Academic journal article Language Arts

So the Boys Won't Bother Us: Kindergarten Students as Researchers

Academic journal article Language Arts

So the Boys Won't Bother Us: Kindergarten Students as Researchers

Article excerpt

Barely a month had passed since the first day of school and already four-year-old Hannah's space on the bulletin board was covered with drawings of horses. She had yellow horses, blue horses, and red horses. She had some horses looking to the left and others to the right. She had large horses and small horses. Hannah was a Kindergarten student in a linguistically and cul- turally diverse classroom of 16 four- and five-year- olds in a school located in a middle class neighbor- hood in a community close to the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada. In this column, I reflect on the student research done by Hannah, and her use of art as a tool for engaging in research focused on an issue of importance in her life. I close by talking about the implications of stifling educa- tional policies that make it more and more chal- lenging for teachers to create curricular spaces in which children like Hannah can engage in the kind of transformative learning that resulted from her student research.

Art as Research

The myriad of horse drawings clearly demonstrated Hannah's abilities as an artist. One particular piece, however, was anomalous. It was a drawing of a horse with a big X drawn across it. When I asked her about the drawing, she explained, "This means no horses allowed here in school. Only horse pic- tures are allowed here." After sharing her explana- tion, she proceeded to draw two more drawings of horses with an X, to be placed in different areas of the school. She said the drawings would "let people know that horses aren't allowed here."

The next morning, Hannah greeted me at the doorway to the classroom saying, "I think I choose to draw first. I have to draw pictures of horses to put up in barns because that's where they should be, in barns." On this day, she drew a number of horses without an X across them. Whether to add an X or not was a deliberate choice meant to con- vey a particular message. This was in keeping with the long-standing notion that during the early years, children become fluent and inventive users of sym- bols and that they readily use the lines of drawing to represent their world (Dyson, 1986). Drawing was definitely a comfortable mode of expression for Hannah (Leigh & Heid, 2008).

After having created several horse pictures, Hannah was faced with a dilemma.

hannah: Where should I put these pictures? I need a barn. Let's put these up [drawings without an X across them] outside a barn.

Vivian: Well, the thing is, we don't have a barn close to the school.

hannah: Let's find one.

With this, Hannah and a friend asked to go to the front office of our school to borrow a phone book because there was no Internet access at the time. With phone book in hand, I showed the chil- dren how to use the yellow pages to search for barns and places with horses in the vicinity of the school. She decided to send her posters to a place called the Five Star Ranch, which boarded horses.

Three weeks after mailing her posters to the Ranch, she received a thank-you letter stating that the posters would be put up on the wall in one of the barns at the Ranch. Hannah was excited to have received a response, but not at all surprised. She expected to receive a response. I asked her what she would have done if they had not responded. She said she would have sent them another letter to make sure they received the first one. At four years old, Han- nah was well immersed into a communicative world and had some understanding of the effect of taking an authorial stance. Receiving a response definitely boosted her confidence, as seen through the next set of drawings she created to disrupt a problematic issue she had with some of the boys in the class.

Hannah described her next drawing as a poster called "So the Boys Won't Bother Us." She said it could also be called, "How to Trap a Boy." She explained, "You buy some donuts and buy some brooms. Look for a swing to make it look like a horse. …

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