Sliding, Blankets, and taking Pauses Seriously

Nicole Land thinking with Sanja Todorovic and Jajiba Chowdhury

After working to pay attention to how moving happened in communicative ways in the yard, we noticed that there seems to be something important happening with the slide. The playground has two side-by-side slides. We offered the children a provocation where we placed a blanket over one of the slides and we thought with the children about using half the blanket-covered slide. Jajiba and I were talking about the tensions in setting intentions for using the slide – when the children are interested in sliding with the blanket or taking it off of the slide, how do we balance that with sharing with them that our intention is to think together about using half the slide? How do we know when to push what our curiosities by ‘fixing’ the blanket on the slide (like, what happens when we use on side of the slide? Or, one slide is covered in the blanket – how can we use the other slide?) and when to notice how moving with the blanket is also a response to the provocation, also a way of the children engaging with the ‘problem’ we are offering them? I think that this is a question we need to keep negotiating with the children.

I want to suggest that having and sharing an intention is important, because our intention is very thought-full; the idea of disrupting status-quo, familiar ways of moving with the slide to think together with moving as collective and communicative is something that we worked hard on and that we decided is important to explore in the yard. So, for me, there is something quite meaningful about wanting to maintain the provocation and see what we create together. There’s, at the same time, an unfamiliarity in the provocation and it is difficult to know what ‘counts’ as thinking with the provocation – is burying yourself in the blanket part of thinking with what we’ve offered? Is pushing the blanket to the side and squeezing down the slide an engagement with the slide and blanket? How can we notice these as children’s responses to the provocation – and, more importantly, how does noticing these moments as responses to the provocation shift how we understand the research questions we are offering, and the ways of thinking moving we want to create conditions for?

I’ve been thinking too about the many moments with the slide and blanket where children paused at the top of the slide before sliding down (or not sliding down). It reminded me of our conversations about seeing and naming and knowing moving through its outcomes – look, I saw you sliding down the slide. In thinking moving as a collective and communicative practice, I want to be curious about what happens when children pause at the top of the slide. I think that a developmental view might see this as one of the stages of learning to slide, of assessing the space and overcoming fear to successfully push down the slide (where sliding is a good thing because it builds strength and risky play and shows independence). I think that’s only one understanding of what might be happening. I want to think more about how noticing how many children pause at the top of the slide, and what happens as they pause, contributes to our understanding of moving. What if we view that pause, that sitting at the top of the slide, not as one step in the linear process of eventually coming down the slide, but as a movement valuable in itself? What happens when children sit at the top of the slide – how is communication happening, how does this contribute to how we get to know moving as a collective? How can we understand the pause in a more complicated way, as a meaningful movement that is not valued only because it leads to sliding? What if sliding isn’t the most ‘important’ moving that happens with the slide and the slide area?

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