Making ECE more than a sheltered enclave that is dominated by romantic notions of childhood and nature requires imagination and courage, heart, body and mind. It demands discussion of the purpose, possibilities and intent of ECE for society, and this discussion has to include children. Iris Duhn
Last week as we walked through the park behind the child care building we crossed paths with volunteers who were removing invasive plants. One of the volunteers handed Rory a worm in a kind gesture of camaraderie. Rory was pleased with the gift and inspected the worm carefully.
“Where is it’s head?” he asked. Then an even more important question came to his mind:
“How do you make a worm laugh?”
The volunteer paused, shrugged and said “Tell it a joke?”
Rory held the worm close to his face, looked at it intently and said “How does a leaf turn into mulch?”
If ever there was the perfect joke for a worm….that was it.
All of this is marvellously cute of course, but it made me think. Rory was not trying to be cute, he was dead serious in his comedic efforts. He thought about the worm differently than I did, he understood the worm as a creature of respect, to be considered worthy of telling a joke to. He related to the worm as a fellow being.
An international collective of scholars is thinking deeply about moments like this, moments where children encounter creatures, trees, rocks. They are thinking about our responsibilities as educators. In these times of environmental crisis, how do we move toward pedagogies that embrace the messy complexities of human-non human encounters ? How do we open possibilities for deeper conversations with children, shifting away from romantic notions of childhood and nature as “innocent”?
Rather than learning about worms perhaps we might begin to think with worms….how would this shift what we said, how we viewed these moments?
Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw and Affrica Talyor suggest:
“ We want young children to sense and register, in more than cognitive ways, that it is never just about us. And we also want to stay open to the possibility that other species and life-forms shape us in ways that exceed our ability to fully comprehend.” (Taylor and Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2014)
Rory carried the worm carefully in his palm for the rest of our walk. He protected it, stroked it, talked to it, befriended it. He got to know that worm…. more intimately than scientific knowledges allow. He was thinking with that worm.