By Tiiu Strutt
An emergent, inquiry-driven approach to learning engages everyone, adult and child alike, as co-learners in the process. We explore the Land, make observations, ask questions, make predictions, test theories, ask more questions, and explore some more. With each discovery — “Worms are squiggly!” “I just saw a squirrel go into that nest! I think she lives there!” — magic and wonder grows, and the deepening connection children feel towards the beautiful Land is palpable.
It’s taken me a while to embrace this approach to learning. I used to think it was important that I position myself as ‘the knower’ in the Land. In a lot of ways, the pressure of taking on that role stressed me out. However, I’ve been graced with many incredible mentors who have nudged me along the path of understanding how to drop the ‘knower’ role, and instead approach the role of ‘co-learner’. It’s totally shifted my understanding of what learning even looks like. Now I see that my role is to support children in being curious, in looking closely, in questioning, and in figuring out how we might answer their questions together. I’ve learned that I support their learning so much more if I don’t give the answer and instead support them along a path filled with curiosity. Also, I’ve been able to let go of all of that stress I was carrying, and instead bask in the joy of learning alongside the children!
My role in working in the Land with children has shifted. And I’ve done this because I have seen firsthand how it supports children in developing a relationship, on their terms, with the Land.
To support children in developing their relationship with the Land, I consider song to be the most valuable tool in my toolbox. To develop relationships, we need to consider a heart-led approach, and I think it’s pretty difficult, if not near impossible, to sing without doing it from the heart.
For me, singing with children isn’t about needing to sound a certain way, or about being able to carry a tune. It’s about exploring. It’s about me, being vulnerable, and sharing my voice with the children I spend time with, and letting them hear me explore. How high, how low, how fast, how slow, how LOUD, how soft, and how silly can my voice be? I want them to hear me explore, so they too, will explore and begin uncovering their unique voice — its range, its uniqueness, its power. As we sing together, I want them to explore and uncover their inherent belonging to our community. I want them to explore the idea that all voices in our community belong, too.
We sing about the Land, in the Land, and bring our hearts into our learning experience. We sing in circle to start our learning experience together. We sing as we tell stories about animals we have been noticing and wondering about. We sing as we make predictions and share observations about what we notice happening in the Land. We sing spontaneously to capture a moment — there are many giggles when a rendition of “Happy Burr-day” (to the tune of Happy Birthday) is belted out to honour someone’s experience of getting a few burrs caught on their clothes. In this way, as we explore and build our relationships with the Land, we are simultaneously exploring and building our relationships with our own voices and with our community.
Just as I learned about the value in shifting my stance as an educator from ‘knower’ to ‘co-learner’, there is a parallel opportunity to consider in shifting one’s relationship with song, and seeing singing as exploring; not about needing to sound a certain way. When we combine these two stances together, we engage our learning community in a beautiful exploration, inside and out!