Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
I was out walking the other day and saw this on the sign at the start of the walk. An act of vandalism? Wikipedia (not that reliable I know) explains vandalism as: the behaviour attributed originally to the Vandals, by the Romans, in respect of culture: ruthless destruction or spoiling of anything beautiful or venerable. Then I have to google what ‘venerable’ means, which is something that is accorded a great deal of respect, especially because of age, wisdom, or character.
So then I start thinking… how is dislodging rocks vandalising culture, ruthlessly destructing something beautiful and should rocks be given a great deal of respect and do they have age, wisdom and character?
Being the sort of early childhood teacher that I am, I started thinking about this idea of dislodging rocks through the premises of the Early Years Learning Framework.
Belonging and being… for whom?
Rocks, and other parts of nature, have histories. If we know how, we can recognise the histories of the natural world. I don’t just mean the scientific or geological histories, but the histories (and presents?) of how these rocks belonged, of how they be-ed, of how they became. I wonder what they can tell us and what they can’t tell us when they are dislodged. Part of my difficulty with thinking about this and writing this is I don’t have the ideas to frame around these thoughts, to encompass and extend this idea that rocks- and other parts of the natural world- can belong, can be, can have histories and cultures which are lost on their dislodgement. What theories or thinking do I need to extend the ideas of ‘belonging’ and ‘being’ (and even possibly, becoming?) outside of the sphere of human-only. I want to believe that rocks have histories and presents that are not scientific or geological, but I don’t know how to extend this thinking. Perhaps the idea of rocks (and other nature) having cultural and historical knowledges seems ridiculous to you (or perhaps it doesn’t), but if it does… then why does it?
At first I thought, how stupid, as if moving rocks around is vandalism… but I let this idea stew. I let it pick at the side of my brain. I let it fester there until I thought ‘well why do I understand the world in such a way that this idea is ridiculous’. Maybe it’s not the idea. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the knowledge I value that doesn’t allow me or support me to think differently about the cultural historical narratives of rocks. What thinking, what ideas do I need to understand- or at least recognise- the age, wisdom and character of rocks?
Bringing nature into unnatural spaces
Often, in trying to align with the sustainability and natural ideas of the EYLF, educators want to “bring the outdoors inside” and thus present attractive activities with rocks. Letters on rocks for spelling out words. Drawings on rocks for creating stories. Rocks with holes in them for threading. I don’t mean to disparage those activities but, to me, these are not activities about nature- this is using nature to fulfill another purpose (of literacy or numeracy or fine motor skills).
I think, if rocks can have these cultural historical narratives then are these dislodged when the rocks are removed from where they belong and be? If I found a beautiful rock on this walk and removed it and took it to the early childhood service where I work then what has this rock lost? What cultural historical narratives can this rock no longer tell because it’s been dislodged from the place where these narratives can be told? Does it become just something pretty that has little other meaning?
And on a slightly different tangent… can the rock be mine to take? If I start to think about the ways rocks can belong and be and become in the place where they live then it feels unthinking, unfair to remove it for my own purposes.
Bringing ourselves into the natural world
These are difficult ideas for me. Mostly because I have often collected rocks, and gumnuts, pinecones, leaves, branches, shells and sand, to bring into the early childhood service I work in. I have set up attractive looking activities with these. I have encouraged and watched children play with these and praised myself on how aware they were becoming about nature through this play. I return to this thinking and wonder… but what else could have happened here? What else could we learn about our natural environment that is beyond this realm of nature serving the curriculum?
I think the recent (in Australia at least) trend of bush or beach kinder holds so much promise here. In this atmosphere, people can be with rocks (and their natural compatriots) in the places where they belong, where their cultural historical narratives can be witnessed, be told and be explored. It opens a space to possibly be and think differently about how we interact with nature in the curriculums and what we can learn from and about it.
(c) Jane de Belleville 2014
Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates
Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.