Place, matters of concern, and pedagogy: Making impactful
connections with our planet
Jeanne Marie Iorio a, Catherine Hamm a, Will Parnell b, and Elizabeth Quinteroc
aSchool of Arts and Education, Victoria University, College of Education, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia;
bDepartment of Curriculum and Instruction, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, USA; cEarly
Childhood Program in the School of Education, California State University Channel Islands, Camarillo,
Neoliberalism, capitalist ideas, and the disastrous human-induced
state of the environment are evidence of the lack of connection
between humans and the earth, calling for a rethinking of the relationships between humans and the planet. As early childhood educators, we wonder about our role in rethinking these relationships
and in particular, the relationship between children and planet. In
this article, we articulate the actions and positioning of teachers in
three different research studies and various contexts (Victoria, AUS;
Oregon, USA; California, USA) utilizing Latour’s (2004) ‘matters of
concern’ as a framework to rethink engagement and relationality.
Each project considers how place can be a provocation that makes
visible the entanglement of children, families, teachers, and the
more-than-human as a way to rethink pedagogy. The limitations,
tensions, and possibilities that occur within and across these entanglements are explored, highlighting how the enacted practices could
disrupt dominant early childhood discourses and practices.
Received 18 August 2016
Accepted 10 March 2017
Neoliberalism and capitalist ideals are at odds with the planet (Klein, 2014). Environmental
scientists describe the environment as on the brink of collapse (Solomon, Plattner, Knutti, &
Friedlingstein, 2009). Ice-shelves are collapsing, plastic swirls in the oceans, and the greenhouse emissions continue to increase (Hopewell, Dvorak, & Kosior, 2009; Stetler, 2012). This
human-induced state of the environment is evidence of the lack of connection between
humans and the earth, calling for a rethinking of the relationships between humans and the
planet. As early childhood educators, we wonder about our role in reimagining these relationships and in particular, the relationship between children and planet. Latour (2004) describes
the possibilities for rethinking engagement and relationality as paying attention to ‘matters of
concern’. Matters of concern engage with complex relationality of humans, place, and morethan-human. In order to make a shift towards matters of concern, we need to also rethink the
ways in which early childhood pedagogy is enacted. Engaging with matters of concern require
us to make a shift, away from an anthropocentric view of the planet, to a place where we can
CONTACT Jeanne Marie Iorio [email protected] School of Arts and Education, Victoria University, College of
Education, PO Box 14428, Melbourne, Victoria 8001, Australia.
Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at www.tandfonline.com/UJEC.
JOURNAL OF EARLY CHILDHOOD TEACHER EDUCATION
2017, VOL. 38, NO. 2, 121–135
© 2017 National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators
pay attention to, and ‘live-with’ our more-than-human kin and to ‘make kin, not babies’
(Haraway, 2014). Living-with means that we need to direct our minds toward, and act in, a
radically different way—relating with our current methods of ‘caring’ for our planet.
In this paper, we articulate the actions and positioning of teachers in three different
research studies and various contexts (Victoria, AUS; Oregon, USA; California, USA)
considering how place can be a provocation that makes visible the entanglement of
children, families, teachers, and the more-than-human as a way to rethink pedagogy.
The limitations, tensions, and possibilities occurring within and across these entanglements are explored, highlighting how the enacted practices could disrupt dominant early
childhood discourses and practices. These three projects respond to pedagogy as an
intellectual, moral, and political practice (Giroux, 2013) situated in and responding to
the place where it is enacted. We make visible the entanglements of place, humans, and
the more-than human as a way to show how we are attending to matters of concern
(Latour, 2004). In the Australian setting we show how children are entangled in the
postcolonial geo-history of the place. In Portland, USA, the project centers on the relations
between place, multispecies, and materials addressing the environmental impact of ecological decline in waterways and fish-life destruction. The repurposing of materials makes
visible children’s ideas about these matters of concern. In southern California, USA,
historical place through family migration and place through agricultural work empower
migrating families, children, and student teacher participants.
