“The teachers art is to CONNECT in real time, with the LIVING bodies of the children with the LIVING bodies of KNOWLEDGE.”Stephen Nachmanovitch(1993)
Free Play: Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts
I have been part of a wonderful learning encounter in Toronto, Canada called #Rhythm2016 with Diane Kashin of Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research. As part of this experience I have been reflecting on words that are important to me that describe characteristics of children’s learning. The above quote is never far from me. It is a quote that reminds me about the relationship between children and their learning and the art of the teacher.
Vitality is a word I am drawn to as a way of describing learning that is alive, fluid, under constant construction and grows in organic and multi-directional directions. It is an energy that must also be present in our teaching. There are deep patterns of curiosity and connection to the natural world that go beyond interests in popular culture and schema’s of play. Relationships to more interrelated and more complex ideas about interconnectedness and interdependencies of nature. At the centre of their research is a characteristic or drive to find out what it means to be alive in a context of other things that are also alive and full of vitality.
Encounter is a word that for me describes the way in which children experience the world through shared experiences with other children and adults. If learning is constructed as part of a social group, the encounter serves as either a planned invitation or spontaneous happening or indeed as an offering of an idea that holds a different point of view than your own. I prefer this over provocation, as it is suggestive of a meeting or coming together of materials, experiences, concepts together with children, ideas and thoughts.
Playfulness is the word that I try hard to embrace in everything that I do. It is a characteristic of my own play as an artist with coloured wools and yarns as I felt and create layers of colour representative of my ideas and thoughts in the present time. Sometimes this playfulness is shared with others, sometimes I am alone in my playfulness. Working with children, this playfulness is a site of exploration, testing, hypothesising and messing about (David Hawkins) Messing About – Hawkins Centers of Learning
Exchange is about how I consider the foster and generate situations that enable children to exchange ideas with each other so that differing and multiple perspectives can rise up and be ‘encountered’. It is also a characteristic of teacher/educator reflection on children’s learning – a process involved with pedagogical documentation that enable teachers/educators to come together to revisit traces of documentation collected (photographs, notes, dialogue, video etc.) in order to reflect on the strategies of learning of the children and to re-present/re-construct it for further audiences to make further layers of interpretation.
Collaboration for me is the process of working together on a shared idea of the group to realise ideas and thoughts. It could be a shared question or hypothesis, a shared point of view, a shared representation of thinking in a creative way. The process of collaboration is linked to the social constructivist idea that children learn socially with and from and each other. It is the opposite of competition.
Mutual Learning is for me the result of interaction in the process of collaboration. Again an interdependent process of evolvement in multiple directions rather than progression in linear and hierarchal ways. Learning that happens as a result of social interaction, in a context of playful encounter, exchange and collaboration.
These words have resonated and reverberated with me this week together with many, many more. I leave you with this quote that I took from Ontario’s exhibition of Reggio Children’s The Wonder of Learning that for me prompted and reminded me about these words and introduces others. It feels important to recognise the connectivity of these works that give that vitality to learning.
“Encounters between curiosity, spacial sensitivity and a places ‘invitations’ give form, energy and rhythm to moments.”
The Wonder of Learning Exhibit, Ontario , Reggio Children