Saturday, 29 March 2014

reflections on the New Square...

I have been thinking about how the children responded to the story about the story of the New Square
(post can be seen here) and how essentially it did not really go as planned... our aim was to introduce the children to the idea that others need to use the square aswell and that our designs will need to incorporate the wishes and needs of others and not just our own dreams... so that we could move into the next phase of the project...

Instead the children have shown us THEIR thinking and THEIR preoccupations...

The story opened up the idea of getting hurt. This is something very relevant to children... it is something they have experience of. Designing a square, and meeting the needs of others... well that is a process they are learning, and not a deeper experience of their own. But being hurt, having pain is something they have all experienced in their own way.

 Many children experience their pain as improving by having a plaster put on... either a cut, or sometimes a tummy-ache can feel better with a plaster on the tummy. So...
"no, they can have a lot of plasters and then they can walk" 
is an excellent response from a child whose experience of something not working, of being hurt or being sick, is that is you get a plaster  (or medicine) than you will get better. The same thing with visiting a doctor. The children have no or little experience that sometimes you cannot get better, so of course their way of solving the problem of getting around the castle etc on the square is going to be healing the people so that they are better equipped.

After all in their daily experience at preschool they meet many challenges... putting on shoes, climbing equipment, making the swings work by themselves, using scissors etc etc... things that they cannot do, but have to practice, practice until they master the new skill. So I can quite understand that these children will not even think about the fact that these "old people" have come to a phase in their lives where their bodies are slowly losing the capabilities to perfom the skills of their younger years...

So if we are to reach our goal of introducing the children to the idea of the need to redesign the SQUARE to meet the needs of everyone, then maybe the story needs to be adjusted. Maybe instead of accidents happening there needs to be frustration of not getting past - for people getting to the supermarket and the train station... for old people, for parents and prams, for children wanting to get the the playgrounds or the swimming pool... if the focus is NOT on the cuts and the accidents will the children be able to look for solutions to the design of the square?

Of course the dialogue has given us useful information about what is interesting to the children - blood, doctors, plasters and fixing people and hurts. This is not something we should ignore in our desire to follow the Together on the Square project... but an opportunity to explore something else on the side... in much the way Sleeping Beauty has been walking parallel to the project... maybe a doctors waiting room in the role-play area could meet the needs the children have exploring health, their bodies and the process of getting better?



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