Dominant, traditional early childhood discourses focused on the individual child and stage
development are lacking in understanding children (Taylor, Blaise, & Giugni, 2013) in the
“complex mixed-up world characterized by high-mobility and diversity, digital technologies and divides, blurring boundaries and an increasing awareness of the interdependence
of our lives” (p. 48). All of these have contributed to an obsession with teaching methods
and the implied conception that methods are pedagogy. Instead we situate our understanding of pedagogy as an “intellectual, moral, and political practice” (Giroux, 2013, p.
169) that “addresses and connects ethics, politics, power, and knowledge within practices
that allow for generating multiple solidarities, narratives, and vocabularies as part of
broader democratic project” (p. 168). From this perspective, we understand of pedagogy
as entanglements with humans and the more-than-human engaging with multiple narratives of a place, acknowledging the politics and knowledges constructed within and about
a place, and rethinking practice to support strong relations with place.
Drawing from Ingold (2011) and Pink (2008) we also situate our understanding of
entanglement as a way to show the multiplicities that are created when place, human, and
more-than human come together. Engaging with the multiplicities that are generated pays
attention to the tensions and frictions that occur when different ways of knowing, being,
and doing become entangled. Coming together “within such a tangle of interlaced trails,
continually ravelling here and unravelling there” (Ingold, 2011, p. 90) has the possibility to
generate new ways of enacting early childhood pedagogy based in matters of concern.
Each of the three research projects shows the ways in which pedagogy mobilizes complexity and relationality.
122 J. M. IORIO ET AL.
Recently, scholars have been experimenting with, and enacting pedagogies in response
to reconceptualizing relationships between humans and the more-than-human (see
Nxumalo, 2016; Pacini-Ketchabaw & Nxumalo, 2015; Pacini-Ketchabaw, Taylor, &
Blaise, 2016; Taylor, 2013; Taylor & Guigini, 2012). These experimental pedagogies
work to de-center humans in an attempt to pay attention to the ways in which humans
can learn with and from the more-than-human others with whom we share the planet.
These pedagogies disrupt the notion of only following the child, focusing instead on how
we can learn from the entanglements with place, materials, and the plants and animals
around us. Experimenting with these pedagogies provides the opportunity for intellectual,
moral, ethical, and political practices that call for a deeper level of engagement and
relationship with place.
In thinking with the term place, we appreciate that place is not just a mere geographical
space that is “culturally or politically neutral” (Mignolo, 2003, quoted in Tuck, McKenzie,
& McCoy, 2014, p. 1). The places that are provocations for our research projects are all
‘territory that is Indigenous and which has been and continues to be subject to the forces
of colonization’ (Tuck, McKenzie, & McCoy, 2014, p. 1). In thinking with place in this
way, we move beyond the romantic understandings of place-based education. Places are
not without an historical, political or ethical context; these cannot be separate from the
place. By attending to the ethics and politics of place, we are framing our understanding of
place as bringing together nature and culture (Haraway, 2008) and enacting pedagogies of
concern. Each embedded research project reflects a different perspective on place and the
entangled relationality emerging from situated engagement in the place where it is
enacted. We show how each of the projects are responding to enacting pedagogy in a
way that pays attention to intellectual, ethical, political, and moral practices in order to
develop impactful connections with the planet.
Australia: Out and About
The “Out and About” research project (in Victoria, AUS) draws on a ‘commonworld’
framework (Taylor & Guigini, 2012) and is concerned with the ways children learn from
the full range of human and more-than human relations within their immediate and
‘common’ or shared worlds (Common World Childhoods Research Collective, 2014).
Commonworlds refer to the ‘more-than-human’ worlds in which children live, learn,
and grow. This includes the plants and animals that constitute multispecies communities
in the local places children inhabit. Within the Australian context, childrens’ commonworlds are geo-historically specific in which children share and are implicated in
Australia’s colonial past, presents, and futures. With this in mind, a commonworlds
pedagogy focuses on learning how to inherit and respond to commonworld legacies to
reshape common futures.
