How do young children understand their city of Richmond?
Ben Mardell was our keynote speaker last year at the institute our school hosts. Dr. Mardell shared his experiences deconstructing cities with the youngest residents.
"We must create mental models (of the cities) and then filter them to understand."
"What are the reference points that children have for the city?"
As school started this Fall, Richmond prepared for the UCI Road World Championships. The children's conversations were filled with bikes, the preparations they noticed and the understanding that our city would be visited by people from all over the world.
A few children requested wire to create bikes and then many children contributed items to create a backdrop---buildings, buses, cars, spectators, stores and the flags representing the international bike teams attending.
The bike race provided a context for conversations regarding the city of Richmond. It was a place to connect the child's excitement and enthusiasm to the city that is their home. It was a reference point that held an emotional connection for the children. The bike race built community and solidarity in Richmond during the months of preparation and race week---both solidarity for the lovers and the not-so-happy-that-the- race-is-in Richmond community. This solidarity was tangible in our classroom as well (although we had only the lovers).
As we talked during our project circles, we began to get a sense of what parts of the city are frequented by which children. We observed that many children have an understanding of Carytown and the river. Several classmates had visited their parents at their place of employment so they could contribute skyscrapers and hospitals to the collage.
We sketched a bike on loan from the preschool and gathered the children's individual experiences biking. Children talked about riding bikes attached to their parents bikes, honking horns on their bikes or transporting items in their bike baskets.
The real punch to our work came after the majority of the students watched the final race of the weekend. Samuel had brought to school signs, buttons and a real curiosity regarding the racers and the spirit he encountered. Kenny and Avery jumped on the bike as Samuel waved his signs and cheered. He then altered the bike race as Kenny and Avery wound through the Libby Hill course.
This experience ignited the intention to recreate the Road Race in our classroom. The children committed to the roles of bike racers,policemen and women, bike repair scooters and food vendors.
Shayna is posing for a poster that she hopes to use for endorsements. Below she is demonstrating her low bike cadence while riding down hill. Kate is considering her riding strategy on her bike.
Annabelle was not convinced that the bike race was engaging but she did recount her experience with food trucks. These trucks are a big part of our Richmond city culture. She said that Chick Fillet was her favorite.
Samuel noticed that each bike racer and team had their own motorcycle and car that followed with tires and bike parts to fix the racing bikes that were not working well. He witnessed a biker who took one of his shirts off while his bike was steered by a passenger in the support car.
Many of the children wanted be present at the race as a part of the cheering crowd. We observed a need to generate some intersubjectivity as to the definition of a crowd.
Anna led the discussion.
Penelope: A crowd, instead of a little group is, there’s people in the middle. too
Anna: So it’s not just like a circle of people?
Cal: There’s tons of flags, signs… there’s definitely a road.
Julia: A crowd is a lot of people.
Anna: But this is a lot of people, is this a crowd?
Julia: More than this people! …Maybe we need just one more person
Shayna: There are a lots and lots of people, and there’s, like, no room to get anywhere..
Eve: A crowd is lots and lots of people in a big place, where they’re sitting down or standing up,where there's SO so many people you can’t even count them.
Kate: Maybe we can invite the other class some. So, it can be a whole crowd.
What are your impressions or experiences with the bike race? Were you a part of the crowd? We would love to hear from each of you as you participated in the life of the city? Perhaps a picture or even a drawing to illustrate your perspective. We are challenging you, Kindergarten parents and loyal Gleaning readers!!!