Cognitive Mapping with the Kids

Group Members: Luisa, Lillian and James
Project:  Memory Maps with Mrs. Robinson's 6th Grade Class at Valley View Elementary


What is a Memory Map?
    Do you ever think back to when you had the most fun in your life?  You know when you were a kid and someone else was in charge of  all the "priorities"?  Memory Maps are a drawn outline of all the fun times you had back on the "old block".  Remember back to when your best friend broke their arm and you had to save the day, or where you had your very first kiss.  Memory Maps also identify places that meant most to you and the places that left a lasting impression on your life.

How does Valley View Elementary fit in?
    We went to visit Mrs. Robinson's class in an effort to see how 6th Graders viewed the surroundings of their neighborhoods.  With new development the children's  neighborhoods are changing at a rapid pace.  As a result, in the next ten years many of their favorite "hangouts" will be only memories.

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Click on any of the above photos to view Mrs. Robinson's class, to the far right is myself and Hugo the Genius.


Heads-Up, 7-Up and Grade School Dances
written by James Velasquez

            Remember back in the day when your elementary teacher raised her arm high to get the students' attention, and then the teachers’ pet raised their arm, followed by their best friend and so on?   Yeah, that meant BE QUIET!  That was one thing that I hated back in grade school.   Luckily I was able to relive the experience when I joined Lillian Contreras, and Luisa Martinez on a visit to Mrs. Robinson’s 6th Grade class at Valley View Elementary.  As we walked to the classroom, I could hear many voices quieting and soon from the many voices there was only one student talking and then as we entered the classroom was silent.  I saw the raised hands demanding silence, as if to say, “quiet, we have visitors”.  Despite my Twilight Zone relapse into yesteryear, our goal was clear, the students would draw a cognitive map of their neighborhood and its surroundings.

Each students’ “Memory Map” would be an individually different drawing of their home, elementary school, favorite hang-outs after school or the best places to “kick it” on the weekends.  In order to give the students an idea of what we were looking for Mrs. Robinson asked Vanessa, a very smart girl in her class, to go to the copy machine in the Teachers’ Lounge and make 25 copies of my very own Memory Map as an example. I never, ever had an opportunity to go to the Teachers’ Lounge in my old school so I figured this was my chance.   I always dreamed their was free pizza, rivers of fruit punch and big screen TV’s.  Let’s just say my trip to Neverland was a bit of a disappointment.   As Luisa began to hand out the copies of my example, I noticed giggles here and there.  It turns out that I was becoming the target of jokes.  Both the boys and girls were making fun of the fact that I drew a picture of the house that my first girlfriend lived in and they said I was a geek because I told them the about my days of chasing rascally wabbits in an empty field across the street from my house after school each day.   Hey, it was the sixth grade and suddenly I was becoming very self-conscientious about myself.  That is natural in the 6th Grade, right? 

Soon after Lillian’s directions were understood the class began their assignment.   To our surprise Mrs. Robinson took out a pencil and began to map here memories.  It turns out that Mrs. Robinson grew up in a South Phoenix neighborhood down the street from Valley View Elementary, which is so cool!   Meanwhile Lillian and Luisa were running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to answer each question.   Just like I remembered back in my day, the boys were trying ask all the questions, while the girls remained quiet and still in their seats. The girls did not yell across the room like the boys, the girls politely raised their hands when they had questions.

After getting over being made fun of, I began to speak with the class anointed genius, Hugo.  He was interested in why we were visiting his class and what it was like going to college.   Next thing I know I have five students hanging on my every word, I WAS A GOD!  No matter what they may have learned from me, I was the person getting the education.   To my surprise a boy named Jonathan told me that I should not become a teacher because, “Mrs. Robinson works way too hard.”   Luisa told me another story about one students’ sister who did not accept her scholarship to ASU out of high school because she became pregnant and would not have the time for education.   The stories were like a slap in the face.   These were kids.  They should be worried about getting home in time for Sponge Bob-Square Pants.   Lillian was worried that the students were growing up too fast and showed me one students’ completed map that had “Drug dealers house with big dog” clearly outlined.  It was evident that these students were socially on a level of awareness about their community that I had no comprehension of when I was at the same age.   At that moment I had only hoped that they would not be the rabbits being chased down by social inequalities.  

Nevertheless, the time went by quick and within a few minutes the students would be attending their first school dance.   We were invited to stop by so we did.   Lillian and Luisa danced with the girls for a while and I chilled with some of the boys standing against the wall looking real cool.   As we walked away from the schoolyard our focus remained on the real life stories of each student we spoke with.   Our goal was to find out what kids enjoyed doing after school and I wanted to compare their memories to my own.   What we found was reality. 

Later that day I was thinking about when I came home after school as a kid and chased rabbits in the empty field across the street from my house.   Then I thought back to the students.   They were strong.  They did not see themselves being chased like rabbits from social inequalities.   This was everyday life, it was as if they were immune from the visions that I could see.  These students were mentally more mature than we could ever have imagined.   We started out to find if Mrs. Robinson’s students would realize that many of their favorite hangouts would become only memories as new buildings are changing the face of their community.   What we found was that these students are ready for change as they wait for the next shopping center to be built and without question, these students will met their futures head on, willingly and confident in their own abilities.

The following are Memory Maps from Mrs. Robinson's 6th Grade Class, just point and click:

sorry for broken links below!  In the mean time, try these others.

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Cindy R.                       Doreen Fuentes            Juan Rodriguez                Jonathan