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Voice, language and representation

It is in the movement between immersion and representation that these affective states become available for pedagogical work. At a very elemental level, this movement can be seen where Charmaine voices her engagement with water, sticks, stones, river and sky. In this example the video captures the way that vocalisation arises directly from within the state of immersion. The vocalisation is inseparable from the child's actions precipitated by the physical qualities of watery rocks, stones and sticks, and her own soundings are synchronous with sounds of birds. Charmaine expresses, like Sam, a sense of plenitude in turning to the wide expanse of river and sky, arms outstretched, calling loudly to the world at large. Her meaning is in gesture and sound whereas Sam translates this sense into words.

Forms of representation other than words often enable these moments of immersion to come into articulation. For Aluka, making origami envelopes to hold seeds as a gift for her mother allows the material qualities of the seed and the words that describe her relation to them to emerge. With Josh it is his muscle memory of bringing together the different material forms of bamboo and twine into a structure that will support the twisting tendrils of climbing peas and beans. At Kallista School, cooking as a form of representation mediates this relation: 'We grow edible flowers, we just put them in salads for more colour. We grow carrots, Italian greens, fennel, rhubarb and lots of other stuff'. The sensory qualities and diversity of the food plants enliven his description of cooking. Lulu uses her own sculptural installations to explore her understandings, sometimes only barely acquiescing to adult demands to bring these into words: 'Why are you taking the flowers out?' 'Because, they need to come out, you can't eat them!' At other times she generates meaningful words herself that arise directly from the engaged installation experience: 'This is the land of do anything you want and that is the house of rules [pointing to the real house]'. These stories illustrate the way that affective states of immersion in the material world come into representation for children.

These representations can also be intentionally elicited by teachers for pedagogical purposes. At The Patch School the redesign of the school grounds began with an excursion so the children could immerse themselves in an intentionally designed garden and form their own ideas. Through a series of representational steps the children link their design ideas to their place, to the 'lay of the land' and its orientation to weather and sun. Three dimensional models are used to test their ideas in a classroom cleared of furniture, thus bringing their design for their outdoor spaces within the inside space of the classroom. Similarly, children from Erehwon School bring their experience of everyday language practices in home and community spaces into articulation through drawing personal language maps. The material and spatial properties of the maps enable the children's own sociorelational understandings to be incorporated into classroom pedagogies.

Chrissiejoy Marshall provides a possible theoretical framework for understanding this relation between affective immersion in the materiality of the world and representation. In trying to communicate her own knowledge of Country, she developed a DVD that combined oral and written language, translations from Erinbinjori and U'Alayi languages into English, her paintings and verbal accounts. Only in the combination of all of these different modes of representation was she able to encapsulate her Aboriginal understanding of relationship to Country. Her theorising emerges from the meanings generated between the different modes of expression which are ultimately concerned with the parallel processes of (creative) expression and the coming into (well)being of the world. The children's place learning maps can be read as maps of Country that come from their deep immersion in the Morwell River wetlands. They express new potential relations between image, language and place arising from their sustainability learning. Like the paintings of the birds installed alongside the walk in the woodlands, they connect children's collective representations for the wellbeing of Country and its peoples.

 
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