As part of a larger international project that includes six sites across Canada, the United States and Australia, we use common worlds frameworks (Hodgins, 2019; Taylor & Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2019) to rethink our relations with waste. Each site is concerned with a theme that aims to unsettle managerial logics of three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). Our research at Santana aims to reconceptualise ‘recycling’ by thinking closely with the ongoing life of plastic materials that deeply figure child-place relations in Cuenca.  

Working with common worlds conceptual framings, our research is foregrounded on a commitment to decenter the human as the sole focus of inquiry and to situate our lives within shared, yet unequal common worlds (Latour, 2004). The notion of common worlds in early childhood education is an inclusive, more-than-human notion that re-positions the child from the centre of pedagogy (Taylor, 2013).  It also brings a critical interruption to the ‘human’ as a colonial epistemic projection underpinned by white, heterosexual masculinity and legitimized only via Western knowledge-making processes (Nxumalo, 2019). In dissolving the imaginary of the rational human subject, our common worlds framings aim to disrupt the fiction of the individual human acting in isolation and disconnected from the world.

Inspired by these common worlds framings, early on in the project we realized that to radically think with the complexities of living with plastics, our initial pedagogical work needed to disrupt the colonial discourses of child development and the purity of the young child so ingrained in daily practices at Santana.

Thus, the first year of our pedagogical work at Santana has been largely about opening up orientations that allow for thinking beyond the individual child as the sole protagonist of environmental education, to think with plastics in critical and experimental ways. More specifically, our goal in the initial phase of the project has been to challenge the discourse of the ‘developing child in nature’, unsettle discourses which center the individual child at the center of pedagogy, and attend to the interdependencies of humans and nonhumans amid increasingly toxic ecologies.

Alex Berry, Cristina D. Vintimilla, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw