Stones, leaves, & chalk pastels

By Rita Huang

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.

Thanks for reading!

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

Hand-gripped Materials

Posted on 2021-12-02 by michael3

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?

Hand-Gripping Small Pencil by R. Michael Fisher (c) 2021 – photo from scanner

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?