StoryWalks with Children: Sensory and Material Encounters with Urban Spaces

By Kimberly Powell


Two artist walks were conducted and produced by artists and preschool children in order to explore young children’s movement and material encounters through their urban neighborhood of San Jose Japantown, CA, USA. Preschool children’s daily walks are often characterized by rules and boundaries that, while established for perceived safety, can result in the taming of movement and encounters. In our walking project with preschool children, two artists, a preschool teacher, and I co-constructed artist walks that engaged children in sensory encounters with the preschool’s neighborhood. Japantown has a civic history rooted in the Japanese American internment of World War II beginning in 1942 (Presidential Executive Order 9066), and serves as a site of memorialization via cultural events, public and performing arts, and historic walking tours. One walk engaged children in the public art of a local stone sculptor while the other walk engaged them in soundscaping with a musician. An important dimension of both walks was the production of encounters through clay impressions, stone rubbings, choreographed movement, sound collection and production, child-generated video, and researcher documentation as a means of generating data not just for analysis but also for the production of further inquiry and play in the classroom. Some of the video captures what the walking activities look like from a child’s perspective. The video also serves children’s material production of movement through space and place.