“Out and About” utilizes multisensory methods inspired by sensory ethnographic
methodologies (Pink, 2008) and focuses on the relationships of people, place, and the
more-than-human. This project focuses on two settings: an urban kindergarten program
in Melbourne and a regional coastal primary school (Prep through Grade 6)
JOURNAL OF EARLY CHILDHOOD TEACHER EDUCATION 123
approximately 60 miles outside of Melbourne. Participants and researchers come together
in “place-making” and suggest “the ethnographic research process can be theorized as a
form of “place-making” (Pink, 2008, p. 179). Through the practice of multisensory
methods (walking and talking, walking and listening, walking and smelling, sitting,
audio-recording, making, touching, smelling) to each selected place, children, teachers,
and researchers explore the place and the more-than-human, focusing primarily on
teaching pedagogies. Data is collected through field observations, documentation completed by the teachers, observations of teachers reviewing documentation, and a researcher’s reflections and interactions with the teachers. On-going analysis of data occurs
throughout the project and is guided by Latour’s (2005) notions of tracing, assembling,
and paying attention to events that happen while conducting fieldwork. Formal data
analysis is conducted by the researchers and occurs throughout the project. The data
shared in this paper is from a prep class (5-year-olds) at the coastal site, visiting Deep
Creek Reserve. The preps include 85 children and 4 teachers plus several parents and
other staff from the school.
The following narrative is an attempt to engage with the complexity and entanglement of
place as a way to enact pedagogy, and to understand how the moments described are
reflective of intellectual, political, moral, and ethical perspectives on teaching. Making
visible these entanglements shows how we are paying attention to matters of concern.
Traditionally, methods would be the privileged manner to which teachers would respond
to the narrative (for examples, methods to teach science regarding trees) but what we
wonder is how teachers respond to this story and recognize the entanglements that happen
in teaching. Then, how these entanglements become the source of how teachers provoke
children beyond a standard fact about a tree. We wonder how focusing on the tree demands
a different kind of pedagogy that mobilizes complexity. We wonder how the place might
provoke the teachers to engage in the ethics and politics of living in postcolonial Australia.
The tree stands next to the small creek in Deep Creek Reserve (see Figure 1). Buried among the
branches and tall grass, it is unknown where the tree begins or ends; the tree is the background
and yet the impetus for what has been and what is possible; a metaphor for pastpresent (King,
Figure 1. The tree stands next to the small creek in Deep Creek Reserve.
124 J. M. IORIO ET AL.
2004). This entanglement between the tree and the children is not its first relationship with
humans. This tree is always already here. This tree is entangled with the Wathaurong,
Gerariture, Bengalat, and Yaki Tan Gurt tribes, the original peoples of this place. The morethan-human entanglement between the tree with past and present peoples offers a consideration beyond just the here and the now.
The tree moves, supporting a child as he straddles the large branch, seemingly unattached to
anything at all, resting on top of long brown and green grass. Why don’t you see what that
branch is attached to? A question is sent out through the air by the teacher. A simple question
that challenges the child to look beyond himself, beyond the moment, and into what might be
calling him into connection in this ravine surrounded by flora and fauna. The movement of
the tree stops and a small hand holds the branch and starts to trace where the branch goes.
Down the side of the ravine, the hand honors the bark, moving slowly, spending time in each
nook and cranny. As the child follows the branch, the branch becomes thicker as it moves
towards the water. Other children begin to follow the branch, joining the trek that began with
a branch (see Figure 2.). The thick branch continues to invite the children to move, towards
the water, over the creek and up the ravine, to the heart of the branch, the tree. This tree
stretches upward and across, over and below, and becomes a beacon of movement in the
Paying attention to this tree-child-place entanglement is a way to reconceptualize
pedagogy. The teachers resist the dominant discourses of calling the children back to
“safety” or to engage with matters of facts about the tree. The teachers enact pedagogy as a
matter of concern by shifting their attention solely from the children, engaging with the
Figure 2. The trek that began with a branch.
