What I learnt at the Children and Childhoods Conference 2022

 I travelled alone for the first time to Ipswich for the Children and Childhoods Conference, hosted by the University of Suffolk. The Open University provided me with a scholarship to attend. This post will provide a synopsis of Professor Helen Lomax's and Professor Alison Clark's keynote addresses for each day.

Playful arts-based methods for child-centred research and knowledge exchange during times of global crisis

Professor Helen Lomax's presentation, 'Playful arts-based methods for child-centred research and knowledge exchange during times of global crisis,' was discussed. Morgan Jones et al. (2020) suggested that policymaking is limited when children are excluded. When researching this topic, Helen came to the conclusion that using a creative method would allow children to express themselves and that their voices would be plural rather than singular, and that these voices would contain the experiences of those around them. Given the covid-19 pandemic, the question of how messy and tactile approaches could be used when the researchers couldn't be in the same room as the children arose.

Children were given art packs and asked what they wanted in them. Using these packs resulted in the research space becoming an inclusive space regardless of where the children were. These minor details demonstrated that the children were involved in the entire research process.

Initially, animations were used on Zoom to prompt the children and get them to reflect on their experiences. Caring interactions ensured that the children left the workshops feeling better than when they arrived. It was also useful to reflect on previous notes to get a sense of where children were before entering the space.

Helen discovered that when children were allowed to use their space, their ordinary lives were discussed, but with a dash of the extraordinary thrown in. The children created a video called the corona chronicles using the animations they had made to talk about their experiences living during the pandemic and lockdown. This explained why the children valued going outside and how balancing indoor and outdoor time helped them manage their emotions during the lockdown.

Helen's research can teach us how to be more inclusive when working with children, and how to respect their voices through various modes of communication and media.

What’s happened to time?: Rethinking accelerated childhoods and children’s relationships with place and materials

The keynote address on the second day was another excellent presentation. This came from Professor Alison Clark, who was wondering what slow research looked like. Some people were able to slow down as a result of the pandemic, while others had to speed up and juggle new aspects of life. When considering children's education, one thought was whether we should speed up to catch up on lost learning or slow down and rest. Time and flexibility are required within the curriculum because the pandemic will cause all children to learn differently. Some people may be hesitant to close that chapter and move on.

Children's development in the present can be overshadowed by the anticipation of the end goal; for example, children in secondary school have an end goal of exams, and most of their learning throughout the year is geared toward that. Alison discovered that the need to slow down was implicit in research and practice, centred on children's listening. She discusses Holt (2002) and the slow school movement, as well as Payne and Wattchow (2009), who value first-hand experiences, revisiting the same environment in-depth, and allowing time to pay close attention to feelings and senses.

It is critical for practitioners and researchers who work with children to be more aware of the relationship between time and space. What effect does time have, and how can it be altered? Slow pedagogy, according to Peter Moss (2020), is about being open to exploration. There is no set developmental destination for children; they simply learn as they go.

We can take from this presentation that slow pedagogy may be a helpful tool when working with children who are not on a typical developmental path. Children should be given as much time as possible to explore and learn on their own terms.

I had a fantastic time and everyone was very welcoming, I worried that I wouldn’t have much to say being a mere undergraduate. I hope I can make it to the next conference to hear more about what people have discovered through their research with children and young people. 

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