Helen Pallet is a PhD researcher @3SResearchGroup. She works on public participation in science & technology policy, organisational learning, climate change. She’s geographer and a blogger. She also tweets on @HelenPallet.
“Mission:Explore Food is a brilliant book for aspiring young geographers. It supports them through their explorations into all aspects of our food system from production to preparation, consumption and waste. The mission is clear: to transform children into guerrilla geographers by harnessing their curiosity and creativity to encourage them to ask challenging questions and become global citizens. This book is radically different from any school geography textbooks that you have ever seen. With its dual emphasis on exploration and experimentation it generates an open attitude to inquiry which many kids will not have experienced in the classroom.
But most of all, of course, this book has been created to be enjoyed and loved by its young readers. The missions and the information sections appeal to the scatological, the curious and the dare-devil instincts within every child, for example: “as you read this there are microscopic animals eating you”! Some of the missions in the book may require adult support and guidance, though I suspect most adults will have just as much fun as their children do. Children will also enjoy being encouraged to work in a team with friends on their missions, engaging with other people in the local area, and doing things for others.
Mission:Explore’s approach is both exciting and empowering, giving its readers full control over their experience of the book, choosing from a wide variety of missions which they can carry out in their own way. The organisation of the book into more than 150 different missions encourages experiential and creative learning; and, encouragingly from the perspective of an academic geographer, it reveals geography to be a collection of different practices rather than the abstract study of maps and countries. This is a radical challenge to the traditional fuddy-duddy image some people have of geography. The tasks and information sections cleverly weave wide-ranging scientific, political and historical themes through the book. On top of this the mission-based format, encompassing joke-telling and poetry, food preparation and growing, community interaction and fact-finding, encourages readers to go beyond the content of the book to find out more from the internet and the people around them, and to develop important critical thinking skills.
To create young guerrilla geographers, Mission:Explore encourages its readers to see things from new perspectives, for example trying out new diets like veganism or finding out how pigs are treated before they are eaten. The book also suggests radical ways to challenge social norms, like having dinner at breakfast time or eating a fake poo in public! As all geographers should, the book’s readers are inspired to come up with their own questions and to consider the local and global impacts of their actions. Core geographical themes are dealt with deftly and intelligently: children consider spaces around them by creating a map of where they can find free local food supplies; they learn about the importance of place by mapping their recipes on a world map or making country-shaped cookies; and young geographers critically explore different scales, for example by investigating each part of a food production process or creating a world map of different soils. I wish this book had been around 15 years ago when I was an aspiring young geographer and explorer, though there are definitely a few missions that I am tempted to try out myself…”