JOURNAL OF EARLY CHILDHOOD TEACHER EDUCATION 125
tree and noticing the ways in which it called the children into connection (Rose, 2015). A
pedagogy of concern can be framed as shifting, engaging, and noticing. We see these
frames in the teacher’s question of Why don’t you see what that branch is attached to? The
pedagogy is about shifting focus to the tree, engaging with the tree, and noticing the tree
beyond the child. As the question foregrounds the tree, the entanglement of the tree-childplace constructs pedagogy and the recognition of matters of concern and a way to
Portland: Shiny Fish
The culturally situated and embedded in place “Shiny Fish” research project (in
Oregon, USA) is based on a growing number of early childhood educators noting
how teachers can think and act differently to produce environmental impact changes
in their own communities and spaces (Duhn, 2012) as a way to transmute the value of
hope for ongoing sustainable living with more-than-human relations. This study
centers on local environmental impacts such as for fish, waterways and a desire to
enact impactful change through fostering intelligent moderation ideals that impact
earth’s places. Thus, a larger project is underway to create places such as our
Inventing Remida Portland Project (IRPP) to engage educators with repurposing,
reconstituting and reusing material goods in education (Reggio Children, 2005;
Weisman Topal & Gandini, 1999). Our IRPP endeavor is born out of a forged and
purposeful connection with Remida Reggio, a creative reuse center working between
city waste management and Reggio Children and with educators, children, and the
community. The number of Remida creative recycling and reuse centers now
approaches 17 worldwide (Reggio Children, 2005). Our project is locally situated
and internationally inspired.
Markedly, very little research has been published about these Remida places and their
sustainable approaches (Lantz-Helm & Parnell, 2010; Reggio Children, 2005; Weisman
Topal & Gandini, 1999). Such centers are partnered with manufacturers to reuse and
repurpose materials discarded from the end-product manufacturing process, keeping
thousands of pounds of material out of landfills. These unique materials are then stored,
sorted, and made available through a Remida or Remida-inspired teaching and learning
center so educators, children, families, and community members can see what possibilities
repurposing material create. In the city (Portland, Oregon, USA) where this study is
focused, a burgeoning reuse center project aptly named the Inventing Remida Portland
Project supports the belief that intelligent moderation can only be achieved with environmental education, beginning with cultivating ecological intelligence.
As Chawla (2007) points out, “Almost 90% of those in the USA recalled places where
they played as children or hiked as adolescents [and these] were positive experience of
natural areas in childhood and adolescence and family role models” (p. 145). Harkening to
Haraway (2008), the Inventing Remida Portland Project brings nature and culture (family)
together, bridging the separation between ‘matters of fact’ and ‘matters of concern’(Latour,
2004) in igniting alternative forms of knowledge construction. Professional learning
opportunities for educators and community participants (artists and concerned citizens)
are entangled with place and materials as part of the platform for fostering intelligent
moderation and engaging with complexity as a new launching point.
126 J. M. IORIO ET AL.
The “Shiny Fish” research project includes three coresearchers (including the author)
capturing their own and the participants’ experiences and thoughts in narrative, collage,
and digital photography following the postapproach lines of thinking down a narrative
inquiry path (Maple & Edwards, 2010). Researchers ask the participating educators to
consider a deep question about the ecological connections between fish and humans and
they capture in writing thoughts, words, and descriptions as participants work in collaboration to create shiny fish out of lustrous reuse materials. This collaborative representational thinking made visible is based on their conversations about the pacific NW culture
of cultivating new fish and fishing for farm-raised, freshwater and, more recently, genetically modified, fish. Further, researchers revisit the workshop events and recreate a
narrative through restorying (Lichtman, 2013) that portrays a story of their experience
in more holistic terms (Parnell, 2011, 2012), painting broader brushstrokes of meaning
alongside of the participants.
The Inventing Remida Portland Project founders, six educators and concerned citizens
from the local area, prepare an impactful evening event centered on shiny objects and
native fish, farm-raised, and genetically modified fish. The troupe chooses to think with
the fish as Pacific Northwesterners have a long history and culture of considering the
health of fish and waterways in our community and surrounding area. As the narrative
unfolds, here are some excerpts from the events and its reflections from the voices of the
founders and participants. These following excerpts and data are also reported in Parnell,
Cullen, & Downs (2017, In Press).
We invite participants to bring old and unused shiny objects from their garages and from
drawers in their homes. We offer our own shiny materials from our reuse center and we
provide large butcher block-paper squares of white paper and clear plastic containers (to hold
the found-objects from home). Our evening starts with a powerful visual narrative presentation. We share photos of various types of fish, some native fish, wild in nature, while others
are touched by our hands and grown in farms near our rivers and waterways. We share
information about genetic modification of plant and animal life and their impacts, and we
share quotes to stimulate our conversation and thinking. One such striking idea comes from
the Native Fish Society (2013), “The [native salmonoid] declines have become more dramatic
in the past two decades as the cumulative impacts of dams, logging, commercial fishing,
mismanagement and other human, economic and social factors have stacked against native
fish” (found at http://www.nativefishsociety.org/). We ask participants to consider deeply the
impact of these human decisions as we end the first part of our evening with a discussion.
