Interpretations of curriculum-as-lived and a/r/tography

Lived curriculum by Thanushi Eagalle

Look! I am learning.
Now, instantly reflecting
with many selfies.

What’s my role today?
Eat, work, eat, work, sleep, repeat.
Where did the play go?

Lived curriculum
in combat with planned living.
Take another pic.


INTRODUCTION

My final project for EDCP*567 - Curriculum Issues and Theories in Museum Education revolved around Aoki (2005) - Inspiriting the Curriculum. It was one of the few papers that truly stuck with me, as my mind kept wandering back to content - especially while I was immersed in nature. As Aoki (2005) states, “an educated person, first and foremost, understands that one’s ways of knowing, thinking, and doing flow from who one is. Such a person knows that an authentic person is no mere individual, an island unto oneself, but is a being-in-relation-with-others, and hence is, at core, an ethical being. Such a person knows that being an educated person is more than possessing knowledge or acquiring intellectual or practical skills, and that basically, it is being concerned with dwelling aright in thoughtful living with others" (p.365).

To interpret the concepts of curriculum-as-lived and a/r/tography, I will use photography to capture moments in my life that resonated with the readings. My reasoning for creating a blog post was that it's more accessible to the public, because I want to try and explain these concepts to my friends and family who don't read academic papers related to education. I personally find it disheartening when researchers spend a lot of time and energy conversing amongst themselves and their colleagues, yet they are unable to explain their research and ideas to people outside of their scholarly circle. So this is my attempt to translate some of the readings.

The process for this final project involved doing the required readings, interpreting the various concepts while on hikes around BC, taking raw photographs with my Nikon D750 primarily with a 24-120mm lens, editing the photographs on Adobe Lightroom and creating an aesthetically pleasing way of illustrating information through my website. Below I have divided the impact of this course's required readings into three sections: 1) knowing one’s self, 2) knowing one’s self in relation to others and 3) furthering one’s practice through a/r/tography.


Part 1 : Knowing one's self

Finding balance. Stave Lake Reservoir, BC. 2017.  
"It is the lived experience of curriculum—currere, the running of the course—wherein the curriculum is experienced, enacted, and reconstructed. The verb form (currere) is preferable because it emphasizes the lived rather than the planned curriculum, although the two are intertwined. The verb emphasizes action, process, and experience in contrast to the noun, which can convey stipulation and completion" (Pinar, 2011, p.2)

This is my partner Aaron in the woods, trying to cross a fallen tree bridge. As he is positioned in the centre of the image, one can get a wholesome feel of the surroundings. It may not be overly obvious, but he had to tackle many obstacles (height above ground, tree branches below and slippery wood) to get across. Knowing your body and its space in the world is not easily taught in a classroom setting. Of course there are yoga classes and instructors who may help with the process, but ultimately it comes down to the individual to practice and get better. To get better, the individual's success would depend on their environment - in this case it is wearing appropriate attire while hiking, choosing the right tree, etc. Then through practice, one gains a deeper sense of confidence while the fear of failure withdraws. 

Wilderness training. Tetrahedron Provincial Park, BC. 2017
"Currere emphasizes the everyday experience of the individual and his or her capacity to learn from that experience; to reconstruct experience through thought and dialogue to enable understanding. Such understanding, achieved by working through history and lived experience, can help us reconstruct our own subjective and social lives" (Pinar, 2011, p.2)

During a visit to the Sunshine Coast on May long weekend, a group of friends and I decided to do a hike in Tetrahedron Provincial park. As we hiked up the mountain, we encountered more snow than we expected. We soon had to decide whether we kept going till we got to the lake or turn back around and do something else instead. We chose to keep going, given that we were pretty close and we were able to locate ourselves on a map. I used a series of photographs of my friend Kendall falling through the snow and relying on his surroundings to get back up to illustrate once again how learning occurs in all settings and we should try to learn from our setbacks. (Of course I would've helped him, but he was completely fine getting up by himself). There were times when I also fell through the snow and the subsequent steps were much more cautious as I would test the compact nature of the snow before proceeding. Valuable lessons were learned on this hike that could only have been learned through doing and outside of formal education. 


Part 2: Knowing one's self in relation to others

Laughs amongst friends. Tetrahedron Provincial Park, BC. 2017
Learning exists in all spaces and in-between spaces. I chose this photo because everyday life can be a form of public pedagogy (O'Malley, Sandlin & Burdick, 2010). Whether you are laughing amongst good friends or making sandwiches, you are still interpreting information and making connections.  

