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.  

This, I think, is a contrast to taken-for-granted understandings of children’s movement as something one individual child executes or performs within a classroom space where the desired ’normal’ speed/rhythm/rules are pre-existing and are something to be maintained. As an example, if I think about movement as one singular child’s actions, I might observe something like “that child is running and their running is disruptive” which might lead me to a response like asking that particular child to stop themselves from running. I want to suggest that perhaps thinking moving as collective expands the questions we need to ask of moving: if I don’t want to think moving as an individual child’s actions, and I do want to think moving as something collective, what does that mean for how I respond to moving? Maybe I instead ask how running and speed and fast-moving bodies change the energy in the space, and how that change in vibe/equilibrium/feeling aligns or not with the kind of pedagogical space that I want to create – and why. Why does running feel unsettling here, in this moment, in this place, with these people, with this collective? Then, I might need to respond differently than asking an individual child to stop running (or not, maybe asking someone to stop is still my chosen response) – we might have to invent a different kind of response, one that engages the collective, communicative, and contagious character of movement (and maybe that means that we can’t ‘locate’ running as only one individual child’s responsibility/action, and need to think about collective ways to navigate how running happens and what running creates in the room).

Thinking moving as a collective activity makes me wonder also how our ways of moving in the classroom shape how we come together and the commons or communities that we build. I wonder if this connects to questions of space (is there a time and space for movement?). It makes me curious how moving as a shared, mutual, collaborative practice might mean that we need to think about how the materials, place, space, timelines, and bodies within the room are all part of moving – how the space shapes and is shaped by movement; how space makes certain movements possible and how certain movements create certain relationships within spaces. There’s a certain reciprocity or co-creation here maybe? And building this further, thinking moving as a collective ‘thing’ (I’m not sure yet what I mean by ‘thing’ here – process? practice? experience? way of knowing?) makes me think also about all the policies, practices (like redirecting), regulations, rules, safety, materials, and other influences/ideas we have inherited contribute to this collective moving. When I think about, for example, regulations as part of the “stuff” of collective moving, then I’m not necessarily thinking of regulations as something imposed on one child’s movement in the name of control, but maybe as one feature or contour toward how moving unfolds within the space. This, I think, makes me want to ask different questions of regulations. Maybe instead of asking what the regulations do and do not permit for individual children’s movements, I might need to ask how the regulations influence possibilities for movement within the collective space: how do the regulations we’ve inherited shape how movement does and does not happen in collaborative, communicative, reciprocal, shared ways? And, why does that matter to me?

This raises, for me, questions like: when I think about moving as a collective practice, what do I notice about movement? What do I pay attention to when I understand movement as communication, collaboration, and collectivity? How do I attune to the ways movement happens collectively, in community, as a practice of making common relationships and spaces? 

These questions make me think about moving and collectivity and commons. How we might notice moving as a shared, collective practice? When I spend time with this question of how moving is collective/contagious, then my own ethical and pedagogical commitments toward the ways I notice, enable, constrain, and do moving feel really, really important: how I get to know moving matters because moving is about more than my own body or my own moving. For me, this requires that I notice how my ways of knowing moving have wider consequences, and how my ways of getting to know movement are grounded in my beliefs and orientations about childhood and participating in collectives/commons.

I initially offered us the question “how do we get to know moving”, and Angela layered on to this a question of why we get to know movement the ways we do – why we draw upon certain understandings, practices, beliefs, motivations, criteria in how we teach and notice and create rules around movement? How is moving hugely entangled with much bigger questions about our educational commitments? What, for example, happens if we think about how stillness and motion entangle with our understanding of community? How does how movement happens in different moments of our daily routines activate our beliefs about community and the community-building we want to be a part of with children? How might we think of noticing and shaping movement during daily events as a method of community-building and curriculum-making? 

I want to be curious about how we get to know moving in collective ways: what educational commitments are our relations with movement made in the name of in these moments? Angela centered the importance of joy, it feeling right, and deepening relationships, inquiry, and ways of being as educational commitments, as pedagogical orientations. What if we think with joy, relations, inquiry, and collaboration as ways of moving together – how might we activate these in how we get to know moving in daily routines? How, and why, do we get to know moving as a collective ‘thing’, and not an individual activity?

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