Discussion questions focus the participants on how they might go about teaching such topics
in their school communities. We wonder aloud about the impact educators have on young
children as they teach about value-laden issues. Questions are raised about where educators
draw the line and where educators have rights and responsibilities to teach on topics of
ecology and sensitive cultural and political impacts. One participant shares a story of her
community’s outrage as she taught the children about vegetarianism and why she does not eat
meat. Another shares how her community came together to tackle a garbage issue and
recycling/composting initiatives around their neighborhood. This discussion among early
childhood educators touches deeply on the ethics of teaching values.
Our lively discussion wanes and we realize that we can keep the conversations alive as we
move the participants into small groups. They naturally group into triads and begin their
work together. Christine takes photos of hands moving about, in and out of containers and
carrying small loads of shiny materials to various locations around the room (see Figure 3).
Each learning trio settles into a location on the floor or at a table; all with their 20 × 30” white
butcher-block square of paper.
JOURNAL OF EARLY CHILDHOOD TEACHER EDUCATION 127
As Christine, our photographer, photo-documents the participants’ work, collaboration
and representations as thinking-made-visible, she gives us her impressions as well, “This is
so cool! I love it that these images are not permanent! I am so excited. They are like the
sand mandalas of Tibetan monks, intricate cosmic symbols taking hour upon hour to
create only to be swept into the river after a short but full life. How will the participants
feel when they dis-assemble their artistry at the end of the session? Will it be ok?” She
reports to us later that she loves the digital technology; the documenting of their work will
not only keep the thinking alive, but can enhance the presentation and make it accessible
to a larger audience. Through this experience she says, “The representational thinking
made in a pre-primary school is now potentially shared with the world via the web.” She
found that the adults are much like children in this creative endeavor. They talk aloud of
their design choices, making adjustments & changes freely because there’s no adhesive, no
glue. Our photographer continues, “They don’t mess up and melt down as I have seen so
often in my teaching experiences with children. Starting over is no big deal. Taking risks is
easy because you can always change it back or alter it!” In the end, reflecting upon past
teaching, she reminds us of students with special needs, or as they say in Reggio Emilia,
special rights, and how they could doubly benefit from this model of making. Introducing
all children to not only concepts of conservation & reuse, but ultimately of impermanence
and repurposing of material substances being a part of our lives is a powerful choice
At the end of our workshop, we walk back to the Remida space to view one another’s fish
creations. One group’s attention moves first to the fish whose body is made out of shiny and
glittery cloth material overlain with the underside of DVD Rom disks, keys, candy wrappers
and pop can tabs. Other fish bodies vary from the texture of many small and glossy smooth
items like tinfoil pieces representing the body or scales of the fish to other creations from the
shimmery red, blue and green hues that reflect the angles of light off of fabrics, chains, metal
graters and cellophane. Our last fish to review showed, printed across the body, a large
message of “go veg” shaped (written) out of washers, beads, screws and a shiny pipe cleaner.
Figure 3. Shiny materials.
128 J. M. IORIO ET AL.
Since we photograph each symbolic representation, we later use a software program to
remove the backgrounds from the fish images. We line the fish up and twist the photos to
allow the fish a sense of movement or ‘jumping’ (see Figure 2). These fish become a part of
the documented experience inside of our Remida center as a printed poster panel. We hope
that as visitors and guests enter the space, they can see in the poster, the possibilities of
creation, representation and the value we place in thoughtful group learning and work.
One participant reports, “I learned the power of deconstructing and reconstructing through an
informed and personal representation. The materials I used helped me understand the representation I made. From repurposing materials, I could help save the species of fish in the future.”
She concluded by telling us that “the web of life becomes more apparent” for her. Another shares
with us that she now believes, “When young children touch reuse materials they don’t consider
what the object used to be, instead they think about what it could be. The materials speak to
them with endless possibilities.” She goes on to say that our reuse fish project touches on the
notion that the materials we salvage have “a former life with a different purpose.” This
participant makes us think about the importance of understanding the materials’ history and
former purposes and their future in creative reuse as a path toward ecological connection and
transformation from the throw away culture; moving toward care taking.
