying one, please say hi.
“We need to develop forms of critique that inspire hauntings, feed feelings, come alive, leap out and grab us, … that are not just about vital materiality but are themselves vitally material” (Cook & Woodyer 2012 p.238).
Over the course of the 2013-4 academic year, we’re following seven school teachers and they use and adapt followthething.com in their classrooms in England. Our second post is by Natalie Batten. She reflects on how she encouraged her students to use our site last year to help compare and contrast multinational corporations. This year, she will be using one of our new game-based teaching resources to encourage her students to better appreciate corporations’ diverse policies regarding workers’ rights and monitoring.
I covered a similar topic to the one discussed in Oprah’s #followtheteachers blog post – that of globalisation and multinational companies. This scheme, however, was implemented for AS Level Geography students (studying the OCR exam syllabus). This highlights the versatility of followthethings.com site as a resource for a variety of student ages, even when covering the same topic area. For example, while Oprah used the site to introduce globalisation at Year 7, I used it at A level to consolidate pupils’ prior learning and provide them with examples and case studies for their exams.
The pupils were not familiar with the site, so time was incorporated into the scheme of work for them to explore it. They really liked the layout and navigation of the site and its recognisable format – like other online stores such as Amazon – which made the site personal to them and their interests.
The different forms of data presentation on the site (eg. film reviews, travel journals, newspaper articles and Lego re-creations) provided opportunities for differentiation with more able pupils challenging themselves through interpretation of more abstract research sources. In particular, some used the Ford Car Seat page – based on a 2006 film called ‘Made in Dagenham’ – to explore social and historical geographical topics such as feminism and women’s rights. This was important as it allowed pupils to ‘find the geography’ and make synoptic links to other geographical topics during their MNC research task.
An extension to a task like this could be to incorporate followthethings.com’s new teaching resource – Ethical Trade Trump Cards as a way to compare and contrast global MNCs on categories such as worker’s rights, policies and monitoring in an exciting and familiar game for pupils.
Both they and myself as a trainee teacher took a lot of positives away from this activity and I will certainly be using followthethings.com in my future teaching for this and other topics.
Today, we share two new classroom resources, developed with Alan Parkinson this summer. They have been developed primarily for school teachers in England and Wales (many of who share a new National Curriculum). BUT, they are also written for anyone, anywhere who is keen to teach and learn with followthething.com!
The first is a 9 page Teachers’ Guide to the Follow The Things Website. It’s a .pdf comic ‘guide to using the website in (& out of) the classroom’ with ‘lesson ideas and guidance for Key Stages 1-5’. It will also be of interest to anyone who hasn’t come across our website before and wants a quick tour. Click the button to download. We hope you enjoy it.
The second is a 4 page guide based on a wonderful set of Royal Geographic Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) teaching resources called Where does my stuff come from? These used some of the ‘follow the things’ work that we did before followthethings.com opened. This guide updates these resources, suggesting how our website and other resources can help to answer this question in vivid and up-to-date ways. It’s a Word file, too, for cut-&-pasting…
These resources are part of a larger Classroom Project which – by the end of the summer – will see two new pages for teachers added to our main website, and the documentation of a ‘follow the teachers’ project (see below). We look forward to hearing how these resources work in practice. We welcome comments (on this post), emails (to email@example.com) and tweets (@followthethings).