Just a quick game of pond hockey. Serpentine Wildlife Management Area, BC. 2017. 
"Learning occurs in diverse sites and modalities, in ways that we may not consider “pedagogy” for lack of a broader understanding of that word's implications and possible meanings. Within these formal and informal sites, learning often takes on a more subtle, embodied mode, moving away from the cognitive “rigor” commonly associated with educational experiences." - Elizabeth Ellsworth (O'Malley, Sandlin & Burdick, 2010, p.3).

From many of our online discussions, it became apparent that we wanted to bring "play" more into our practice. We can relate play and often team sports, to Aoki (2005) as "being concerned with dwelling aright in thoughtful living with others" (p.365). Teams require team work and knowing your position and roles in relation to others. 


Part 3: Furthering one's practice through a/r/tography

A/r/tography is a "research methodology, a creative practice, and a performative pedagogy that lives in the rhizomatic practices of the in-between" (Irwin, 198). In other words, it's a space where the individual is the artist (a), researcher (r) and teacher (t). 

Prior to knowing what a/r/tography is, I came up with a project called Science to Art (START) which was funded by the UBC Chapman and Innovation Grant. START is a traveling museum project that allows elementary and secondary school students to design and create exhibits through intergenerational collaboration with volunteers (Art Mentors). These exhibits highlight local environmental issues, such as the plight of pollinators, and create opportunities for students to express their scientific knowledge through artistic expression. The work is then showcased at ArtStarts Gallery and Beaty Biodiversity Museum in Vancouver. Overall START aims to develop communication skills in students, Art Mentors and teachers, while raising public awareness of ecological issues.

Below you can find images of intergenerational learning. These students conducted research on their pollinator group (life-history characteristics, environmental risks, etc) with their teacher, family and myself, used their creative ideas to design a museum exhibit as a group with Art Mentors, contemplated the messages and aesthetics within the artwork, referenced literature for their artwork (ex. making beetles with clay while looking at an insect ID book) and then constructed the museum exhibit to teach their class and the public about local environmental issues. Art Mentors were there as guidance, offering up suggestions and bringing in their passion for creativity. Not only did the students learn about pollinators, they also learned how to work together, different art technique and different communication techniques.


In Aoki (2005), there is a question that stood out - "How can a curriculum-as-plan be so built that it has the potential for a curriculum-as-lived that is charged with life?”

I personally found that for this course, bringing in the option of doing a creative project with no restrictions (aside from relating the project to 3-5 papers) did exactly that. Everyone was able to concentrate on creativity, which usually loses the battle with scheduling and work. I personally was able to bring in what I was learning to all aspects of my life - school, work and fun. The fact that I was able to incorporate my hikes and photography that give me so much inspiration into the project was just amazing. The hardest part was trying to decide exactly what to do because there were so many possibilities and then evaluating myself!

START also interlaced curriculum-as-lived and planned with students, Art Mentors and teachers I worked with. I would hear from parents that their child was really excited to be researching pollinators at home and was looking forward to the exhibit opening. There were times when students would bring in dead insects from the playground to show their friends and look at the specimens closer. The Art Mentors reached out to me afterwards and told me how much they loved working on projects like this and felt fulfilled from their time commitment. The teachers informed me how the students were very excited about the artwork and discussed pollinators more in their daily conversations and play. This experience exceeded my expectations and I couldn't have asked for anything better. Thank you. 


REFERENCES: 

Aoki, T. (2005). Inspiriting the curriculum. In W. F. Pinar & R. L. Irwin, (Eds.), Curriculum in a new key (pp. 357-366). NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Irwin, R. (2013). Becoming a/r/t/ography. Studies in Art Education, 54 (3), 198-215. Retrieved from http://www-tandfonlinecom.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/doi/abs/10.1080/00393541.2013.11518894

O’ Malley, M. P., Sandlin, J. & Burdick, J. (2010). Public Pedagogy. In C. Kridel (Ed.), Encyclopedia of curriculum studies (pp. 696-700). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Pinar, W. (2011). The Unaddressed “I” of Ideology Critique. Chapter 1, In The character of curriculum studies : Bildung, Currere, and the recurring question of the subject.