This morning, our pedagogist Antje arrived in front of our classroom to visit with us. The two of us walked down the road to a stone area, which is located at the end of a parking lot in our neighboring daycare program. The parking lot belongs to the train company and is a shared space in this community. There is a little wooden box with children’s books. Anyone is welcome to grab books from this little box and sit down on rocks or benches.
We spent time in this rock area To see what we could do or create We took a few minutes to stand under the rain It brought energy and calmed us down Time passed fast, leaves fell down from trees We are almost at the end of the fall
I said, “ If we are only looking at the rocks, we won’t feel time changing, even thousands and thousands of years. However, when we see leaves as they lay down on the rocks, we know time is changing.” We illustrated this idea in this way with the stones and leaves:
This library area is open to their neighbourhood. Antje shared an idea from one of my classmates: “I wonder what would happen if we put the BC Early Learning Framework here?” I was inspired by this idea. Perhaps we could offer a blog or a memory notebook beside the library, and share one of the Principles from Early Learning Framework, which uses the environment as the third teacher. People from this community and neighbourhood are welcome to sit down and spend time to share their thoughts on the blog or note book.
We decided to bring rocks from the stone pile to the centre, along with fallen leaves that we found on our way back. We moved the stones and leaves to the centre’s backyard. Children dressed for the rain and came with muddy bodies. We invited the children to sit around a table and told stories about this project to the children. We were going to play with chalk pastels, rocks, and leaves on a large sheet of paper. I was curious, ‘ What might the children create and how might they build a relationship with those fresh materials?’ We wouldn’t know at the beginning. I noticed some children saw the chalk pastels as a gift and chose their favourite colours and had fun on paper.
I’m reflecting on the experience last night at the Collaborative Dialogue Event (ECPN’s put on). The story of Kozue especially on the little children’s grip of ‘things’ they bring to the day care in her experience. She lists several things they bring, and small stones is one of them. Tonight, I’m thinking, that if I was a child again, and had the choice, I would have brought a small pencil (or like stylo-instrument, be it a crayon, pastel, pen). I have had a fettish for these objects since I can remember, and it is not surprising my desk and art studio are cluttered with these materials (evocative objects–so I decided to scan my gripping the pencil as if that is my child’s hand at a toddler age)- I think of adults or older peers prying against the will of the child in many instances, even my own, where something inside one’s hand is forcibly removed because the child doesn’t want to give it up. That was part of Kozue’s realization of having a “relationship with the stone” which she has shared on a prior blog post here and she shared her written story at the Event last night online.
Now, what takes this all further in my query, is not that I am a ‘collector’ of such stylo-like things and love what they can do in terms of their marking the world, the sidewalk, the blackboard, the whiteboard, the paper, etc. but I have on several occasions made paintings in experimental series where I draw, color, and paint realistically a stylo object, a pencil crayon, a pastel, a felt-tipped child’s marker. In fact in the current show at NIA starting this Sat.-Sun. (for the Nanaimo Artwalk) you’ll see at least two of my paintings where I included such an object. Okay, that’s interesting enough. But what really came out tonight, from the unconscious to conscious, was that “I am a pencil crayon.” Yeah, all those objects truly are “me” and they are what and how I want to be handled in the world–artistically, as I and many of us would handle a pencil crayon (or any stylo objective I’ve mentioned above). Wow! There’s a lot there to mine. But, let’s also not forget the stones, as a theme for this artist residency and Kozue’s story, in hand–and, now in her son’s hand. As she told us last night that her son “took the stone” –her stone. What part of her did he take, and apparently has still hidden, even from his mom?
On a rainy Saturday morning my colleagues and I gathered at Nanaimo Innovation Academy (NIA) for an event called “strengthening our learning community through art as inquiry”. We started the day with the visit to the rock art exhibition in the NIA parking lot. Our artist in residence, Michael invited us to pick a stone to bring back as we were going back inside. I picked a small white stone with many black dots on it. I chose it for its small size and for the one shiny black spot that I noticed after I picked it up. As we got inside, I kept an eye on the stone while I tried to find a comfortable seating position. Michael who was leading the experience told us to lay down or get comfortable, then close our eyes in preparation for our imaginary tour around NIA and our neighborhood.
