Blog Post

Workshop Curriculum: Un/Mapping Past / Place / Future

Inspired by mapping projects like those of the Community Futures Lab and Below the Grid, as well as trauma-informed workshops like The Longtermers’ Project (developed by Kathy Boudin, for incarcerated people), and visionary mapping experiments like June Jordan’s collab with Buckminster Fuller and Fireflies: A Brownsville Story (a VR game set Brownsville, Brooklyn, developed collectively by a group of youth who live there), Un/Mapping is a curriculum developed for system-involved youth that uses mapping practice to unearth unconscious connections, remap relations over real, imagined and temporal landscapes, and envision individual and collective futures.  Katherine McKittrick’s concepts of “embodied geographies” and “unmapping” are instrumentalized here, supplemented by Black Quantum Futurism Collective’s instructive time-work, Afrofuturism and pedagogy grounded in “reflexive engagement of past and present through the technics of mapping, with an emphasis on the processes of change, [that] also allows emergence of alternative futures” (Kallio; Hakli; 2015).


Cited above:

Black Quantum Futurism Collective.  “Black Quantum Futurism Collective and Practice.” Node Center for Curatorial Studies.  13 July, 2016. Online.  

McKittrick, Katherine.  Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle.  Minnesota, University of Minnesota Press, 2006.    PDF available online.

McKittrick, Katherine.  “Freedom is a Secret: The Future Usability of the Underground.”  Black Geographies and the Politics of Place. Toronto, Between the Lines Press, 2007.  Linked above.

Kallio, Kirsi Paulina; Hakli, Jouni.  "The Beginning of Politics: Youthful Political Agency in Everyday Life."   UK, Routledge, 2015.  Googlebook available online.



Curriculum: Un/Mapping Past / Place / Future

Un/Mapping Past / Place / Future is a three-session writing and visual-arts based curriculum that uses mapping pedagogy and trauma-informed practice to explore youths’ relationship to community, memory and future planning (with potential to be turned into an extended digital mapping project depending on availability of technology).  


At the end of each session, the facilitators are to collect the materials produced by participants, store them in a private space where they will be kept confidential, and utilize them for subsequent sessions.


For 6-10 participants, ages 16-24


Session 1: Past (60 Min)

Setting up the room:

Arrange 6-10 chairs around a table, so that everyone has surface access, and can see the whiteboard

Have “I Remember” excerpt on hand (included in addenda)

In the middle of the table, leave the following materials:

20 11x17 sheets of paper

20 sheets of lined notebook paper

Multi-colored markers



Opener (5 minutes)

Introduce facilitators to the group

“Welcome to “Un/Mapping.”  This is a visual and writing-based group that requires no “skill” in drawing.  You don’t have to be an artist to map! In this group, we will use ‘mapping’ techniques to explore your past experiences, your relationship to your community, and your plans for the future, and the ways these things connect with how you arrived here today.”

Have participants introduce themselves, and tell where they’re from.

Review the following group expectations:

Attendance to all three sessions

Participation in the group and activities

Cell phones off/silent

Being respectful and nonjudgmental with others in the group

Confidentiality (with limits of mandated reporting and lethality)

Ask group members for input regarding additional group agreements


Activity 1 (20 minutes): “I Remember”

“We’ll start with a brief writing exercise to warm up.  Together we’ll read an excerpt from a poem called, ‘I Remember,’ and then you’ll take your turn jotting down your own own memories, starting each line with ‘I Remember.’  The goal is to write consistently for ten minutes, without censoring your memories as you write them down. You will not have to share this with anyone if you don’t want to.”

Hand out “I Remember” excerpt and two sheets of lined notebook paper

Read along with the facilitator the brief excerpt from “I Remember.”

For ten minutes, write your own “I Remember.”

At the end of the ten minutes:

“Times up.  Would anyone like to share theirs?”


Processing points (select whichever seem productive; there will not be time for all of


  • Did anyone remember anything unexpected?
  • Are any of the memories you wrote down tied to a certain place, or sense?  Can you visit that place?
  • Did certain memories lead to others?  
  • Did they take you back to a place you haven’t been in a while?
  • Were there any memories you wanted to stay with?


Activity 2: Personal Timelines

Part 1: Create your personal timeline (20 minutes)

Hand out 11x17 paper

Demonstrate on the whiteboard:

Draw a line straight across your paper.

Add in both major life events and any other memories you would like to include

(this can include things that happened in the world or in your community)


Whiteboard example:

Part 2: Layering the timeline (10 minutes)

Demonstrate on the whiteboard:

From your vertical line, draw lines branching off to events that transpired because of or in connection with an event or memory on your timeline.

