Imaginary tour with my stone

By Kozue Rathe

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.

Collaborative Dialogue: Of Stones and Community-in-the-Making

Dear all,

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?

Retracing my steps

By Alejandra Gorostiza

The Early Learning Framework (Government of BC, 2019) describes a rhizome as a plant that develops underground and buds in many directions and without a predictable pattern. Inspired by this image, I created this visual map of my learning connections on this wonderful, complex, and unpredictable path to becoming an early childhood educator.

Grateful for so much!

References:

Government of BC. (2019). British Columbia early learning framework. Victoria, BC: Queen’s Printer.

An Inquiry in Responsibility

“We find our allies by being vulnerable.”





– A conversation with a loved one.

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.

And inquire honestly:

“Who are we responsible to?”

“Who am I responsible to?”

You may be surprised what you will find.

You already know.

References:

Daniels,S.(2019).The Educator I Once Was. British Columbia Early Learning Framework. 91-92.https://www2.gov.bc.ca/…pdf

British Columbia Early Learning Framework (2019). https://www2.gov.bc.ca/…pdf

Inspiring Pedagogical Narrations

By Heather Wilson

In the reading ‘The Educator I Once Was’ by Shannon McDaniel in the Early Learning Framework (Government of BC, 2019, p. 91-96), I wonder how much time and reflection took place before she felt able…

“… to be more spontaneous in the woods.”

I wonder about her initial anxiety and how she perceives that experience as her practice continues. Does she always think back to this memory and see the positivity in how far she has come? Or is she thankful for her apprehension, as it guides her more than it stunts her growth as an educator?

When she models her own curiosity by putting her barefoot in the mud, the educator and child experience, learn and grow together, and she captured it beautifully in her Pedagogical Narration.

McDaniel’s story connects me back to Ted Aoki’s (2004) article, ‘Teaching as In-Dwelling between Two Curriculum Worlds’, where he mentions, “… there is a forgetfulness that teaching is fundamentally a mode of being” (p.160). To me McDaniel’s role as an educator has gone far beyond a simple statement of, ‘taking toddlers into the forest’ but she lived her experiences with the children and with her colleagues.

The children saw her vulnerable on both occasions mentioned above. First, with her anxiety of her capabilities and the children’s’ in the woods, but by asking for help (from her colleagues) she models to the children what they might do if they are afraid. I wonder if she presented her fears to the children. What kind of outcome or solution would they present? Her second engagement with the toddlers, forest and mud was another moment of vulnerability. The educator is trying a new thing, pushing her comforts and exploring her senses and environment – just what we as educators are trying to give the children.

Exploring the Beach

She presented an amazing example of modeling by just being true to herself. That cannot be taught in one lesson, it is taught in experiences, places and relationships.

References: 

Aoki, T. T. (2004, 2011). Curriculum in a new key: The collected works of Ted T. Aoki (W. F. Pinar & R. L. Irwin, Eds.). Lawrence Erlbaum, Routledge.

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/gov/content/education-training/early-learning/teach/early-learning-framework 

Reimagining Practicum Seminar

By Antje Bitterberg, Patricia McClelland, Rupinder Rajwan, and Charlene Roulston 

We are a team of four instructors – Antje, Charlene, Patricia, and Rupi – and have found much joy and meaning in working collaboratively as instructors. In preparing for the Spring 2021 semester, we noticed that each of us was assigned a group of practicum students enrolled in either an infant/toddler or diverse abilities practicum. We connected and wondered, ‘What might happen if we combined our 2nd year students in one collective practicum seminar?’  

We each bring curiosity and courage to the process of reimagining practicum seminar. It would have been easy to continue our work in isolation. Each of us would have worked with our own group of students, and students would have completed their practicum. However, by embracing the Early Learning Framework [ELF] and the image of teachers as “researchers and collaborators” (Government of BC, 2019, p. 15) we were called to move beyond the walls of our own classes to create opportunities for collaboration and inquiry, for students and instructors alike! The ELF states, “Learning is not an individual act but happens in relationship with people, materials, and place” (p. 65). This statement is foundational to our teaching and our shared vision for our team-taught seminar.  

Over the course of the semester, we found a rhythm that allowed us to create both a collaborative space for students and  their four practicum instructors, and an intimate space for each group of students and their respective practicum instructor. Each week we alternated between gathering as one large group, and then gathering with our small groups. Throughout the semester, the four of us also met frequently to discuss emerging questions and which threads to make visible in our next team-taught collective seminar. 

Students in these 2nd year practicum courses are learning how to generate curriculum. They are asked to listen closely to the interests of children in their practicum settings and to begin creating and sustaining a curriculum inquiry with the children and colleagues within their unique contexts. Similarly, in our seminar, we have taken on an inquiry nourished by emerging interests of the group. We started by exploring a pedagogy of listening as described in the ELF, then moved into, and stayed with, the complexities of working with pedagogical narration. As our course comes to an end, we have unearthed more questions than answers about the process working with pedagogical narrations, who they are for, and what they set in motion.  

We invite you to linger with the following question that emerged for us in and through conversations provoked by the ELF. “Engaging with complexity means accommodating many ways of thinking, seeing, doing, and knowing as well as being a condition of professionalism in early learning” (Government of BC, 2019, p. 2). What does this ask of us? 

References:

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/gov/content/education-training/early-learning/teach/early-learning-framework