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Department of Social Anthropology



Pathways to Understanding the Changing Climate: Time and Place in Cultural Learning on the Environment


A 5-year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council

This was an interdisciplinary AHRC funded project that developed both a valuable record of environmental perceptions and a method to record and explore in innovative and creative ways the lived experience of environmental change. The researchers have carried out extensive work in schools in wetland areas of Norfolk and Cambridge, linking them virtually to children in other environments across the globe: Mongolia, Alaska, Mexico and South Africa to exchange experiences and understandings of very different environments and ecosystems. In efforts to place the experience of communities at the heart of policy, education and current debates on climate change, including schools and schoolchildren, the team held workshops for teachers, policymakers and an exhibition for the general public at Prickwillow Museum. The PhD student, Jonathan Woolley,   completed a year working in the Norfolk Broads alongside NGOs, small businesses, and the local community gaining an insight into the knowledge, practices, challenges and vulnerabilities of the Broadland environment.



This project was a collaboration between anthropologists, educationalists, children, teachers, artists, and community members.

It set out to investigate how people perceive their environment; whether and how they see things to be changing; how they imagine their futures; and to what extent questions of global climate change feature in that thinking.

The project team worked with young people from ecologically vulnerable places across the globe: the fens and the broads of East Anglia, the Arctic tundra of northern Alaska, the steppes of Mongolia and the pine forests of the Sierra Norte in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Children-led walks in East Anglia and Mongolia

We asked students in all the participant schools to plan a route to walk through their local landscapes and allowed them to guide us, talking about what their environment meant to them. 

Another aspect of the research was a choice of school activities designed to enrich our understandings of children’s perceptions of environments over time and space. They were able to take part in archaeological digs, work with storytellers and artists to explore textures, narratives and images of the landscape.

We also arranged a series of virtual links between the participating schools in different parts of the world so that the children could interact with their contemporaries located in countries with different cultures and environmental challenges.

In addition to reports, workshops and research publications the project also produced an exhibition ‘Sensing Landscape: artists and children working together’ at Prickwillow Museum, in rural East Anglia. It displayed artistic work by the children and artists involved alongside photographs taken on the children-led walks revealing strikingly contrasting landscapes—the fens, tundra, steppes and mountains—and challenges they present to inhabitants, particularly in the face of environmental change.

The project also worked with teachers in dedicated workshops to develop understandings of children’s experiences, situated at the intersection of issues that are both global and local, current and intergenerational. In order to disseminate the findings national and regional policy makers were invited to join a discussion with a view to stimulating fresh thinking.

Further details and access to database of interviews and stories from the Fens and Broadlands of East Anglia available on the project website Pathways Project website, or contact Libby Peachey, at .

AHRC project (2013–2016) Dr David Sneath with Dr David Whitley (Education), Dr Barbara Bodenhorn (Social Anthropology), Dr Richard Irvine (Social Anthropology), Dr Elsa Lee (Education), Jonathan Woolley (PhD student in Social Anthropology).

Dr Barbara  Bodenhorn
Director of Studies, Social Anthropology, Girton College
Emeritus Fellow, Pembroke College
Dr Hildegard  Diemberger
Affiliated Lecturer
Fellow and College Lecturer, Pembroke College
Office hours: appointment by email
Professor David  Sneath
Caroline Humphrey Professor of Anthropology of Inner Asia
Director Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit (MIASU)
Fellow, Corpus Christi
Office hours: appointment by email