These field notes share some of the pedagogical processes that emerged from my work in an early childhood centre on Wet’suwet’en territory in a small town in northern BC. When the conditions are safe for driving, I travel to this community once a month to work with a group of 3–5-year-old children and their educators. Each month I spend three days immersed in the program, for several hours each day.
As a pedagogist I am committed to thinking carefully about relations with more-than-human others, and to creating pedagogical possibilities that disrupt anthropocentrism, the positioning of humans as above the natural world.
In Spring 2022, the educators, children and I were scouring the yard at the childcare centre looking for insects. This was my first time visiting the centre in person, and on the third day of my visit, I sat with some of the children at a table. I offered them photos I had taken of us exploring the yard, along with some drawing materials. Another child joined us at the table and began to share a story about a time when his grandparents had been on their way to visit him but were rerouted on the highway due to an avalanche.*
Paul**: The avalanche broke the road. The road walked away because all the snow was still there. There was mountains on the road. The avalanche killed the river and all the animals died with the river. Some avalanches explode down the mountain. Gramma and Pops were in the avalanche on the highway. The tree cracked. They shut down the highway.
Paul: An avalanche is chasing the car. The car is driving. The avalanche went on the bridge ’cause there was snow on it.
The children who were drawing with me were captivated by the story of the avalanche and began to draw and share stories about avalanches and animals, homes and roads. Discussions about weather centered around clothing choices and recreation are common in early childhood settings, and because we live with increasingly unpredictable weather due to climate change, I wanted to think more deeply about weather and storms. I thought that avalanches might provide a way to think about the complexities of weather beyond what is typical in many early childhood classrooms.
Attuning to stories about avalanches through storying, drawing and acting outside in the ECE centre yard together with a view of huge mountains and big skies, the children are making sense of the world we live in. We’re discovering that drawing together is a useful strategy for us to theorize, imagine and reflect about the world. Our discussions broaden from avalanches to many types of storms, and over several months, we gather in the mornings around a table in the yard and create stories about storms. Stories of destruction, death, shelter and cooperation emerge about multiple kin, from salmon eggs, to humans, to mountains. Storms seem to represent destruction in the children’s stories, and alongside the destruction stories are always stories of survival.
We think a lot together about what animals do during storms:
Sue: Animals make sounds or noises to let animals and humans know there's a storm coming.
Addie: Dogs sometimes die in avalanches and they get hit by the avalanches and I don't like the dogs getting dead because I love dogs and cats.
Max: The avalanche eats dogs.
Addie: An avalanche likes the dog.
Taylor: Avalanches and people, if they don't go, they will die, if they do go, they won't die. And I like cats and dogs and I don't want the dogs to get stuck in quicksand.
And about the effect of storms on plant life and structures:
Addie: A storm's coming over... It's coming this way... Don't ruin the flower! It's breaking all the flowers. The wind is so powerful!
There's a bigger storm coming! It's a big, big, big storm. It's gonna wreck the flowers, it's gonna last forever. It's gonna wreck your hotel! It's gonna destroy the houses.
Max: A storm is gonna come and break the town soon, a real storm.
Sometimes we become the storm ourselves, moving our bodies quickly and loudly around the yard, or using the thick black Sharpie markers to draw the storms on our skin, or shredding our drawing to pieces in a windy wide-open field.
Alongside all the destruction stories, children also tell stories of shelter:
Jo: There's a tornado coming to you! My cave’s super strong.
Addie: My house is strong.
Jaimie: We need a house for shelter. It is so dark... How are they gonna find the house?
Adie: They can feel for it. I can feel it.
Paul: This is my new house. There's a mountain there, so it's safe; it's far from storms.
At the bottom of the earth... I have mountains to protect.
The children share theories about what animals do during storms. Discussions emerge among our group:
Jo: Worms come out because sometimes their tunnels get flooded.
Taylor: Worms like dry weather.
Addie: No! They like rain weather!
Kai: No! They do like wet stuff, they live in wet stuff, ’cause if they don't, they'll get dead. They'll be dead if they don't have water. They'll get dry and then dry and then dry and then dry.
Jordan: I wanna talk about mooses in the storm. They hide in the woods because they get really cold.
Jaimie: They have fur. They don't need to hide in the forest. They won't be cold.
Jordan: Mooses hide in the woods... They get really cold... but they have fur.
Sue: Monkeys climb in the trees; they have fur to keep them warm.
Max: Bunnies and dinosaurs wear jackets and boots in storms. (tremendous laughter thinking about this!)
Paul: Koalas get shelter in the trees.
Jordan: When the bees hear the rumble rumble rumble rumble, they hear a storm, and they go back to their honey caves. They take shelter and stay in the light.
Nova: Whales stay in the water. Sharks hide in places they can fit through under the water. Other sharks go even deeper! Some sharks light up.
Shawn: Turtles hide in their shell.
Paul: Turtles, whales, sharks build things under water to hide from the storm.
Jo: When it rains in the pool, bugs just die.
Max: The avalanches eat some food.
These field notes offer the possibility to open discussions about current climate concerns. They are an opening to consider unpredictable weather due to climate change without positioning children as environmental saviours, and to allow educators, children and pedagogists to think collectively about the world.
*All comments in italics are direct quotes from children as we drew and talked together.
**All children’s names are pseudonyms.