Communicating with/in Moving

Nicole Land thinking with Sanja Todorovic and Jajiba Chowdhury

In the sandbox and yard, we’ve been mulling over a questions together: how do we get to know one another through moving? What about, and how, do we notice moving when we think moving as a language? 

Carrying these questions into the playground, I was struck by how very “quiet” moments in the sand area were. The sand is often a silent place. But also, a space with lots of communicating: carrying sand, offering sand, dropping sand, moving into the shade, bumping shoulders to squeeze into the house, brushing sand off arms when someone else’s sand digging flies onto you, sticking sticks up in sand, slowly dropping sand from one person’s hand into another, picking up shovels and pouring, bumping bodies with the shovel, colliding into other shovels and buckets, and transferring sand. This makes me want to think really carefully with the question of how we notice moving when we think moving as a language. When I think of language I think of ideas like voice, expression, vocabulary, style, local understandings/particularities, and conversations. I also think about the non-innocence of language: we make words work in deliberate ways, and words create unequal, strategic, status-quo ways for us to navigate our worlds. These are, I think, my particular inherited ways of thinking about language. I want to question how these shape how I can notice moving as communicative: when I think moving with sand as a language, what do I pay attention to? Why?

I took a photo of a footprint one child made in sand, after another child had built a pile of sand by carrying sand with her hands. I think it can seem, in taken-for-granted ways of noticing, like a super simple, really everyday thing; a shoeprint in the sand.

When I think about moving in the ways I was taught in phys-ed, I might wonder if this footprint was made while a child was running or how steady they were as they moved over the uneven terrain of the sandbox. With ELECT, I might be curious if the child jumped (correctly) to make this footprint. I can think also of this footprint as an outcome – someone moved and made a footprint in sand. I wonder what it is – what I choose to notice and not notice – when I think about moving as communicative alongside this photo? To think this image while wondering how moving is a language is, for me, a lot more complicated. I am curious to try to notice the communicative character of this footprint: how do the traces or marks we leave invite others to respond? How do footprints become part of the lexicon we build for navigating sand together? Is this footprint something a child “made” or something a child offered? The footprint was made pretty early in our time in sand and I sat beside it for quite a while, wondering how it “does” communicating. Some children noticed the footprint and deliberately walked around it. Some didn’t register the footprint; it didn’t draw some people in. Sometimes the edges of the sand tumbled down, blurring the corners of the footprint. Someone came and smushed it flat with a shovel, keeping the height of the sand pile but making the footprint invisible. 

This makes me think so much about offering and responding: what do we offer within our moving? How do we respond to invitations and traces through moving? How are responding and offering practices of communicating with moving? I also think about what we notice and what we don’t pay attention to when we think about moving as communicative: is the sand part of how moving as a language happens outside? Are shoes? Is the rain that had left the sand a bit tacky? The stick that insisted on sticking into the side of the footprint? What possibilities might we create if we want to understand how moving as a language involves more than only humans? 

Alongside this, I am curious to think more too about how materials co-shape how moving is communicative. How do dinosaur toys, logs, shovels, shade, balls, crates, sheets, bowls, trees, sunlight, and containers participate in how we communicate through moving? How does sand entangle with thinking moving as a language? How might the choices we make about materials shift if we wonder together how materials add to how moving is relational and conversational? What ways of communicating do different materials provoke? How do different spaces invite different ways for communicating with moving? How are materials and places part of understanding moving as a language? 

We’ve been thinking together about how we create conditions to build the relations we want to build with moving with children. To layer on this question, how do we create conditions together with children, and with materials and spaces to amplify relational, communicative, joyful, conversational relations with moving? What would it be to notice, in this image, how materials and place contribute to how moving happens in communicative ways? 

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