Why Care about Movement?

By Nicole Land

We opened our research with the question, why care about movement? From there, we are thinking with three entangled questions, in three different spaces: how do we do moving as communicating? How do we move well together with/in the yard? And, how do we practice noticing while walking together?

Our question – why care about movement? – amid status-quo developmental conceptions of movement in early childhood education in Ontario, is easily answered by existing documents: toddlers and preschoolers need to be physically active for at least 180 minutes per day (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology’s 24 Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years); movement improves children’s physical development, helping children to increase their activity levels, endurance, and skills (Early Learning for Every Child Today: A framework for Ontario early childhood settings); movement is a way of showing engagement, expression, and inquiry, and supporting physical health and wellness (How Does Learning Happen: Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years). Documents beyond the province, that are offered by national physical education and kinesiology organizations, have answers as well: movement builds physical literacy and physical literacy is how children “develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to enable them to participate in a wide variety of activities” (Physical Health and Education Canada, 2019, para. 1); young children are in the “active start” phase of fostering lifelong physical activity and need to build the fundamental movement skills to support their continued physical fitness (as per the Long Term Athlete Development Framework by Sport for Life Canada). These documents stand ready to answer the question of “why care about moving”. They each hold particular universalized, application-oriented, instrumental responses: care about movement because engaging in movement properly supports children’s normative development and healthy futures. More than the answers these documents offer, it matters that these documents are so quick to present an answer – that these documents and their creators assume that “why care about movement” is a question so easily answerable, so readily resolved into best practices and developmental trajectories.

Sara Ahmed (2007), thinking with diversity documents and policies, “takes documents as ‘things’ that circulate alongside other things within institutions, which in turn shapes the boundaries or edges of organizations” (p. 591). This, Ahmed continues, means we must ask “what do these documents do?” (p. 591). How do these documents that take the ethics and politics of attuning to movement as an instrumental, resolvable question craft the borders of what becomes knowable as valuable movement and as imperceptible or ignorable movement in early childhood education? How do these documents delimit what movements we can notice and what movements we obscure? When we take movement as a question with answers that are about application, instrumentalization, and quantification, what ways of being in the world are we perpetuating and evading?

Ahmed argues that “following documents around begins with an uncertainty about what these documents will do” (p. 607). From Ahmed I learn that these movement-defining documents have particular consequences – they do something – but that this something is both recognizable and undetermined. These documents present guidelines and recommendations that are to be utilized to govern how children move, but they also do more. They are not just practical; they do not only lay out a developmental justification for how movement should be taught and enacted. Thinking with Ahmed, I want to question the relations with moving that configuring movement as something to be best elaborated in massive, systematic, scientific evidence-based documents allows. What can we learn about dominant and status-quo relations with movement by sitting beside the massive number of science-validated documents that dictate how, when, and why children should move?

And: what does configuring movement a question with a readily resolvable answer, as these documents ensure, do?  

In our research, we want to resist taking “why care about movement” as a question to answer so conclusively. We want to be suspicious of these at-the-ready taken-for-granted responses these documents proffer, and to trace the consequences of what these documents do. We propose taking “why care about movement” as a question to respond to, a question to never settle. Isabelle Stengers (2018), a feminist science studies scholar, proposes that “our worlds demand other types of imagination than the ‘so then that should…’ or the ‘but then perhaps that could…’ (p. 68) that ready answerability demands. The documents that configure our relations with moving in early childhood education in Ontario are steeped in developmental and exercise science-justified “why”s, “so then”s and “that should”s. I want to suggest that immersing our relations with moving only in this operationalized, linear trajectory of scientific explanation limits our relations with movement. When we ask “why does movement matter?”, within these existing relations, we know to seek the answer in a document grounded in developmentalism and exercise science’s instrumental conceptions of movement.

Thinking Ahmed’s question “what does this document do” alongside Stengers’ proposition to move beyond answers grounded in sequential and causal trajectories, we can ask what happens when we position “why care about moving” as a question that developmental and exercise science can answer. We can follow how developmental and exercise science, concurrently, make moving an answerable question. And, more importantly, we can work amidst the uncertainty created when we take seriously that “why care about moving” is a question that refuses to be resolved. What if we ask, and constantly respond to, “why care about moving” with questions that attune us to the situated contours of moving: what questions do our movement pedagogies answer to? How do we get to know movement? How might we get to know moving differently?

Ahmed, S. (2007). ‘You end up doing the document rather than doing the doing’: Diversity, race equality and the politics of documentation. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(4), 590-609.

Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. (n.d.). Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines for the early years. Ottawa, ON: Author.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2007). Early learning for every child today: A framework for Ontario early childhood settings. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/oelf/continuum/continuum.pdf

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2014). How does learning happen? Ontario’s pedagogy for the early years. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/howlearninghappens.pdf

Physical Health and Education Canada. (2019). Physical literacy. Retrieved from https://phecanada.ca/activate/physical-literacy

Sport for Life Canada. (2019). Active start. Retrieved from https://sportforlife.ca/stages/active-start/

Stengers, I. (2018). Another science is possible: A manifesto for slow science. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

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