“What Happened Here?”

Nicole Land thinking with Angela Chow, Angélique Sanders, and Kassandra Rodriguez Almonte

We’ve been thinking with pedagogy as living a question; as resisting answers or solutions or certainty or tokenism or outcomes and instead thinking with how we negotiate our pedagogical commitments and continue to enliven questions. This idea of sticking with soulful questions, or difficult pedagogical work that feels nourishing, feels to me like an important anchor for our thinking with moving: what ways of moving do we want to care for and create conditions for? Why? How do the questions and ethics we bring to our moving with children shape particular possibilities for how moving happens – and do these create the relations with moving that we want to build and sustain? 

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Doing “Clean” with Documenting and Rain

Nicole Land thinking with Alicja Frankowski, Andrea Thomas, Selena Ha, and Maria Wysocki

We are curious to think with how we move with documenting – how do we keep our pedagogical documentation in motion, as a process entangled with our everyday movements with the playground? We printed and laminated some images of the children jumping with the logs. As we brought the laminated images into the sand, there were a few children who became concerned with keeping the documentation “clean”. They seemed interested in preserving the documentation as intact images, uncovered by sand or by a presumed, predictable idea of what the sand might do to the images. This makes me very curious to think more about the relations with documenting that we hold and participate in: in the name of what do we want to “preserve” documentation? What inheritances and existing conditions in the field invite relations with documenting concerned with preserving or keeping documenting intact? How? Why? What relations with documenting might we be interested in cultivating? What ways of being with documenting align with our pedagogical commitments? 

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Moving as (or within) a Collective Activity

Nicole Land thinking with Angela Chow and Angélique Sanders

We began, in one of the preschool classrooms, by wondering how we might move collectively: we want to wonder how moving is a shared practice. There’s something to movement that highlights ideas of mutuality, reciprocity, collaboration, communication, and synergy; no body moves in isolation. How might we pay attention to how movements are contagious (in a good way), productive, and communicative – ways of moving catch on and are exchanged between children and adults and the energy, rhythms, and speed of moving in the classroom space constantly change. Moving then, perhaps, could be something we might think with as a practice or activity or process that is expansive and generative; movement goes beyond any one body or any one child’s experience and takes on different meaning through the cumulative, communicative, communal ways moving happens in a classroom.  

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What does Running do?

Nicole Land thinking with Sanja Todorovic and Jajiba Chowdhury

In a toddler classroom, we began by being curious about running and thinking with questions of running and of what running ‘does’; what running creates, what running produces, what running invites, what consequences running generates. This makes me curious about how we get to know running. With what ideas or concepts or inheritances or relations do we build our understandings of what running does or how running happens with children? For me, when I try to name how I understand running, I think often about space and I consider running in relation to spatial considerations: running around bookshelves, running across tile floors, running in tight quarters. Another familiar way that I understand running is in relation to place: running on slippery grass, running across crosswalks, running on really hot days. My phys-ed training always makes me think too about running as gross motor skill: running as a form of locomotion, as an activity that happens at a high intensity, as a way to exercise our bodies. Space, place, and motor skills are then, for me, familiar ways of getting to know running, and they all have particular consequences for how I notice running, how I interpret running, and how I create conditions (spaces, rules, relations) for (or not for) running.  

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‘Monstrous’, Unruly Movements

Nicole Land thinking with Andrea Thomas, Selena Ha, Maria Wysocki and Alicja Frankowski

The sand area in the playground is studded with cut stumps from trees that were uprooted along the other side of the building. These stumps stand as tiny adult thigh-height towers. Climbing on to and jumping off of these stumps is a very interesting way of moving with the playground, and for a few weeks the children often climb and jump barefoot off the stumps. As we moved within the sand with the children, paying careful attention to how we all move with the tree stumps, we began to notice there’s many questions and ways of noticing unfolding: there’s ideas of rules and unfamiliarity (“was this really okay to go barefoot and to jump off the log?”), relations with sand and skin and tree stumps and towels, questions of why and how jumping happens, and curiosities about how we can understand barefoot-sand movements as a collective, situated, unique event.

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Plastic Toys, Playground Spaces, and Moving with the Yard

By Andrea Thomas with Nicole Land

The warm season this year has flown by, but I remember very distinctly all the climbing and jumping off of surfaces that first captured our attention when we thought about movement this spring.  The climbing and jumping always creates some internal conflicts for me: is it safe for children to be climbing up on rocks, stumps, and trees? Is climbing safe for the plants and other living things in the environment?  

The playground was made for gross motor movements of the children, right?  Are they the only ones who matter? For years, some beautiful tiger lilies used to grow in the space at the top of the rock wall by the toddler fence.  But over the past couple of seasons, these plants have been so trampled each spring by children who climb up the rock wall and jump, that although the green shoots still spring up, the plants are stunted and the flowers no longer bloom. As an adult in the environment, how do I decide what it more important?  Where do I set the border/boundary? When we make borders, what lives are we paying attention to and what lives are we not valuing? This yard is a place where things live and die: tiger lilies get trampled, animals make homes that are removed, leaves get picked, and ants get stepped on. Because we have a “natural playground” – and because squirrels, rats, raccoons, trees, moss, wasps, and snails live here – we can ask certain questions.  Even more, because we are part of this place, we have to ask certain questions. We have an ethical responsibility to think about how our human moving is entangled with the possibilities that other lives have for moving in the yard. How does our moving activate our ethical and political choices to pay attention to certain lives and not others? Is it more important to let the children test their skills and explore, climb and jump wherever they want?  Or do I teach a responsibility to care with these plants and flowers? In noticing how our moving is entangled with the yard, the familiar idea that the yard is a space just (or primarily) for children’s skill development becomes unsettled. What happens when we pay attention together with children to how movement connects us within a place? How can we notice how human movements impact plants and flowers – and, how plants and flowers shape human moving. How can we figure out how to move together? 

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Bordermaking and Ownership

By Selena Ha and Nicole Land

“How do we move together?” and “How do we get to know a place with movement?”. These have been the big questions in part of the movement research in the preschool room. 

From the start of the research project inquiry work, we noticed children’s conversations and play, such as “No you can’t play here, it’s my house” and “It’s mine”. We wondered: What did children tell us with this play? What ideas and concepts were they thinking with? We noticed children were creating structures and using them as boundaries that stopped the flow of human moving in the playground; structures and boundaries that interrupted the children’s movements. Thus children that used structures, words, and even their own bodies to create boundaries – they were border making, a term we used to describe our acts of creating and participating in boundaries. Noticing how important borders were in shaping moving, we started to question: what do borders really do? 

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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.

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