At the end of the day, we have learned that a small shiny objects and fish project can propel a
community into thinking more deeply about the treatment of our wildlife, materials and our
planet’s resources. We also come to believe that our small group can create a lasting ripple
effect. We can invite a group of educators and concerned citizens to a conversation and
action-oriented roundtable of large and important environmental and sustainability ideas and
find new allies.
Energized colleagues move us to determined positions and call us to more action. We believe
the circle widens with every small group event. The shiny fish project leads us to more
invitations to study observations such as the effect of light on color inside materials, making
light and sound-wave studios (to study the life-affirming properties of light and intrigue of
absence of light) and water and reuse materials (ice sculptures of frozen dinosaurs, plastic lids
and broken Legos). Our list of ideas continues to grow more provocatively, expanding our
perceptions and inspiring us in the ways of reuse.
This project on shiny fish pushes the founders out of our comfort zone and into a space
where the values of our places, spaces, time, and commitment to postanthropocene are
critical to the nature of proceeding toward a new ecology of relations between place,
multispecies, materials, children, teachers, and community. As we redouble our efforts to
embark on this journey into sustainability—a journey that pervasively exists in the natural
world—we uncover a colleague’s documentary on the Midway Islands. This video shines a
light on the swirls of plastic landing on the shores of Midway, 2,500 miles from the nearest
continent. There, we find birds slowly and painfully dying from ingesting plastic lids and
trash around them and leaving no room for digestion and nourishing foods. This eyeopening problem grows our sense of culpability as well as our desire to share such stories
of our planet’s life. The value of place and the catastrophic events engage us to think
further with place and the possible more-than-human relations.
Southern California: Children as bricoleurs
The grounding of this research is combinations, or reconceptualizations, of postmodern
and narrative theoretical influences (Andrews, Squire, & Tamboukou, 2008; Parnell,
Cullen, & Downs (2017, In Press); Freire, 1985; Steinberg, 2011), catapulting us to
JOURNAL OF EARLY CHILDHOOD TEACHER EDUCATION 129
consider entangling place and foreground matters of concern. The project intentionally
disrupts theoretically limiting assumptions about early childhood learning and teaching
offering new possibilities for pedagogical practice, framed by story, based upon family
history, critical place influences, and multilingual contexts. This theoretical and methodological framework brings to light the method of data collection and the importance of
positioning children and student teachers as bricoleurs.
The French word bricoleur describes a handyman or handywoman who uses the tools
available to complete a task. Children are capable in this capacity as our coresearchers as
they take the research lead as bricoleurs and create different ways to read, approach, and
use research. Positioning the participants in this way generates new ways of enacting
pedagogy in early learning, opening up to the possibilities of relationships with the morethan-human. For example, children report historical folk tales from generations of storytelling within families and communities that situate the mountains and certain animals as
“wise ones” who teach important lessons.
In terms of methodology, the data samples in the brief excerpt from this study are
entangled with place, children, and their adult student teachers, many of whom represent
families of migration. The research participants, the bricoleurs, are living and studying in
California (in the Global North) while bringing to their experiences and work generations
of family history knowledge and perspectives from vastly different geographical and
historical experiences in Mexico and Central America (the Global South). This (dis)
location demands a different way to think about and enact pedagogy, paying attention
to the ways in which place provokes new practices. We wonder how we might mobilize
the ethics and politics of these global dislocations? These questions demand a different
kind of knowledge mobilization. The resulting pedagogical engagements point to the
theoretical works of Nelson (2009).
Nelson’s (2009) framework offers an account of social, cognitive, and linguistic development in the first 5 years of life. Nelson, who describes herself as a contextual functionalist, researches meaning-making and memory in children. She argues that children be
seen as members of a community of minds, striving not only to make sense, but also to
share meanings with others. She stresses that children are “components of an integrated
system” (p. 186) and maintains “stories bear directly on the problems of different minds,
different selves, and different times that are central to the child’s emerging understanding
of the world” (p. 172). At the same time this individual meaning-making is integrated into
the contextual world of place, humans, and events in the child’s life.
