WalkingLab’s Mindy Blaise & Catherine Hamm:

Our project is an experimental, multisensory, multispecies ethnography with early childhood teachers, young children, and a place called Cruikshank Park, located in Australia. Prior to dispossession, Cruikshank Park was part of the traditional lands of the Marin Balluk Clan, who make up the Woi Wurrung language group of the Wurrundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.

Each week we go ‘out-and-about’ with a group of young children and their teachers to a place we have named, the Bark Studio, located beside Stony Creek. The Bark Studio is a place where we invite teachers to think with bark. We initiated this project because we are interested in working with teachers to challenge representational and rational logic that works hard to tame, simplify, and control children’s learning. In particular we are working with teachers to experiment with a counter logic that opens up possibilities, rather than closing learning down. One of the ways that we have engaged teachers to begin thinking with a counter logic is by decentring the child. We are encouraging teachers to move away from a child centred pedagogy that always focuses on a child and her interests and instead to consider the more-than-human.

Working with ideas from a wide range of disciplinary fields, including anthropology, biology, ethology, feminism, human geography, science and technology studies, and the environmental humanities, we are considering ways to challenge human exceptionalism, or the notion that humans, our desires and plans might not be the only thing in the world. We are working with teachers to consider, “what happens when bark becomes the focus?”