Continue to draw branches as desired off the new vertical lines.  You may get multiple timelines happening at once.

If there are things that happened before you were born that you feel affect your

life, add those in, too.


Whiteboard example:


Processing points:

What forces were in your control at the points of branching off?  

What forces were beyond your control?

What affected you that happened before you were born?  

What affected you that also affected other people (including strangers)?

What connections did you make between events?



    Thank you for participating in the first session of Un/Mapping.  Next time we’ll be

applying what we explored in “Past” to “Place.”  The timelines you created will be stored

in a secure place, and will not be shared with anyone.  All materials will be returned to

you at the end of the three sessions.


Session 2: Place (60 Min)


Setting up the room:

Arrange 6-10 chairs around a table, so that everyone has surface access, and can see

the whiteboard

Have on hand timelines created in session one, to be returned to their creators at the

start of the session

In the middle of the table, leave the following materials:

60 11x17 sheets of paper

Multi-colored markers




Opener (5 min)

“Welcome back.  Today we’re going to use some of the methods we learned last time

and apply them to actual places we go to every day.  But first we’ll briefly review the

agreements we made last session.”  

[Review list of agreements above, and any additional items added by the group.]


Activity 1: Mind-Mapping Warm-Up (10 min)

Demonstrate on whiteboard:

“On the center of your sheet, you’re going to put the name of your neighborhood in a

circle, and branching off of it, any words that come to mind in association with that word.  

They can be things, feelings, sensory experiences -- whatever comes to mind.

We’ll do the first one together, with “Courthouse” in the center.  What words do you associate with courthouse?


Whiteboard example:

“Now it’s your turn.  For three minutes, write down whatever words come to mind in

connection with the neighborhood at the center; try to get as many as possible in the

timeframe.  You will not have to share this with anyone if you don’t want to.”


Processing points:

  • What were some of the words you put down?
  • Are there any words that reappear across people’s mindmaps?
  • Were there words you would consider either “negative” or “positive” or “neutral”?
  • What do you imagine someone who’s not from your neighborhood, but is walking through it would put on their mindmap?
  • How would your maps look different?


Activity 2: Mapping the area (20)

“To the best of your ability, draw your neighborhood from an eagle’s eye perspective.  

This does not have to be physically accurate, regarding distances and sizes.  

You decide the boundaries of your neighborhood - it does not have to be

accurate to an official map.

If other places you frequent are outside of your neighborhood, add them along the edges of the sheet of paper.  

If you frequently travel between two or more neighborhoods, split the sheet into sections and draw a portion of all three.

Include places that used to exist but no longer do, in a different color.”


Once the group has a basic layout completed:

“In another color, label the landmarks; these include any place that you could name or make a nickname for -- examples [write on whiteboard]: school, corner store, best friend’s building, spot where _______ used to be, community mural, date spot, police station, grocery store, spot where _____ happened.  


And in another color, add in some of the words from your mindmap where you

think they belong in the neighborhood, and some of your “I Remember”

memories (you can also use the post-its if you’d like).


Once the group has finished a basic map of the neighborhood with labels:

“Take a look at your map.  Now cross out a “landmark” that you would like to see go by putting a large X over it.”

(If there is a response to having to cross something out, allow time to discuss initial reactions.)

“Now cross out two more.

Add something that is NOT in your neighborhood that you would like to see there.


Processing points:

  • What did you remove?  
  • How will its removal affect your neighborhood?
  • What did you add?
  • How will that new landmark affect the neighborhood?
  • What would you like to see in your neighborhood that’s not currently there?
  • Is there anything else you would change or preserve if you could?


Activity 3: Re-Mapping (20 min)

Hand out 11x17 sheet of paper

“On a separate sheet of paper, you’re now going to re-map your neighborhood(s).

Create a map of your dream neighborhood, what you would want it to look like if you could design it.  

Some things to keep in mind as you design it:

What does a neighborhood need?  What makes your neighborhood


What do you want to keep in place?  What do you want to keep but relocate?

What do you want to get rid of?

If you could reorganize what’s in your neighborhood, where would you put

different places, and why?


Processing points:

  • Tell us about the neighborhood you created, and explain your choices as to why you put what where.
  • What did you keep, and what did you get rid of?
  • How does the future neighborhood you created support others in the community?


Wrap-Up (5 min)

Collect timelines and maps

“Thank you for participating in the second session of Un/Mapping.  Next time we will be

applying what we explored in “Past” and “Place” to “Future.”  The maps and timelines

you created will be stored in a secure place, and will not be shared with anyone.  


