Monday, 23 April 2018

Sense of Place

Last week I shared an article with a friend about how Reggio Emilia cannot be "done" but that we can be inspired by what is done in Reggio Emilia... I also shared the same post on my facebook page...(We can't do Reggio by Hon Assoc Prof Alma Fleet)
Everyday during the last week I have seen someone I know also share this post - its been kind of fun watching it travel the world - and also read the comments and dialogues that have occurred as a result. Most have been pretty much the same - agreeing with the text... but not going into any great depth about the why...
Tom Drummand shared this post over the weekend and it has been interesting how the dialogue started to explore "place as important in pedagogy". This is interesting to explore.
As a person that grew up in the north of England in a small historical city and then moved to Sweden at the age of 22 to live in the capital city I would say that place has a huge impact on who you are as a person. It makes me wonder about people who move around a lot - how do they identify themselves, or refugees what is their sense of place? I saw and heard in Palestine that this was a problem - there was a longing to return to ancestral homes, even amongst those who had never been there - as their place now is deemed by themselves as temporary despite being there generations now.

A sense of place is that which is felt deeply by its inhabitants and visitors. This made me think of placelessness... can there be such a thing... so I checked and read that this refers to places that do not feel authentic or connected to the place that they are located in... ie shopping malls can often look the same no matter where they are in the world and do not reflect the local identity of the place or people.

So in that sense "doing Reggio" in another place would result in placelessness... that we were instead creating ubiquitous shopping mall- like preschools and early years settings - that if we walked into no matter where we are in the world and instantly recognise it. This would not be a preschool for the local children - this goes back to an idea that one size fits all... which is not what the Reggio Emilia Approach is about at all.

Reading more about a sense of place I discovered the word "primal landscape" which is the special bond which develops between children and their childhood environments - this becomes an important part of the child's childhood identity and enable the person to make comparisons with other landscapes later in life. This suggests the importance of creating preschools that are Reggio Inspired in the context of their space. That we are supporting the child in decoding their own primal landscape in order to make meaning of the world.

there is also "Place-based pedagogy" - 

"Place-based education might be characterized as the pedagogy of community, the reintegration of the individual into her homeground and the restoration of the essential links between a person and her place. Place-based education challenges the meaning of education by asking seemingly simple questions: Where am I? What is the nature of this place? What sustains this community? It often employs a process of re-storying, whereby students are asked to respond creatively to stories of their homeground so that, in time, they are able to position themselves, imaginatively and actually, within the continuum of nature and culture in that place. They become a part of the community, rather than a passive observer of it. Place-based Education, Entrepreneurship and Investing for an “Impact Economy”
It is not about denying the importance of national and global issues, but is a desire to connect the child and to participate in the local community. To be active participants - much as we see in the preschool projects and activities in Reggio Emilia... the city and the children together. There is also "critical pedagogy of place" where there is a focus on ensuring that one story is not being told... that its is not about the dominating colonising story, but that the stories of the indigenous  people also get told with equality.

For me all of this is a huge part of why we should not "do" Reggio ... but should be inspired by how the city and the adults strive to ensure the rights of the children as active participants in the community. That the children are not seen as empty requiring to be filled with knowledge etc etc.. for more information see this post I wrote... a short version about the Reggio Emilia Approach.
The children's own community is important to them... to decipher, to interpret, to understand - together with others, to learn how to be a participant... and then start to use these skills that are relevant to their own situation to expand their thinking and apply to other situations, nationally and globally (and beyond).

more links to read on this topic
NAEYC - A Sense of Place: Human Geography in the Early Childhood Classroom

Drawing on Children’s “Sense of Place” – The Starting Point for Teaching Social Studies and Geography - Ontario

A Sense of Autonomy in Young Children’s Special Places Carie Green Idaho State University

Education in Context: The Role of Place in Nature-Based Early Childhood Education Kit Harrington

Creating a sense of place: Considering routine, ritual, and belonging

Sense of Place research Project (Bristol)

Together on the Square project - this is a post I have written, one of many covering the project - the idea was to go from the children's own knowledge of the area and to build upon that, to connect the children's different knowledge and then to find out more from the neighbourhood about their views and needs... the idea was to learn about our local community and to design a new square... the underlying aim for us as educators was empathy... for the children to learn about the needs of others in their community and to connect with them. We also met with the local authority planner... and some of our ideas actually happened... sadly they took our idea and turned to other schools and preschools and institutions to execute it - but the children and I know the idea came from us...

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