Saturday, August 26, 2017

Befriending the Unknown: Research Question 2017-2018

Imagine a young child walking along a winding path bedecked with wildflowers and insects, trees and grasses, birds and squirrels, breezes and sunshine. Her progress is slow. She bows to discover a snail making it’s lazy way across the moss.  Her face rapt with attention.  She turns toward the sound of a nearby creek bubbling over sand and rocks, twigs and branches.  Small hands clap with glee and the trail is forgotten in favor of wet feet on a sandy creek bed. Now imagine an adult walking the same trail.  Her progress is rapid, she moves with determination, cell phone at the ready.  Her mind busy untangling the many things yet to do, or say, or solve.  Her eyes focus a few feet ahead on the trail marking her progress.  She moves with sweaty, alacrity toward her destination.  

I spend my summers in the mountains and I see these two scenarios often. Somedays I walk the trail like a child, winding my way through nature’s generosity with rapt enthusiasm and other days I speed walk toward the trails end with busy brained, mono-focus. I have observed this difference between adults and children in many settings, over many years. I’ve noticed that children often greet the unknown like a friend and for some reason, as we mature, we build intellectual barricades to buffer our experience and waylay the vulnerabilities inherent in not-knowing.  So this year I am choosing to investigate our subtle resistance to the unknown.  I want to understand how we, as adults, can welcome and even delight in not-knowing.  My research question is, “How do we, as educators working alongside children, befriend the unknown?” and with a topic like that who’s likely to be my best research accomplice?  The child of course.

Children are masters of inquiry.  They learn and grow because they meet life with curiosity. I’m not sure at what stage of human development the unknown becomes the proverbial underbelly of our experience.  It’s always there but we no longer welcome it.  This resistance drives many of us toward more secure footing built on traditions, philosophies and beliefs (as educators and as people).  While cozy, these constructed "knowns" often undermine our efforts to develop as humans toward a sustainable future. I am interested in how we can welcome the unknown (which really outweighs the knowns by a landslide).  I believe children possess the key. Not by virtue of the adults they will become, but as the children they are now. 

This year, I invite each of you to join us on a journey into the unknown. Together we will ask questions and listen more.  The years’ documentation will reflect this path of inquiry.  There will be more photos and less interpretations.  I invite each of you to make meaning of the pictures you see and look for the significance that underlies the images posted AND I hope you will share your observations with us!  How? Comment here, stop by the studio or chat with one another.  

And now we set forth together along this years' trail of learning.  I am so glad to have you with me and I am honored to work and learn alongside your children.

Thank you and happy hiking!