This social understanding between the self and others relates directly to the theoretical
stance of Gloria Anzaldúa (Hérnandez-Ávila & Anzaldúa, 2010). Anzaldúa’s
Conocimiento Theory is described as “an overarching theory of consciousness. . . all
dimensions of life, both inner—mental, emotional, instinctive, imaginal, spiritual, bodily
realms—and outer—social, political, lived experiences” (p. 177). The inner realms of
Anzaldua’s theory relates to spiritual and imaginal worlds and outer realms relate to
lived experiences with humans and more-than-humans as seen through children’s daily
lives. Both Nelson’s (2009) approach and Anzaldúa’s theory of conocimiento relate to
personal history, meaning-making within the contexts of self and family history.
Through this framework of story as situated by Anzaldua (Hérnandez-Ávila &
Anzaldúa, 2010) and Nelson (2009), we find a third space for the entanglements of
place and human. Participants living in the Global North are heavily influenced by located
130 J. M. IORIO ET AL.
study, forms of knowledge, policy, and politics, which are heavily influenced by
Eurocentric modernity (Grosfoguel, 2008). In this third space there are vivid examples
of influence coming from the Global South through family histories, multiple sources of
knowledge (Freire, 1985), and examples of transformative action illustrating the complexity of place, human, and multispecies coming together. We have long been cognizant of
the importance of story—pretend and factual, fantasy and historical—in young children’s
lives (Iorio, 2008, 2009; Meier, 2009; Paley, 2005). Through the pedagogy of story-making
and story-sharing among children and their teachers, a framework of story emerges as a
way to collaborate on learning and meaning-making. Latour (2004) speaks about common
worlds as ethical worlds that attend to “the common good” insisting that a common
worlds ethics requires us to remain radically open to the composition of these worlds
(Taylor & Guigini, 2012, p. 110). Murris (2016) presents a pedagogy that disrupts a
“structural and systemic discrimination of children, particularly as knowers” (p. 35). She
proposes education practices in which “all earth dwellers are mutually entangled and
always becoming, always intra-acting with everything else. . .. Individuals materialize and
come into being through relationships; and so does meaning” (Murris, 2016, p. xi). Young
children often combine, fantasy, reality, people, and more-than-human in their meaningmaking, creating common worlds and entanglements.
Our findings generate a new theoretical journey that enriches learning with young children
in particular, in terms of entanglement with place. What is demanded of us when we position
place as the provocation for pedagogies of story-making and story-sharing? In terms of
pedagogy, the children and their student teachers as bricoleurs, lead us to document integrated curriculum that reflected the place and experiences of young children in the context of
their communities. They collaborate on family-focused activities for both school and home
using folktales, blurring settings of place in terms of geography, reality and imagination,
historical legends, three indigenous languages from their communities, and art projects
reflected throughout the communities. For example, a teacher education student working
with 4-year-olds describes a shared story where the individual meaning-making is integrated
into the contextual world of place, humans, and events in the child’s life.
This week at the preschool I was able to observe an example of a collaborative story between
the teacher and the students. It was during snack time when the children were all sitting at a
table together eating. The teacher started by saying, “Let’s make up a story! I’ll start!” She then
said, “Once upon a time there was a spooky story. . .” Eduardo continued by saying, “About
ninja turtles and skeletons.” Another child, Sophia, said, “The ninja turtles are good.” The
teacher then said, “And they ate. . .” Eduardo went on to say, “Milk and pizza!” Another child
named Callie added, “And then the skeleton saw cats and dogs.” Sophia said, “And they got
attacked and then Maleficent came and was looking for treasure.” The teacher added,
“Maleficent has power and says, “abra ca dabra!” Eduardo finished the story by saying,
“Maleficent stole the cat’s and dog’s gold on an island.”
I thought this story was interesting to observe because the teacher was able to work together
with different children in creating a spooky story. I remember in class we studied Sylvia Ashton
Warner’s (1986) work with Maori children found that children were fascinated with and
interested in stories that are scary. The children seemed to have really enjoyed it as they created
all the different things they thought of, such as ninja turtles and Maleficent. (Mena, 2016)
A student teacher describes the intentional encouragement of engagement with place,
in particular, plants and the natural environment.
