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Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Orleans: Developing a Sense of Place

When one hears a great speaker talk about a cause that they personally believe in, a feeling emanates from within. One can feel affinity to the speaker and gets infected with the same intensity of feeling that the speaker feels for his cause. In the visual perspective, when one sees the news and it features something about violence, the viewer cannot help but feel fear. Tools used for violence such as guns and knives may be associated with the fear that has developed from what was seen. So, can one therefore say that emotional feeling can be taught in ways that may only be seen and heard in the four corners of a room?

A place does not essentially mean just a location or a mere name. It is the elements that make it up. These elements add up to make the place distinct and create an atmosphere that makes the certain place unique.It may be the people, landmarks, animals, stories as well as the history that makes the place a whole. One can develop a “sense of place” when the person begins to be conscious about his physical surroundings. As the person fully absorbs and integrate the experience of what is around him, he learns to appreciate and eventually embrace the feeling of familiarity. This is when he develops his sense of place. Sense of place being a social phenomenon is usually derived from the natural environment but most often intensified by the culture that is inherent in the place. This culture may be portrayed through art and music made by local artists, poets and historians.

New Orleans: The Making of an Urban landscape is a faithful representation of the wonder that is the place. The author, Pierce Lewis did a magnificent job at detailing the development of the city, as well as the large-scale processes that were involved in affecting New Orleans and how these processes translated to the city that we see now. The book is very effective in influencing one's views and awareness on the legendary city. It is more than a guidebook or a book that only conveys information but with the good illustrations and an engaging writing style, the reader cannot help but feel a sense of pride and admiration for New Orleans.

Using the other various presentations that showcased New Orleans such as listening to the local music of the place, radio broadcasts and watching films, aided in the development of a deeper understanding of it's uniqueness. These means have further enhanced the connection that one can feel with the place. It has achieved a goal which is to make a way for the students to harbor a kinship with New Orleans. By listening to the local musicians, taking in their music, and identify their struggles, the students are positively inspired and they get infected with the same attraction and passion that these musicians have for their hometown. This kind of place-based education is very effective in ensuring that students would not lose their culural awareness and in the future would not feel detached to their place of roots. By promoting this kind of education or incorportating this in the curriculum, students may still have their sense of place intact despite the many global and national issues that tend to take up much of the public's attention. However, a great deal of effort should be employed when choosing the materials that are presented to the students because the mediocrity of the material can directly affect the amount of attention as well as interest that a student may exhibit. The information that was imparted throughout the course were well chosen and has been substantial to facilitate the sense of place that the students have for New Orleans.

In a society that has been radically affected and changed by modernization, one can fear the eventuality of being disconnected in the place that has given him a sense of cultural distinction. It is important that sense of place be cultivated because it gives identity to the people who dwell in it and when one is familiar with it's rhythms, potential and beauty, a sense of intimacy and responsibilty is then established. As a student of the course and based on the experience of being immersed in the local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experience of New Orleans I can definitely say that my sense of place for it is now re-affirmed. Through these various intellectual means perceived visually and through sound, it can be concluded that a sense of place can definitely be established though classroom instructions.

Kriesberg, D. (1999). A Sense of Place. Colorado: Teacher's Ideas Press.
Allen, B. (1990). Sense of Place. Kentucky:The University Press of Kentucky.

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