Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Everything Becomes A Gateway To Everything

"Let's pretend we're dinosaurs."

Any sentence that begins with "Let's . . ." and especially those that begin with "Let's pretend . . ." are music to this preschool teacher's ears.

"Let's be princesses."

"Let's make a bad guy trap."

"Let's play firefighter."

They are invitations to create the world together. 

In his book Nineteen Ways of Looking at Consciousness, neuroscientist Patrick House writes, "A body . . . is restless to get moving; in fact, the entire purpose of the brain is to make efficient movement from experience, and everything else, including consciousness, is downstream of these efforts." Let's is a contraction for "Let us" and is an invitation, one child to another, to move in a coordinated and cooperative way. 

The curricular hierarchy of standard schools is one that places literacy and mathematics at the top, with the sciences and humanities slotted into the next tier, while the arts and physical education are pushed to the bottom, if they are even included at all. It's argued by those who really don't trust children that it must be this way because, as they see it, reading and calculating are the gateway to everything else. This isn't what scientists tell us about learning. It isn't what indigenous people have known for centuries. What we know about the world is that everything is connected. No, the concept of a curricular hierarchy is merely a vestige of the mistake we made in thinking that the manufacturing model was applicable to human learning. Deep learning will never emerge from an assembly line process; it emerges most prolifically from passion, movement, and the discovery of connections. In this kind of learning environment, everything becomes a gateway to everything.

Relegated to the very bottom on our curricular hierarchy is imaginative play, often dismissed as a waste of time best left behind in preschool. But as House asserts, "Any act of thinking is just pretending to act out. Consciousness requires cells that want to move and that know roughly what will happen when they do . . . thinking is just moving without motion. Consciousness is the consequence of the primitive irritability of single cells that all share the ability to be impinged upon, to be excited, or to be provoked." (Emphasis added by me)

When a child says to another, "Let's pretend we're dinosaurs," they are making manifest this process of thinking; this process of pretending and movement. As observant educators, we hear the excitement, we see the provocation. We experience how, through their imaginative play, they are thinking, which is indistinguishable from learning. We witness them pretending to act out, then actually doing so, which is how our brains have evolved to learn.

When children say, "Let's pretend . . ." they are inviting one another to engage in the highest of human activities, which is to think and move and make stories together. "Let's pretend we're dinosaurs" is my "musical" cue to get out of the way and let the children teach themselves how their world goes together.


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Ready for a book that makes you want to underline and highlight? One that makes you draw arrows and write 'THIS!!!!!' in the margin? Then you are in for a treat." ~Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., author and Early Childhood Specialist, Ooey Gooey, Inc.

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