JOURNAL OF EARLY CHILDHOOD TEACHER EDUCATION 131
The children at my preschool classroom love to take initiative and explore their surroundings.
On their campus they have a trail that explores the land around them and their own garden
area. I have noticed just how much these children take pride in their garden and their hiking
trails. I hear children discussing how to water their plants, “Don’t water the lemon tree too
much or it won’t grow.” I listen to the children talk to their parents about their garden,
“Today we planted potatoes and Brussels sprouts and 1 day we will have a salad that we can
eat from our garden.” Lately the killdeer have been laying eggs and making nests within their
trails and the children have taken it upon themselves to care for them. Kelsey expressed her
concern about the nests safety and stated, “I think we should put rocks around the nest—to
keep the mommy and babies safe.” The freedom that these children have allows them to
express themselves and experience curriculum in a way that is authentic and related toward
their specific interests. (Hunt, 2016, n.p.)
Another student interviewed parents about their desires for their children’s education
in terms of place. She asked whether it is important that teachers understand or know of
their home culture, and they answered, “Oh yes, because we all come from different
cultures. For example, I am from Oaxaca and my culture is totally completely different
from a person’s culture from Michoacán and Guanajuato” (Quintero, 2015, p. 106). This
entanglement between historical place, current place, and human becomes a critical
consideration to how pedagogy is constructed.
The stories shared here relate to migrating families in our communities where we live,
but also can relate beyond our context to children experiencing the refugee crisis worldwide. Children as bricoleurs empowers the children to act as researchers drawing from
their lives to generate data; this data constructs stories, in particular, positioning place as a
critical component. This entanglement with the issues of place offers ways of empowering
resilience for children and families in difficult spaces of refugee camps and unknown
places, cutting through misguided assumptions and practices to get at what is meaningful
and support meaning-making in the complex entanglement of place and human. It is in
these connections that matters of concern foreground pedagogy.
Entangling place, matters of concern, and pedagogy
In each of the three projects we have shown how place has provoked pedagogies of
concern and demanded a shift towards making impactful connections with the planet.
In other words, our shifting, engaging, and noticing the entanglements become a way to
rethink pedagogy as complex entanglements of place, more than human, and human,
moving towards matters of concern. These movements dynamically demonstrate pedagogy as an ethical practice as paying attention to the more-than-human positions us to
engage with the tensions and contradictions often present in pedagogy. We note this effect
in examples such as when the tree stretching across Deep Creek Reserve becomes the
impetus of how the children and teachers position themselves within a place and within
the learning and teaching process; a tree called into connection by the teacher and then
the children supports movement and exploration. As well, a similar effect takes shape in
relationship with a shiny, hand-collaged native fish creation, which appears in the
ecological fish workshops and inspires future practices of reuse and rethinking of materials, foregrounding place and connections with the native fish in larger school-community
contexts around the city. Further, the emergence of place in the children-as-bricoleurs
132 J. M. IORIO ET AL.
stories catapults adults into new and realizing horizons when listening and exchange are
possible in the school-community context. Place engages agency out beyond the human
calls for the teachers to position themselves as open to uncertainty and disruption of the
Educators have a great impact in their local communities especially as they consider
significant ecological ties between place and their schools for young children. This research
paper serves as an innovative way to practice, centered on the more-than-human relations
and sustainability as a doorway into alternative conceptions of planet-caring. Reflecting on
this project springboards a call to action between teacher educators, teachers, and schools
for young children and recognizes the critical importance of developing relationships with
the more-than-human. Inclusive, respectful place-based pedagogy that is reconciled to the
lands and people locally situated should be part of teacher education and, in turn, part of all
classroom teaching. Beginning with place, teacher educators, animal worlds, teachers,
stories, young children, natural worlds, families, cultural contexts, communities and so
on, charges the communities of practice and the entangled places with sustainable ways of
living, learning, interacting, and being together. These notions offer and move toward
pedagogies based in matters of concern and honor the many entanglements within teaching
practice. Entangling place and matters of concern contributes to a complex view of teaching
and learning and supports impactful connections with the planet grounded in living-with
and acting-with the more-than-human.
Jeanne Marie Iorio http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1972-5186
Catherine Hamm http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9357-8439
Will Parnell http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6760-6582
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Place, matters of concern, and pedagogy: Making impactful