I sat with my eyes closed listening to the voice of Michael. The little stone was in my hands. The imaginary walk started at NIA and took us in three directions: to a cliff, a nearby park, and a large rock. We were encouraged to feel the stone and talk to it at times. Whenever we paused for a moment, I asked the stone if it wanted to keep going. The answer was always “Yes” as it was a young stone with many pointy edges. I, on the other hand, am old (not that old) and smooth from going over the bumps of life. Throughout this imaginary tour, the rock stayed in my hand. I sometimes moved it around in my hands feeling the bumpy surface of it, or sometimes it just rested on my hand. By the time I opened my eyes as the imaginary tour came to an end, I had formed a relationship with the stone. It even looked like it had two dotted eyes and a small pointy nose.
While I was going through the tour, I thought of the children who were in my infant and toddler class. They come through the gate to our yard with one or more stones in their small hands tightly gripped almost every morning. There is also a child who comes with a piece of gummy which he never eats. While infants and toddlers often like to have things such as stones, toys, nuts, bugs, flowers, and food in their hands, they do not like to let them go. Although a piece of gummy from the breakfast could be too dirty to be eaten after one hour of outside play, it is still difficult for the child to let it go. I never thought of the fact the tight grip on a cereal, gummy or a rock was a sign of the relationship. The child has formed a relationship with the object in its hand and it makes it hard to open the hand to part with it. It could be because the cereal came from home where the child longs to go back, or the child feels the connection with his family or parents who he loves. A stone at the parking lot might have caught the child’s eye with a noticeable shine. Also, the roughness of the stone may give just the right amount of sensory stimulation on the soft palm.
In any case, any object can form a relationship with a child if a grownup who has not visited any imaginary world for a long time can have a relationship with a stone.
The experience with the stone gave me the opportunity to vision the world of imaginary play of children as well as the relationship between objects and children.
As I wrote this, my 6-year-old son wanted me to read the story I was working on. I read him the first two paragraphs, and he asked me if it was a true story. I said,” yes.” Then he wanted to see the stone I was writing about, because he wanted to see the spots that was shiny. He did not question about the fact that I was talking to the stone or the relationship between the stone and I. I felt as though I was allowed in a special place where it was filled with children and only chosen adults.
With much delight we are sharing some traces from our Collaborative Dialogue event from December 1st, 2021. We look forward to continuing this series in the New Year and welcome your ideas for future events. In the meantime, to continue thinking with each other, we invite you to share your reflections as a response to this post.
Thank you for attending the Collaborative Dialogue #3- Thinking Education through Art(s). Using the music of the stones and the symbols of candles, an environment was created in which we, as educators could reflect, investigate and be provoked to deepen our understandings of others, of materials and of our world. We are grateful for the opportunity of having artist R. Michael Fisher join us last night and to open the conversation on how we can be curious to think with, question with and trust with, the arts / artists / pedagogists / children / educators / mentors / the non – human world and materials. You can view Michael’s online exhibition here: https://galleries.lakeheadu.ca/r-michael-fisher.html
Kozue shared of her relationship with the stone she picked and wondered about when the children come to us, holding a stone, a gummie candy, a toy, and their genuine relationship to this object. She reminded us to take notice of how a stone feels in hands, what it looks like, to think of our connection to the stone.
Rita shared her observations of what can happen when we ask the question of “what relationship will the children build, what will they create, when they can investigate and experiment with materials in a way that are meaningful the them?” She reminded us to consider how materials are presented. How do this invite experimentation and curiosity? To notice the contrast of colour between stones and leaves, the contrast of time.
Jennifer shared stories of neighborhood walks that take the children past the stone pile in their community. She brought in the voice of a child who excitedly shares on these walks: “That’s my neighborhood!”
In one break out room the discussion was on the inter-relationship of humans and natural environments. How can I encourage children to recognize that humans and the natural world are connected and mutually dependent on one another? (to read further questions, see page 90 of ELF). Only through ongoing inquiry of our connections to nature, to objects, can we engage with the children in their journey of “recognizing that humans and the natural world are connected and mutually dependent on each other”. (ELF pg.84)
Best and thanks to you all, Cheryl & Antje & Juliet
Consider this inquiry into the stones. How did the protagonists engage in the process of pedagogical narration?
Today I found myself in a grove, to be very specific, in an Alder Grove; I thought about how these trees are so quick to grow and that they fall quickly—constantly rising, falling and re-growing again. This speaks to the images you pull from the pedagogical narration by Shannon McDaniel called “The Educator I Once Was” (Government of British Columbia, 2019, p. 91). With this, my heart is open to new ideas, and I am, hopefully, forever willing to grow and be teachable.
