Pen Green Action & Inquiry with Young Persons.
I get to visit Pen Green on May 13th & 14th. To be honest I didn’t know it was possible to engage the very young in real action research till I attended an early educators EECERA conference last year. Pen Green, a research center focused on children, was established in 1983 and from the outset evolved practice with research together. It’s the action researcher in me, even more than the mother, who is deeply charmed, surprised and woken up to possibilities I had not considered as I learn more about the depth of inquiry possible with children. Participatory research here means really making our work very clear, very engaging, very ethical. In truth because parenting was not taught to me, just inherited, I was socialized to relate to kids as objects. Cute objects, entertaining objects, lovable objects, (which is not to overlook scandalous levels of child abuse that are almost unbearable to consider, also related to how we objectify kids). I wonder if this socialization lurks behind why it is so hard for me/for us to unlearn our scientifically endorsed stance of objectifying-objectification-objectivity. In my background reading on Pen Green I am drawn most to the emphasis on “tracer studies” – action research efforts to find the story behind the story, the kids’ voices behind the more formal evaluation studies. My fave is a longitudinal effort Whalley et al, 2012, using photos to “surprise the unconscious” of the now grown up adults who used to attend Pen Green. Inquiring into what is really true, what was really impactful? How could we do better? I see unusual humility, artistry, innovation. As a fan myself of psychoanalysis – the emotional excavation work of our socialization! – I learn a lot for my own work with adults on the ways we cultivate creativity and inquiry in our lives. How to talk about all that (so far from the objectifying-objectification-objectivity!). Well, if Margy Whalley and colleagues can engage kids in deep inquiry then we all can get closer to the emotional and embodied learning from the depth dimensions. Most adults, well, we get worn out. All that inquiry, whew! Perhaps in these tracer studies I feel the promise of rejuvenation. To quote one of the kids who returned to Pen Green in his twenties as part of Pen Green’s self-study and says: “You haven’t lost your magic…whatever it is… And I’m not just saying that to make you feel better. You haven’t lost your magic… whatever it is…’ Lucky me. I get to share the magic when I visit on May 13 & 14. All are welcome. Saturday 14th May,10:00-15:00.More information at www.pengreen.org.
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