Adrienne, Alex and I met together to think of memory as the tensions and knots that sustain us in this work. This was a metaphor that we picked up from the inherited weaving histories of Cuenca, and in a way the weaving metaphor inspired Santana to dedicate itself to poetic encounters with their inquiries over these last three years. Together, we discussed memories that held us together that were knotted and difficult to unwind, but also memories that were taken apart, forgotten, or that existed silently. We cannot talk about memories without overlap. Memories are predicated on what’s already there, and as I came into the space at Santana, I had inherited both Alex’s and Adrienne’s work. This work was visible in the space, and in the phrases that were used (such as the earlier example of weaving). Some fragments of moments were left forgotten but were reignited as our discussion unfolded. I’d like to introduce these fragments of memories as actors in pedagogies that wondered about decay. Within this metaphor we tried to interrupt fragments of both memories and also of knowledge-holding that both Adrienne and Alex also disrupted during their time here.
As the three of us noticed an overlap in our struggle to sustain some memories, we wondered about what it would take to uphold memories of disruption. We were wondering how putting together fragmented thoughts can sustain the pedagogical memory of the work. For example, together we worked to disrupt logics that establish pure divisions between inside and outside and also of divisions between “subjects” of math, literacy and science among others. These were the ghosts of developmentalism that haunted us, resisted relationality and contributed to a more reactive divisive pedagogy.
I’m showing a glimpse here of a question that was provoked during a micro moment in Santana that inspired us to think about these fragments. Our goal (the teachers and I) was to see if we can walk through the forest while thinking mathematically. As we attempted to think with mathematics with this old decaying tire wire, we realized that adding together or counting fragments was much more difficult than we thought, and also opened up many more possibilities to getting to know this woven structure of metals.
When the three of us, Alex, Adrianne and I, spoke of decay together, we spoke of the possibility of what decay does. Decay, or a breakdown, does not necessarily mean the disappearance of something but moreso, the emergence of something different, the realignment of fragments, and the movement to a trajectory as a transformation that holds on to previous wonderings, intentions, commitments and more importantly, tensions. It is with these micro memories we move forward in this conversation.
A pedagogical memory is sustained with constant intentional and (un)intentional disruption (of spaces) -a reintroduction or cleaving of artefacts
We discussed our intentional disruption of nature/culture separation stories that are embedded within education in general (for example the idea that the human child in education is separated from the idea of ‘nature’) (Taylor, 2013). While there was a complex array of predispositions that caused us to respond to different types of moments, we noticed that between the three of us there was a clear push, or rather something pushed us to think about spaces differently, and to work with our ideas of the “outside” and “inside” in ways that provoked discomfort. When I entered the classroom, the spaces spoke to this commitment, but they also spoke of the hidden ghosts that continued to re-emerge. Haunting stories around the clean or pure classroom, and even the clean and pure “playground” caused me to wonder and continuously ask where the previous engagements I had heard about (such as with clay, an element so meaningful to Cuenca) disappeared. It also appeared that movement, it’s place and roles were clearly defined. A time to move was either structured as a time for the innocent child to “work out energy” in free play in the playground, or in a structured form, during bike riding lessons. When I came to Santana, I had many conversations with the teachers about the playground and inside spaces. In particular, I saw traces of Adrienne, Alex’s and all of the teacher’s work to make the curriculum of winds, rivers, eucalyptus and nests visible and noticeable in the classroom and perhaps they also served to puncture the boundary between outside and inside. However, there were other challenges with making elements such as the wind and eucalyptus, entities of lively pedagogical wonder, as they remained isolated in their classrooms almost thematically. The separation and fragmentation of these elements had the potential to stagnate the inquiry as we risked losing an important relationality between them. Resultantly, the relations we were trying to follow were difficult to find. We did provoke this a little in the classroom, by for example, introducing wind to eucalyptus, and also by thinking about these relationships in a corporeal way, as in relations with our bodies. However, there still remained a heavy emphasis on each classroom’s element’s representation of a “topic” that made it difficult to transform, create, and be transformed.
