“What Happened Here?”

Nicole Land thinking with Angela Chow, Angélique Sanders, and Kassandra Rodriguez Almonte

We’ve been thinking with pedagogy as living a question; as resisting answers or solutions or certainty or tokenism or outcomes and instead thinking with how we negotiate our pedagogical commitments and continue to enliven questions. This idea of sticking with soulful questions, or difficult pedagogical work that feels nourishing, feels to me like an important anchor for our thinking with moving: what ways of moving do we want to care for and create conditions for? Why? How do the questions and ethics we bring to our moving with children shape particular possibilities for how moving happens – and do these create the relations with moving that we want to build and sustain? 

This connects, I think, to a second question of how we pay attention to the bundles of who and what participates in moving. Angélique has traced how an incredibly complex (and changing) collection of concerns and lives shape how moving happens: children, rules, expectations, safety, respect, rules, materials, environments, licensing mandates, curriculum documents our histories with moving, families’ histories and expectations of moving, our intellectual inspirations, the currents that capture us, and the questions that take on a life in a particular space with particular children (and so much more). Following the complexity of noticing who and what participates in moving Angela raised for us a question of “what happened here?’ How do we know what happened within moving? How do we pause, as Angela highlights, to think with moving – how do we notice what happened here and why? What happens when we understand moving as embedded within a collective, common world? How do we attend to all the shifting threads that entangle to shape any moment of moving – and what possibilities for moving do we create when we do? I think this is an incredibly complicated and rich question. I wonder if this is a question we can carry with us for a while: how do we think with moving? How do we care-fully notice what happened here? (When I think about care-fullness, I think about Donna Haraway (2008), Maria Puig de la Bellacasa (2017), and Thom van Dooren (n.d.) – to work to engage care-fully is something I learn from their thinking).

And, to layer on this: what do we need to pay attention to when we ask what happens here? How do we make choices about how we choose to respond to the question of “what happened here”? 
To return our initial thoughts about thinking pedagogically as living a question – how do we live “what happened here” as an ongoing, lively, joyful, inventive question with children? How do we sustain the life of this question together? 

We thought with “what happened here” on mud day. I was very interested in the hose and with how the hose was negotiated: what happened here with the hose? On mud day, the hose seemed to take on the character of almost a pivot point – a gathering point. And, a site of contestation – there’s only one hose so how do we navigate as a collective how the hose should move, who should move the hose, the rules around the hose? This makes me want to notice questions like: how do we move with the hose and with the water? Why? Where do our histories and rules and relationships with the hose come from and how do they become part of the muddy space in the sand? 

I am thinking of one particular moment that I was part of felt really vibrant with the question “what happened here”. S was walking the hose around, holding on to the nozzle end of the hose and dragging the entire rest of the hose across the mud, pulling it tight and wrapping it around the log. As S maneuvered the hose from the front end, the body of the hose touched other children’s ankles and shins and closelined sand toys. The hose got damp and covered in sand; it gathered leaves and got tangled in logs and sometimes got stepped on. The elastic hose can pull really tight and it bends and takes on a shape in an unpredictable, intricate, curvy way. It makes a pathway and carves through the sand pit. Here’s a picture that is making me notice how much happens with the middle of the hose.

S, and the other children who were gathering around the nozzle of the hose, didn’t seem all that interested in what the long middle of the hose was doing. They seemed concerned more with the nozzle, with the water that shoots out of it and with where that water goes. The middle and end of the hose only became a concern when M turned the water off. Then, there was a conversations on turning it back on. When I consider “what happened here?”, I want to pay attention to how this moment centered around the water and the nozzle, because I am curious what ideas and conditions are created that make the water more interesting than the hose. This isn’t to argue that we should centre either the hose or the water as we think with this moment. I just want to be curious what ideas we make present that make us engage with the hose and water in particular ways. I am thinking of our ECE inheritance of valuing outcomes and consumption: we are taught to understand materials and moments for what they produce and we are taught to consume the products of what our materials and experiences produce. Is one way to think carefully with this moment to question how the hose and the nozzle becomes positioned as a “producer” of an outcome: hoses make water and so hoses are interesting because they carry water and we want more water. Where does this logic come from? How does thinking with the hose and nozzle in this moment help us to notice how children inherit scripts of being consumers, of wanting more, of being concerned with particular aspects of experiences (spraying) and not others (hose tangles)? How might we create different relations in this moment if we notice with children what the hose is doing? Can that potentially disrupt our focus on consuming and “more”? Are these relations we are interested in, that we want to stand for?

I am thinking also about how asking “what happened here” for how children’s focus centered on the nozzle and on water might help us think about the ideas we foreground about ownership and responsibility (and how we feel about the possibilities they create for being together). When the nozzle becomes an important part of this moment because it is where the water comes from, something happens that makes the person holding the nozzle responsible for the consequences of the water and of the hose. Usually, there was one person holding the nozzle, meaning one person was responsible for the hose and the water. It also meant that only one person held a great deal of power, which seems to make the nozzle quite desirable and therefore contested as children had to negotiate turn taking and sharing the nozzle. I want to be curious about this. Where do our ideas of individual ownership come from? Do they hold up to moments with the hose and water? What rules do we need to create when the hose becomes positioned as something only one individual can control and is responsible for at a time? I am thinking of all the things that happen around the hose that we might pay less attention to when we centre only the politics of individual hose-directing: all the ways children engage with the middle of the hose (hitting ankles, jumping over, fixing kinks), with the end of the hose (turning water on and off, climbing their bodies over the wooden part that holds the tap), with the ways the water travels (moving our bodies into or out of the water coming out of the nozzle, stepping in puddles left by the hose a few minutes ago, digging in the wet sand that stays wet well after it has been sprayed), and with the more-than-human participants in this moment (tree leaves that drip water after being sprayed, the sun and the rainbows made by the water spray, the bugs and critters that live in the sand, the wet sand). What happens that makes us centre the nozzle and the politics of sharing one desirable object to be controlled by one individual? What ways of being with the water are created by this? What other ways of being with the water might we create if we invent different relations with the hose and nozzle – and what might these open up for navigating this place together?

de La Bellacasa, M. P. (2017). Matters of care: Speculative ethics in more than human worlds. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota Press.

Haraway, D. (2008) When species meet. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

van Dooren, T. (n.d.). Care. Retrieved from http://www.multispecies-salon.org/care/

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