Nicole Land thinking with Maria Wysocki, Selena Ha, Andrea Thomas, and Alicja Frankowski
Maria shared a reflection about interrupting the children pulling paper out from the fence to ask the children WHY we might want to do this. This moment makes me think so much about the question of being thoughtful and intentional in moving: why are we moving the way we are? Why are we making the movement choices (and border choices) we are making? What in this place pulls our bodies to move in particular ways and not in others?
I think that this question of enacting intentionality in moving ties to our thinking this morning with fewer materials (bikes, shovels, balls) in the yard. Unlike last week, movements and stories and engagement were more loud and ‘big’ today; figuring out how to move together took on a different character and intensity. There was less calmness than last week. But I think that when we notice what unfolds, that absence of calm does not mean to an absence of engagement. I think there is an academic, scholarly school-readiness oriented inheritance we have in ECE where we think that engagement needs to look a certain way: for children to be engaged, they need to focus with slowness and rapt attention to a particular thing/happening for a sustained period of time. But I want to suggest that as we think with this bigger question of how we move well together in the yard/sand, we might make visible that engagement is a situated, particular thing; that engagement takes on a certain momentary character as we try to respond together with the yard.
This makes me think about the hard work of figuring out how to move together – of thinking moving collectively – when there are no toys in the yard. I want to suggest that we can think that in our provocation to have fewer plastic/added materials in the yard, we are offering ourselves and the children a problem: how do we figure out how to move and what to do in this place without toys/buckets/chairs/balls? How do we notice what is already present in the yard and shape our movements as responses to and engagements with this place? How do we get to know this place together, with moving? That is, we aren’t just creating an environment for children to respond to, but we are creating a space for us to engage with ideas that disrupt the status-quo and demand something different of us collectively.
I think that this emphasis on the hard work *together* of figuring out what to do in the yard disrupts some of the child-centred pedagogy discourses in the field. I think that there could be a taken-for-granted way of thinking of the yard as offering children an empty, natural yard and an assumption that children and the yard will come together to produce meaningful play. It’s the romanticized idea that children already know how to move with the yard without materials. I think that, especially with today – where we made the choice to not put out bikes, shovels, balls, and other added materials – we are stumbling into this idea that we have to figure out together how to move with the yard; that neither adults nor children already know how to move with this place (and not because it is a skill we are lacking, but because this place is so particular and uncertain and comes with a fluctuating set of conditions like weather and attendance and what is happening in the quad). With that, I think too that we are learning that this “figuring out” isn’t a once and for all thing, that there isn’t an initial period where we don’t know how to move in the place and then we have an epiphany and we are settled and know what to do for the remainder of our time in a place. Rather, figuring out how to move with the yard is a fractured, ongoing thing; it demands we constantly have to figure out how and what to notice and respond to and move with, because we want to move in intimate ways with this place, in ways that are grounded in the relations and energies and materials and inhabitants and questions of the yard. I really like this idea: how do we figure out together how to move within this place (that has borders and politics and many lives within it)?
I had a really interesting conversation with a few children about the fence and borders and spiders and ants. A noticed a spider web in the fence by the sand and her, C, G, and I started wondering about why the spider built a web here, in the fence. We weren’t sure why the spider would pick this fence, since this fence bends and slides when our bodies climb it, it isn’t all that sturdy. C and G also noticed that they could put their arms through the fence to reach to the other side, and we thought that maybe the spider could fit its whole body through the fence holes. A wondered if there were more spider webs and we talked a bit about how she noticed this one. She said that she was standing by the fence and saw it. That makes me think about slowness and noticing and having to figure out how to move – standing still and having to notice around you to figure out what your body is drawn to and what to respond to. We wondered where the crunchy trees on the other side of the fence came from: were they from the tree in the yard? Who put them there? Did squirrels climb on them there? Then, we started noticing little bugs crawling along the edge of the fence at the ground, crossing under the fence. As we watched the bugs, we noticed that the ground changed at the fence – it went from sand to wood chips. A wondered if the bugs noticed and thought that maybe they found it harder and had to work harder to walk. C thought that sand would be easier for bug walking and started putting sand over the fence into the wood chips. This felt like quite a response and A, G, C, and Q started working very hard to put sand over the fence, watching where it fell and trying to direct it to a log that they thought might be important for bug walking. Then we noticed that we couldn’t see the bugs anymore. With the bugs not there, C and A didn’t seem to be as drawn to putting sand over the fence; there wasn’t the same urgency to move the sand. This makes me think too about this shared work of figuring out what to do, because of the coming together of A, G, C, Q, and I, and the fence, and the spider web and spider, and the bugs, and the easily-moveable not wet sand, throwing, and me having this intention to think with borders and fences with the children – there was this coming together of conditions and lives, and of what we noticed and felt compelled to respond to, and then a response that was deeply engaged through big, fast throwing movements and lots of sand in the air. Then, the moment shifted and those particular conditions reassembled into something different to figure out how to respond to.
When I was leaving today, Maria mentioned the hard work of noticing – of having to pay attention to figure out how to move: how do we notice and become deeply attuned to this place as we figure out how to move together? How does attuning to place connect to our relations with borders and our border-making practices? How does paying careful attention and though to place and moving contribute to living and moving well together in the yard?