Our pedagogies are grounded with the place in which we live. Thus, our inquiries with children are committed to thinking with the concept of place, not as a physical background to our lives, but as an agentic presence that actively shapes everyday realities. To conceptualize our pedagogical commitments, we use the metaphor of the river.

The Rio Tomebamba flows between the old and new towns of Cuenca, and provokes us to consider how we might enact pedagogies that flow with our past, present and possible futures. Centering our ancestral relations and how they come to matter in the 21st century, our pedagogies dance between our familial traditions and in-the-moment improvisation. Using the arts as an entry point, we think closely with artistic languages as collective expressions that trace our relations with place and time to create the worlds we want to live in.

The river’s water seeps into surrounding earth.

It carries fallen leaves from neighbouring trees, whose roots support its banks.

The school does not exist in isolation, nor are the ideas which gather here contained. Rather, the school is porous, permeable and ideas move socially in collaboration with others. We view knowledge as existing within a dynamic collective, and seek collaboration with elders, families and community-members.

Like the river, knowledge is never static, but always becoming.

The arts encourage us to pay attention, notice and question aspects of life which often go unmentioned. As educators, we hold an attitude of questioning which propels the making of curricula as a phenomenon that is situated in-the-moment and always in-the-making. Tapping into the transformative possibilities of the arts, we aim to nourish spaces where children and educators can create new ways of knowing and relating with the world through materials.

The river relies on the relations of many.

The child is part of a dynamic ecology, living in community with multiple others: human, material, animal, plant, earth, air and water. We attend to our relational accountabilities not only to humans, but also to those others who share this place. Therefore, our pedagogical intention is to provide opportunities for children to notice their positionalities amid interdependent ecologies and to care for their relations in co-composed spaces.

Rolling over and under, the river is both leader and follower.

As educators, we situate ourselves in-between the role of leading and following the child. We bring our histories, artistic passions and wonderings into moments of inquiry. Actively listening to children, materials and place, we nourish a sustained attention to how we affect and are affected by others. Listening requires vulnerability, and openness across difference. Attuning to the rhythms of lived moments and enhancing their aesthetic qualities, we provoke children’s emerging theories about what something is and what it might become. Slowing down our pedagogical processes, we think deeply about our ethical obligations as educators in current times and how we might respond.

Written by Alex Berry through dialogues with the educators of Nivel Inicial, Photo by Sylvia Kind