Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

The Monster and Lover(love)Girl: Mapping Complex Relations in Preschool Children's Digital Video Productions

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

The Monster and Lover(love)Girl: Mapping Complex Relations in Preschool Children's Digital Video Productions

Article excerpt

On the school play structure, a 5-yearold boy who calls himself the Monster relentlessly chases apparently helpless and unassuming children. He roars and yawns like a lion, lurches, and extends his torso like a dagger, to eradicate his hapless prey. As an observer, I am an early casualty, and like any less nimble player, the preschool kids cajole me into lying powerless under the slide while they assault my flank with wood chips. Five-year-old Ariela winks and smiles at me. I bristle, and the Monster chides me, "You're dead. I killed you." Ariela leans over my closed eyes and whispers, "I have special powers. We all have special powers. I'm Lover Girl," she coos (see Figure 1).

At breakfast that same day, the kids are sitting on the carpet in front of a classroom faux fireplace. They're counting small packets of vegetable seeds that have been donated for their community garden. During a school year, they collected 2,000 cans of food for their neighborhood free kitchen. Their teacher asks the children if they remember why they counted the cans. In unison, four kids shout, "for the people who are hungry," as Chico, another student, empathetically rubs the belly area of his red crewneck sweatshirt.

The Monster squeals, "Like my dad. He got

no food, he got no car, he got no house..."

"He's homeless," his friend Chico interjects,

as he rubs the empty belly of his

sweatshirt once more, for emphasis.

With his eyes fixed in the distance, the

Monster trails off, "He ain't got nothing

'cept a broken house, a broken car,

everything he got is broken."

"So, do you think we could help the

Monster's dad?"

All the kids respond, "Yeah!"

The kids prepare to eat breakfast: The

Monster shouts, "My class is so awesome!

They give you everything! We don't even

have to get the food! We grow the food!"

These narratives, all short representations crafted from field notes, illustrate my own, educators', and children's actions in a classroom and on a school playground on a February morning. They are shaped to give visible and audible/textual form to some of the complexity young children experience when they make and view a voluntary digital video piece, "The Monster and Lover Girl," during their classroom's morning outdoor time. Their experience playing together and making the video wafts in and out of their conversations, mingles with aspects of their classroom and neighborhood lives, and somehow becomes a touchstone for certain members of the classroom group, who ask to view and re-view it frequently.

Four months later, the Monster and I sit alone at the small table in his classroom where the children write their names with fat pencils on narrow strips of paper each morning. We re-view, on my MacBook, the video he asked to be made of him chasing the other kids on the playground. He opens and re-opens the video in QuickTime. He has taught himself not only how to replay it but also how to pause on choice moments by tapping the spacebar. He makes direct eye contact with me as he does so. Over and over again-I lose count after 15-he pauses the video and explains, "That's me! I'm the Monster!" (See Figure 2.)

As the artist, researcher, and educator who worked with the children, I created narrative maps and other visual maps. I share these maps throughout this article, to represent fragments of the immense complexity of relations between children's multiple roles and voices inside and outside of their video piece. Some of these roles include being a child, a young girl or boy, a viewer, a pursuer in a chasing game, a director, a preschool student, and a neighborhood citizen. Other roles and maps arose during both creating and re-viewing the video piece over many months.

Initially, I created these maps because I found the intricacy of interplay between the children's roles so formidable that traditional means of thick description (Geertz, 1973) and research representation could not fully give form to it. …

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