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Nareeni's map

Nareeni's map has four vividly coloured images of the wetlands - duck pond, tree, moss and fish. The printed text is less visible than the boldly coloured images but each of the image elements of the wetlands has its own adjacent thought bubble containing its printed wondering. The

Nareeni's map

Figure 4.2 Nareeni's map

close link between image and text is further emphasised by a two way arrow linking a printed title with the image itself - 'duck pond', 'tree', 'moss' and 'fish'. Moving clockwise from the top left, the first image shows two ducks on blue water with bright yellow sun bathing everything in its golden light and a text bubble that says I wonder how do they survive without food; the second is a vivid green tree with a brown trunk and a thought bubble that says I wonder were the trees planted or not; the third is a small multicoloured fish with a thought bubble that says I wonder how many fish live in the water; and fourth is a pad of green moss with brilliant red and pink tufts and text that says I wonder how the moss grew hair (Figure 4.2).

This place learning map is colourful and aesthetic and the thought bubbles coming from each of the wetlands images suggest that language emerges from the duck, tree, fish and moss themselves. Reading this image-text assemblage prompted me to ask: where is the human person in this map? What position am I offered as a viewer/reader of this map with its visual and print symbols? Like the child I become the wonderer inside the tree, the duck pond, the moss and the fish. Both child and viewer are positioned within the wetlands where image and language are integrated. Colour, form, text and arrowed lines work together to portray an integrated experience of the wetlands for that child. My growing assumption from reading such maps is that the closer the elements of image and text, the more likely the embodied experience of the wetlands will enter language to become available for pedagogical work.

I have long been interested in the relationship between the material world and representation. In Western cultures the separation of body and mind in which bodily experience is erased in favour of abstract thought seems to me to be fundamental to our ability to separate our selves and our knowledge from the fabric of the world. Image for me in its dynamic emergent form is prior to written language and the images that children represent in their drawings are more raw, closer to their unnamed and unseparated experience of the wetlands. If the image links the text as connected to the raw immediacy of the image then the words stay closer to the experience. This is more likely to produce language that is embodied and material rather than separate and abstract. The opposite was true in one instance of a child who ruled lines across the blank sheet and wrote his scientifically informed knowledge in perfect print with illustrations of that knowledge as identified specimens from the wetlands. In classroom learning we tend to teach and learn in this format, from cognition to visual image (as illustration), producing abstract disembodied language that frames the way we understand our relationship to the world. These place learning maps provide evidence that some children learn otherwise in the wetlands, and in ways that are more resonant with Aboriginal knowledge frameworks that do not separate out body and mind, nature and culture.

 
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