The following is an excerpt from an English translation of an article published in Shanghai Education, 2021:
We print out a black-and-white satellite image of the early-learning centre and adjacent streets on a large sheet of paper. To trouble the image of the map as a flat surface, we crease it and lay half on the floor and half up the wall. To trouble the concept of the map as a complete and accurate representation of our neighbourhood, we set out to overlay it with new lines, new words, new images, and new kinds of information. This information emerges from unconventional sources like imagination, non-humans, and practices of wondering, noticing and collective retelling. To gather it, we must first walk the neighbourhood, have encounters, and make our own place stories.
It is mid-winter and we are slowly walking with a group of preschool children to a nearby small forest. The walk takes us past an old pumpkin patch that somehow persists from a farm, now gone. At this time of the year the patch is bear, but the children know it’s still there. They explain: “Pumpkin-eaters have taken all the pumpkins”.
Further into the new suburbs, we walk past front lawns with well-cared-for shrubbery. One showcases a pruned specimen of a single weeping white mulberry. Unlike the native Canadian red mulberry, the white mulberry is an introduced species. Hardy and tolerant of most soils, it is a regular on the list of plants recommended for children’s gardens. It’s advertised as a ‘nature-made’ ‘secret hideout’: ‘just cut an opening in the branches, or prune shorter for easier supervision’! Last year, the homeowners decorated their weeping mulberry with Christmas ornaments, which reminded the children of bananas. They named it Banana Tree. There hasn’t been anything on the tree since last Christmas, but the story remains, and a stop by Banana Tree is a must on the walks to and from the forest. Today, the children explain: “Somebody stole the bananas!” They trace evidence of stolen fruit through a series of rust circles on the pavement (image below). We believe they know that prized things have been taken from this place, and that their remains are etched onto the ground.