I wanted to take this further by thinking about what this means for the playground, and also what the playground meant as a place for “free play” that is abandoned at the door to the classroom. Does the idea of the playground lack pedagogy? Is this not also a place for noticing curriculum? As we met, the three of us, we talked through many stories about the trouble of the playground. Here is a particular micro-memory, of how these elements that the classrooms were working with did not exist separately, rather, there was a clear connection between the elements as well as the teachers.
I was very lucky and grateful to work with Vale and Jessie from the Atelier studio as we introduced clay, canvas and eucalyptus as a provocation to see their relations in a shared space like the playground. I remember seeing the elements of clay, eucalyptus visible in the Aterlier and we agreed with the Atelier teachers that we want to provoke these relations further and to find ways to create different kinds of relations between the arts and the children’s regular classrooms as well. We worked together to place each component of this invitation in the playground in a way that not only served disrupt regular movement, but also that cause one to stop and wonder. We wanted to create a slowing down, and a noticing of the complex engagement between clay, eucalyptus and “outside”.
This is relevant because right now during the pandemic, in the new itinerant school, we are coming to a new point, an (un)intentional disruption that asks us to make curriculum outside all the time. The situation asks us to see the taken for granted, or perhaps the spaces used for particular purposes, to be redefined as places where the mundane is a part of curriculum making. I set out this canvas, clay and eucalyptus to disrupt the clean and pure ways we think of outside and to connect the messiness of the forest and our inquiries with it with the playground. Initially, there was great hesitation to work with this messy clay. The children (and teachers) were hesitant to come onto the canvas. I think this is interesting, because this was not a first introduction to clay, it was just placed somewhere else.
However, as time moved on the canvas started to crinkle with movement. This was a moment where I began to see small moments and teachers in the process of documentation and experimentation with the children, not as bystanders, but actively engaged in the embodied sensations of the clay, of holding up and grounding eucalyptus for example, or feeling and allowing clay to touch and dampen our feet.
Relation and dedication to eucalyptus and clay was also taken up during the time of “atelier” with music, as children danced with eucalyptus as birds (and collapsed birds as well) and found other clay partners (such as solid brick) to develop foundations. It was a particular frame of emergence and a way of putting pieces back together. Adrianne, Alex and I talked about the intentional slow process that is put into clay. You cannot simply mould something in a minute and put it away. You have to (as my previous advisor Dr. Nicole Land would say) muscle through clay pedagogies, wonder about their transformation, and pay close attention to their relations.
The children worked with the clay for a whole week to keep branches up, move them around, create foundations, all that moved over by the wind, that altered the clay and moved one to start over. Clay as a relation emerged as a fragility, that takes careful work and determination. It also had the potentiality to interrupt movements, of “what the playground is good or used for”? In this case a group cyclists had to stop and attend to what was in front of them, while two of their school mates used their feet to hold up eucalyptus in a bundle of brick, and wet clay.
The clay is still on the playground in Santana I believe, wrapped in the canvases around trees waiting. There are still remnants of clay and leaves there, footprints that gesture to that week before Coronavirus shut down the school. Clay has a history in Cuenca- we must reflect on those ghosts we may not want to emerge… Do we want to sustain the memory of clay? How will this fall apart and come back together again? Recently, I was reading David Jardine’s (2008) work on thinking of memory as a cleaving of artifacts. To Jardine, these artifacts are remnants of histories, and they are also those that hold us in memory. They are embedded with relatedness, even when they witness fragmentation, and loss they help us connect to it and find our way. Jardine describes this not just in physical objects but in the words we use. Memory is housed in things and words. Jardine, also makes a point of choosing artefacts that have the potential of coming around again. As mentioned, clay is one artefact where memory lies. We need to think about how and if we will keep the memory of clay in this “new” type of pedagogy? More broadly, what spaces, things, words are important in keeping our chosen intentionality around memory in an itinerant school?
Jardine, D (2008). Back to the Basics of Teaching and Learning: “Thinking the World Together” (2nd Ed.). Routledge.
Taylor, A. (2013). Reconfiguring the natures of childhood. Routledge.