The Children’s Role in this Process

As we reflect on this journey of documentation, we realize how deeply influenced this process was by our piazza sessions with Tizianna Filippini. She inspired much thought about the complexity of relationships, of building community, of being ready to listen, and being ready to be surprised. Her words gave us courage, enough courage to document an idea during a pandemic. Imagine that. Exploring relationships through sound in a changed world was our premise. We knew what we were observing was meaningful and filled with possibilities. We jumped into the deep end of the pool and began to swim, immersed in excitement and anticipation of what we were embarking on together in our first joint documentation effort as a centre.

In this shared excitement, however, we now see that we lost something. We understood well that the ‘child is the protagonist’ and worked to capture their voices within relationships. We listened carefully to audio files and discussed what they were teaching us. We considered their voices while reflecting on each piece and provided opportunity for them to respond to each audio piece through art and with quotes of their thoughts. However, this was not enough.

Our thinking and planning were disrupted by the barrier of launching an outdoor installation during the pandemic with a fixed timeline. We did not linger with the child. We allowed time to rush our process. Our research and discoveries were about the child, not created with the child. Looking back, there were so many opportunities for the children to research alongside us, offering their own perception of why listening was important, what listening meant, to talk about what sounds evoke and how they make us feel. We could have encouraged them to create their own audio files, explaining what they were listening to, what they were inspired by, and describing what they heard. We missed an opportunity for the children to be our co-documenters and to create a dialogue with us about what we were discovering, together.

Through this process our reflections have been many, and we know this to be a point of documentation. Not only did we discover the power of documentation for parents, colleagues, our professional community, and the public, but we discovered how it transformed ourselves. Realigning our intentions of documentation with and for the child, throughout the entirety of this project, is our biggest take away. The research process is challenging with much to consider. The voice of the child must be in each part of the research, and involved in subsequent dialogue. They are not just the subject of the research. What we know is that we have much to learn from the child, both generally, and in their response to these unique times. Tizianna says the child offers you a seed but you must offer it back. This is our greatest lesson. We must always, and often, offer that seed back.

Taryn McSherry, RECE