You might argue that everything that 4-year-olds do is site-responsive: what do any of us do at that age but respond, viscerally and playfully, to the world as we find it? And at that tender age, we have no particular concerns about health and safety, no worries about risk assessments (not even by instinct, yet), no concerns about whether or not our work will withstand aesthetic meta-interpretation. As has been said before (and probably more eloquently), those are the days in which we inhabit a kind of creative Eden, unaware that adulthood will soon gradually erect fences of inhibition that we will then spend the rest of our lives hiding behind and, if we’re both brave and lucky, gradually tearing down so that we can return to the place we started from.
None of this new, none of it Earth-shattering. Still, finishing up a lovely project with little tykes this week–focused on creating narrative and story in non-traditional school spaces–reminded me just how rewarding it can be to put oneself in this kind of headspace. Over a period of weeks, the children and I created a sequel to that children’s classic ‘Room on the Broom’, in which we asked lots of questions about what might have happened next…after the icky mud monster had scared off the red dragon, after the witch and the cat and the dog and the frog and the bird magicked up a deluxe broom and whooshed off into the moon-set. It was easy work for me: I just laughed a lot, asked loads of questions, and let the children do the rest.
The result? The Witches of the Mall and the Silly Dragon Family (cousins of the scary one…a bit of black sheep, he, as it turns out) travel to the London Eye, China and ultimately to the beach for a picnic, where they find that a group of pirates has stolen the water and sand (a beautiful, unconscious metaphor for climate change). The witches and dragons work together to get them back and then fly back home to their safe homes and warm beds. In their outdoor play space, using a few ‘found’ props and some sweeps of colourful chiffon discovered in a store room, we created these worlds and their journey. The children weren’t done, though, as they spun off even more sequels involving caves, castles, robots, trains, police cars and fire engines…you get the picture.
If anyone ever manages to harness and focus the creative power of little children as a tool for social change, folks like us would be out of business. That’s a thought I don’t mind very much. As the man once sang, what a wonderful world it would be.