Dancing Bodies, Moving Spaces: Revealing Children’s Movement Encounters in an Integrated Kindergarten Classroom

Coralee McLaren, Patricia McKeever


Contemporary neuroscientific evidence indicates that unrestricted movement and gesture enhance children’s physical, social, and cognitive development by engaging them with the external properties of their environments. Current understanding of children’s engagement with indoor environments is limited. This knowledge gap matters because children’s health, social abilities, and cognitive development may be compromised in physical environments that inhibit rather than enhance their movement capacities. This gap is especially problematic for physically disabled children. In this study, we describe and interpret the relationship between disabled and non-disabled children’s movement and a kindergarten classroom. The children’s bodies were conceptualized according to Deleuze’s philosophical premise that nothing can be known about bodies until they demonstrate what they can do (1987). The classroom was conceptualized according to Gibson’s theory of affordances, which posits that people and environments are inextricably related (1979). Returning to her dance roots, McLaren used a choreographic lens underpinned by Manning’s philosophy of relational movement (2009) to accentuate the dynamic reciprocity between children’s bodies and the classroom. This ethnographic “dance-in-the-making” led to deeper understandings of the relational and emergent properties of these interactions. Findings suggest that assemblages of bodies, objects, and features trigger dynamic movement, and indicate that disabled and non-disabled children alike discover and creatively assemble affordances to facilitate their movement. Overall, our findings recast children’s body-environment interactions and contribute to understandings about environmental features that enhance or inhibit movement capacities. This knowledge could be used to reframe design, rehabilitation and educational practices, and enhance opportunities for all children to move and thrive in their environments.

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Copyright (c) 2019 Coralee McLaren

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