Ash’s encouragement that I may already know who I am responsible for brings joy to my heart. Her writing sings a song of welcome and invitation. I feel called to respond…
So, after her invitation to breathe, I can articulate who I feel responsible to: I feel responsible for all things human and non-human. I am also responsible for living well so others may live well too.
How might I respond to this call to be responsible? Here is the how and why of it:
To uphold, live and breathe our Framework’s vision: “Respectfully living and learning together” (Government of British Columbia, 2019, p. 42).
To love and be loved (human and non human).
To feel welcome and welcome others, much like Ash has done above.
To challenge and critically reflect on the thoughts and stories that have led me to where I am today. “To be and to become an experienced teacher is not merely the accumulation of strategies and knowledge, but rather it calls for one to confront one’s previous understanding” (Pelech & Skuce, 2020).
I will share that I appreciate Ash’s way of bringing her learning visible; It opens up an opportunity for me to do the same. I will close with this question: is it possible that we are also responsible to our colleagues?
“Every breath that you take is a breath that was made for you by plants”(Kimmerer, 2019).
Government of British Columbia. (2019). British Columbia early learning framework (2nd ed.). Victoria: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development, & British Columbia Early Learning Advisory Group. https://www2.gov.bc.ca
In Shannon McDaniel’s work ‘The Educator I Once’ Was she tells a story of her experience with taking children out into nature. McDaniel reflects on the transformative journey. First, her initial hesitancy and discomfort while supervising the children as they explore the forest freely. Next, her awareness and vulnerability in asking for help and support from colleagues, which is met with warmth and wholehearted acceptance. Then, in her own time McDaniels is able to ease back into spontaneity alongside the children, trusting, and observing their processes with curiosity. Through this observation and reflection McDaniel poses some profound questions. Amongst them, this: “Who are we responsible to?”
“Who are we responsible to?”
I sit in silence between breaths waiting for an answer to uncover itself.
To Parents? Teachers? Bosses? Peers?
The multitude of possibilities writhe around in my head. “Who are we responsible to?”
The children? Mother Nature? Our community?
“Who are we responsible to?”
Tradition? Education? History?
Slowly the pieces begin to form patterns, falling into place.
In personal reflection of this question, I draw parallels between McDaniel’s anecdote and the answers that come to mind.
I imagine the children in McDaniel’s writing, bounding through undergrowth, laying on the forest floor, constructing fortresses built from the inspiration bursting forth from their limitless imaginations. Joyously. Honestly. And I recall McDaniel. In open an honest connection and collaboration, plunging her bare feet into the cold and squishy mud to break the tension of uncertainty within the group.
Who were they responsible to?
The bugs in the dirt? Forest flora and fauna? The dirty socks to be laundered and the mopping to certainly be done upon returning indoors?
Maybe all of these things..
And maybe none of them.
“Inclusive learning and care supports the individual strengths and needs of each child, allowing them to meaningfully engage, learn, and contribute to the community and culture of their program.” -BC ELF P.103
At any given time, within any experience, each individual carries their own perspectives and motivations. Children and adults alike. This intrinsic and intuitive drive has such potential to be a catalyst for a plethora of rich and impactful experiences. A bridge between the known and unknown. And in tandem with connection and collaboration, an almost immeasurable opportunity for growth and transformation.
So, breathe deeply… Sit and listen, Let your thoughts come and go however they so choose.
The following is a collective response to the second event in the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’ series, a professional development opportunity hosted on March 17, 2021. You will find a brief introduction to this series in our blog post posted on March 8th. We invited presenters, guests, and hosts to co-compose this blog post. Our hope was to sustain the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’ by staying with the generous offerings and creating a space for a playful “back and forth” (see Amanda Gillmore’s post, 2021). We created an online document that updates in real time, shared the invitation to contribute, and waited…
We are connecting to several blog posts shared at the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’: Sabrina and Julie (forthcoming – on mentorship) Amanda Gillmore (March 17, 2021) Vania Zanetti (March 16, 2021) Kate Boyd and Danielle Cazes (February 23, 2021)
Antje: Welcome to this site for curiosity, experimentation, improvisation, and wonder! You are invited to join this written dialogue inspired by the question: How might we – collectively – continue the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’ event(s) in a virtual way? Here are a few of my questions as a way to enter the conversation, feel free to add your own. What are you compelled to write about as you reflect about the event? What ideas and themes are you returning to? What are some of the alternate stories that you witnessed at the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’ event? What might this dialogue set into motion? What questions are you left with?