Session 3: Future Mapping (60 Min)


Setting up the room:

Arrange 6-10 chairs around a table, so that everyone has surface access, and can see

the whiteboard

Have on hand: Timelines and maps created in sessions one and two (to be returned to their creators at the start of the session)

“So Be It!  See To It!” handout (included in addenda)

In the middle of the table, leave the following materials:

20 11x17 sheets of paper

10 8.5x11 sheets of paper


Multi-colored markers



Introduction (5 min)

“Welcome back and thank you for joining us for the third and final session of Un/Mapping  Today we’re going to use some of the methods we learned last time and apply them to envisioning your futures.  But first we’ll briefly review the agreements we made last session.” [Review aforementioned agreements.]    


Activity 1: Creative writing prompt (15 min)

"We’re going to take five minutes to do a quick writing prompt to warm up.  In

this prompt, you’re going to imagine your neighborhood as a person.  How would you

describe that person?  What do you see in their future, and what do you want for it?  

What challenges are they facing?  How do you interact with them? Do you plan to know

them for a long time?  You do not have to answer all these questions, they’re just to

generate some initial thoughts.  Please take five minutes to write respond to the prompt,

getting as much on paper as possible without censoring your own thoughts in that time.”

As participants write, write the above questions on the whiteboard.    

When ten minutes is up: “Would anyone like to share what you’ve written?”


Activity 2: Prompted write: “So Be It!  See To It!” (15 min)

Hand out the Octavia Butler “So Be It!  See To It!” printout.

“This a picture of the back of Octavia Butler’s notebook.  Does anyone know who that is?

(After response, summarize:) She was an award-winning, best-selling author, and a

black woman writing in the genre of science fiction.  She won the highest honor possible for science fiction while she was alive.  Please take a moment to read the back of her notebook to yourself.”

Hand out the 8.5x11 sheets of paper.

“On this paper, you’re going to create your own “So Be It!  See To It!” Write out your

future plans and dreams, and at the end of each one, add ‘So Be It!  See To It!’ You will

be invited to share yours, but you will not have to if you don’t want to.”

After ten minutes: “Would anyone like to share what they’ve written?”


Activity 3: Mapping the Future (15 min)

Hand out the timelines and maps created in sessions one and two.  

Ask participants to lay that and the “So Be It!” sheet in front of them, so that the edges of the papers touch.  Demonstrate on the whiteboard if need be (participants can organize them however they see fit).

“Now we’re going to connect your re-mapped neighborhoods, your vision for your future,

and your timeline.  If you would like to tape the paper down for this, go ahead.  

You’re going to draw:

  • lines connecting past experiences to places on the map -- where they occurred or a place they’re connected to
  • lines between your “So Be It!” vision for the future and where that vision may have begun on the neighborhood map 
  • and lines on your timeline connecting to your “So Be It!” vision

Feel free to add things to your timeline, to the map, and to your “So Be It!” sheet as you

go.  This can include things you would like to do to make your vision possible, or places

you would like to create.  None of these are necessarily ‘finished documents.’"   

As participants begin drawing connections, write the above instructions after “You’re going to draw” on the whiteboard.


After 10 minutes, invite participants to continue drawing connections while the group responds and discusses:

Process points:

  • Any initial response to the connections you made?
  • Did anything change once you started drawing lines?  
  • Did you see any connections that you hadn’t seen before?


Wrap Up

Thank you all for participating in the final session of Un/Mapping.  You can take your

maps, timelines and future plans with you, or leave them here with us if you’d prefer.  




“I Remember” Excerpt

I remember liver.

I remember the chair I used to put my boogers behind.

I remember planning to tear page 48 out of every book I read from the Boston Public Library, but soon losing interest.

I remember my grade school art teacher, Mrs Chick, who got so mad at a boy one day she dumped a bucket of water over his head.

I remember one very hot summer day I put ice cubes in my aquarium and all the fish died.

I remember after people are gone thinking of things I should have said but didn’t.

I remember once having to take a pee sample to the doctor and how yellow and warm it was in a jar.

I remember the only time I ever saw my mother cry. I was eating apricot pie.


“So Be It! See to It!”  Image



1 comment

Tyler--your approach to innovative pegadogy is inspiring!  I really appreciate the ways you integrate so many kinds on nonlinear teaching innovation to your course.  It also makes an important point about the significance of teaching and learning outside of the academy--I especially appreciate the drawing (mind maps, and timeline, sor finstance).  All of the parts of this syllabus encourage creative, critical, and active learning.