The Itinerant School
for Viral Times
While most educational responses to the pandemic have been framed within the efficacies of online teaching and the exigencies of access to requisite technologies, at Santana’s Children’s City (preschool to Grade 1) these responses risked eliding questions of the role of education in the (re)creation of a post pandemic ethos that cultivates new conditions of transformation. Located in Cuenca in the Ecuadorean Andes and experimenting with common worlds pedagogies since 2017, Children’s City felt an urgent need to identify creative and site-specific responses to support transformative living and world-making.
The itinerant school does not substitute traditional forms of schooling, nor does it find a redemptive version of schooling (such as nature-schools). This school is created to and for viral times: responding to the conditions in which we currently live. The itinerant school is located in home gardens in neighbourhoods around the city. Approximately 5-7 children and 2 teachers gather three times a week to co-create a curriculum that responds to the contingencies of their designated garden. When COVID-19 risks the livelihood of those connected to a garden, we put in motion errant baskets until children and educators can return to the garden.
Referring to pandemic times as opening opportunities does not mean we erase the significant moments of suffering and great difficulty that the pandemic has brought upon us. Instead, we learn with what this moment has brought us.
As we consider the opportunities that the pandemic opens up, we ask: an opportunity for what?
This question leads to the following pedagogical orientations:
- The itinerant school creates a meeting and convivial space that proposes experiences focused on weaving situated bonds and relationships amongst children. It does this at the same time that we all live and feel the difficulties and consequences of physical distancing, of inhibiting our expressions of affection and of experiencing control in spontaneous encounters.
- The itinerant school encounters children in educational actions and complex processes situated in the multiple expressions of each encounter. These processes are created step by step, with care and caring for what emerges in the encounter.
- The itinerant school connects to the difficulties that the virus has presented. In fact, the school emerges from the idea that children can perceive and feel the state of exception in which we are living, and are collectively capable of making sense of it. Children are invited to respond to the difficult situations that arise. Thus, the school together with children, teachers and families generates creative responses in the daily living and the capability of adults and children to jointly think in and with arising situations.
- The itinerant school considers that children are active participants (through pedagogical processes based on the arts) of a community that maintains and nurtures their social interactions and, at the same time, fosters conditions for otherwise affects and relationships to emerge. These affects and relationships connect children with the spaces where they meet, the human and more-than-human in their surroundings, their stories, and the protagonists of these stories.
- The itinerant school spins a curriculum that responds to contemporary times. We have noticed that we need a school for viral times that responds to children’s desires to meet with others, to share curiosities, to initiate new games through mutual gestures, and to invent ideas that, although they might be labeled as ridiculous or childish, they need to be valued as propositions for alternative thoughts.
- The itinerant school supports families to continue to care for children and to begin to experiment with other roles such as companions of curiosities, co-creators of ideas and allies in the invention of new games.