The central ethical and political question now becomes: ‘how do we live
together with human and non-human others?’
(Taylor & Guingi 2012)
“I think we should make a trap…..yeah we can trap them with green tomatoes, that will make them sick! Then they won’t be able to work!”
This sinister sounding plan came from two boys as they watched city workers radically prune 15 feet off the trees in the park just outside the play yard fence. The boys were disturbed at the sight of the trees being so damaged, and devised this plan to lure the workers to eat green tomatoes, theorizing that the tomatoes would make the workers too sick to continue. Deviously brilliant!
On my visits to the centre I have observed these children on many walks through this park and have repeatedly been surprised and impressed by the attentive care they have shown to creatures and plants.
Beautifully arrange flowers for passsersby
Build homes out of grass and sticks to protect a wounded bee they found in the grass
And taste frost.
The educator at this centre makes these walks a regular part of her program, and is attentive to what children notice, the stories they imagine, the naming of places, particular trees, a pile of rocks. She doesn’t impart much ‘scientific knowledge’, rather she asks and listens to the knowledges the children bring. She and I have discussed at length the compassion children show to the creatures, the curiosity to know them. In our ‘teacher role’ we sometimes assume our job is to teach the names of plants, the habits of hibernation or how slugs travel, and these are certainly interesting things to know. But in our rush to teach, we miss what children know. And knowing that a bee will climb on bark if you gently guide it is pretty impressive knowledge. Knowing how to carry a slug, naming it, spending time simply being with it, is another kind of important knowledge. Creating beautiful arrangements of flowers, tasting frost, piling rocks artfully, all these are ways of knowing as well.
This kind of knowing builds compassion, creates a relationship, a kinship. So when the trees are threatened the children are willing to take action. Isn’t this kind of awareness, of responsibility to all ‘human and non-human others’ just what we need?