Cheryl: Amanda’s swinging boots are an invitation to a child who responds. What are the messages that we send to children, to the world in the way we move? What are the senses beyond words? Toddlers and educators take time to eat their snacks and linger with Sabrina and her mentor Julie. Conversations verbal and otherwise activated by the shared experience of nourishing our bodies and souls. What is activated between us as we think with Vania and Peter Moss?
Antje: I shared Vania’s reflections on play spaces with my sister when we visited Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park in Nanaimo. Inspired by Peter Moss, Vania “wonder[ed] about the multiple ways spaces can provoke exploration”. Their words echoed into this space. We lingered to watch my nephews with/in the trees and stream. This also takes me to Powell River, to the forest, just out of sight, that Kate and Danielle visit with children and their families. How might we cultivate a love for a place? What would the vocabulary be?
Vania: I had asked Sabrina and Julie to speak on their mutual connection to each other. In my reflections I wondered about my own mentor (twenty years ago). I asked myself the same question I asked during the dialogue. What was the moment when I knew I could trust or that I felt connected to my mentor? And I knew the answer. I’ve never forgotten the moment because I use the same words when I work with my colleagues to this day.
There are times for whatever reason when children will be resourceful in getting their needs met. On this particular day a child was not getting what they needed from me (a newbie). Clearly thinking I didn’t know what they were asking they moved on to make the same request from my mentor. My mentor had been an educator in the program for a few years more than myself. My mentor replied with “Vania is right…” and repeated what I had already told the child. Word for word. The child moved on satisfied with the response. To this day I don’t remember what the request was but those three words made me feel so validated, so able, so confident and so trusted. I felt connected knowing they were supporting me in a shared role of caregiver. This was a mentor that saw the importance of stability, consistency and predictability for both the child and a mentee’s emotional development.
Later that day we were able to discuss the moment together. I’m assuming we made changes as may have been needed or perhaps we laughed together at the child’s ingenuity. In reflection the connection happened because my mentor had been vulnerable with me. Not allowing the child to perceive them as ‘greater than’ in that moment made me feel I could be vulnerable together with them. The willingness to be vulnerable made way for connection and trust between us.
When I consider this I think again about the play spaces we create. If dominant language is used when choosing materials, choosing curriculums, and enforcing outcomes how can we be vulnerable with each other? How authentic are our connections with colleagues or the children we care for? How can growth happen when we are not able to make connections that help keep us open to new possibilities?
By Students in Practicum II, Ocean Kneeland, and Antje Bitterberg
Creating the event: The public event ‘Collaborative Dialogue – Learning together and building relationships: A professional development opportunity for early childhood education students, mentors, and curious educators’ is a series of three events imagined and created in collaboration between the VIU ECEC Program and three regional CCRRs: Cowichan, PacificCARE in Nanaimo, and Powell River. When we began to imagine this event, it was important to us to create a space for ongoing dialogue that could hold all of us – students, educators, instructors, and community members in and across our regions. We decided that a series of online events, rather than one, would allow us to nurture a space for dialogue and connections over time. We will share a definition of collaborative dialogue from the Early Learning Framework (Government of BC, 2019), our process for continuing the conversations after the event, and offer some traces of our conversations.
Collaborative Dialogue: “Collaborative dialogue means inviting comments, questions, and interpretations from children, families, colleagues, and community members to elicit multiple perspectives. This process opens avenues for discussion not to find answers but to explore the different ways of thinking about pedagogy, and to invite reflection on assumptions, values, and unquestioned understandings. Ongoing collaborative dialogue can enrich and deepen perspectives, and can challenge educators to consider new ways of seeing, thinking, and practising.” (Government of BC, 2019, p. 50)
Revisiting the event with students: To invite students to reflect on the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’ event, we (Ocean and Antje) visited the students in their practicum seminar a week after the event. We wanted to express our deep gratitude to the four first-year students who shared their pedagogical narrations at the event. We also wanted to acknowledge the students in the audience and their contribution to creating a lively and welcoming space for their peers. In conversation with all the students and their instructor, we learned that many of us embraced uncertainty and an openness to experiment together. Below are two images we created with students to describe what was most meaningful to them.
Students who offered their work at the event shared these reflections:
Students who listened and engaged in the event shared these reflections:
Continuing the Dialogue: We invite you to share your response to our post or the event by submitting a comment! You might also share your ideas and hopes for future events. What are you curious about and what kinds of professional development opportunities are meaningful to you?