Blog 7 16th August 2021
This is the seventh blog in a series of a 10-week inquiry into the Place Stories emerging from Place-children encounters during Bush School. At Bush School, we walk-with Gabbiljee, the watery place at the end of Derbarl Yerrigan. Gabbiljee, now known as Bull Creek, is situated on Noongar Country in Perth, Western Australia.
On this walk, we are joined by Professor Mindy Blaise from Edith Cowan University. Mindy and I are walking and thinking-with otherwise ways of understanding Place and literacies. We walk-with clipboards that hold a type of literacy observational tool often used in schools. These tools are used by adults to observe, monitor and make judgments about children’s literacy learning and development.
Djilba sun is strengthening. Characterised by a mix of cold and warmer days that eventually transition into hot Kambarang, this particular Djilba day is a warm one.
Sunlight, trees and light wind mingle to create shadows, flickering on drying earth.
Grey sandy path is dry, powdery, shoe prints leave their mark. What other creatures might be leaving their tracks in this path?
We stop at the bridge. Wardong stops too.
With the literacy observational tool in our hands, it is easy to miss Wardong as we focus our attention on the children. What vocabulary are children using? Can a child use vocabulary to express their ideas? Can children make connections between what they have learnt in class and what is happening at Bush School?
Shifting the focus away from children and their literacy learning makes room for us to notice the liveliness of Place at this moment. It creates an opening for thinking otherwise about literacies and Place.
Perched on a branch, Wardong caws. Creek is in constant motion, flowing beneath the bridge. Wardong seems to be watching Creek flow. Caws echo through the trees above. It seems that Wardong, creek and branch are communicating something, but what? Is Place generating literacies? What if we understood Wardong-creek as a type of literacy text?
The Western Australian Curriculum defines a text as, “A means for communication. Their forms and conventions have developed to help us communicate effectively with a variety of audiences for a range of purposes. Texts can be written, spoken or multimodal and in print or digital/online forms” (School Curriculum Standards and Authority, 2014).
What if Place was text? How might Place create and story texts?
Thinking-with Place as Text
If Place was text (or an assemblage of multiple but always connected texts) then it could be read as the stories emerging from the relations between the many and varied elements of Place.
If Place was text, then the text would be relational, situated and produced by more than just humans.
You must notice the text as it is unfolding in the moment.
As educators we are trained to observe the literacy competencies of children. When literacy development (and the accompanying literacy skills, knowledges and understandings) are front and centre of our observations, it is easy to overlook Wardong-creek text.
You must pay attention. Wardong-creek text is in motion, unfixed. A fleeting movement, an interruption, a sound, can diffract the text and its meaning at any given time.
Literacy knowing is reading Wardong-creek text and interpreting its meaning. Knowing about Wardong, knowing about this Place. Knowing that Wardong drinks from creek and creek is full from Makuru rains. Wardong relies on trees surrounding creek for nesting. Wardong sometimes calls to draw attention, other times for companionship.
Sit and listen with Wardong-creek stories.
How is Wardong-creek telling its story? How is this story teaching us about this Place?
It might be hard to find the words to answer these wonderings because literacy knowing calls for a different kind of vocabulary. A vocabulary that is more-than-human, situated, created in the moment, sometimes invented.
How is Wardong-creek teaching us about what is becoming? And how are we entangled in this becoming?
Literacy becoming is Place-making. This means instead of thinking about what we have learnt from Wardong-creek, we think about what is produced from our relations with Wardong-creek? Maybe this means noticing the brick bridge or listening out for the steady hum of cars in the distance and acknowledging that Wardong-creek text is not always innocent.
The curriculum talks about texts as having purpose. Place as text means that purpose becomes much more than about producing literacies.
Literacy doing is the choices that we make, it is what we do next and knowing that what we do next matters.
Perhaps Wardong-creek-child(ren) texts have the potential to transform our own relations with Wardong, creek and Place?
School Curriculum and Standards Authority. (2014). Curriculum and Assessment Outline. Glossary. https://k10outline.scsa.wa.edu.au/home/p-10-curriculum/curriculum-browser/english/overview/glossary/text