Christine Eriksson. Fotograf Niklas Björling
Christine Eriksson. Fotograf Niklas Björling

What happens when a researcher, together with two pedagogues and six preschool children, start singing in a bus, or playing with their voices in a tunnel, or why not just sit on the floor of the subway train with a pen and a bit of cardboard to investigate what kind of patterns the vibrations of the body draw? What happens when preschool children go outside of the institutions and the places that are made specifically for them in order to act in other public places?

That is exactly what the doctoral student Christine Eriksson investigated in her dissertation “A preschool that brings children into public spaces. Onto-epistemological methods of vocal strolls, metaphors and preschool displacements.

She has always had an interest in how operations for the youngest children are organized and how children are integrated into society. How does one create preschool in other places? To find out, Christine Eriksson has, together with children and pedagogues, experimented on how one can compose research methods that make it possible to construct a preschool operation in public places such as streets, buses, the subway, and underpasses.

- My question is how it would be possible for the preschool to operate in such places – in doing so, offering the youngest children in society the opportunity to take their place in public spaces – and also how the researcher can engage him/herself in creating this.
Something new is created by the meeting, an offset of the preschool from specific places to places where the children interact with other environments and adults.

Why did you become interested of this topic in particular?

- I have always enjoyed trying to find solutions for things that one does not know how to do. It is a daily strategy for the pedagogue, because children do so many things that are impossible to predict. In the study, it became possible to investigate how one can develop research methods together with children.
Onto-epistemological methods have strong theoretical roots, it is easy for it only to remain a theory. I want to give the experimenting a place and keep it as simple as possible.

Who can benefit from the results?

I’m thinking that the research methods I have developed are mostly relevant for the academic world, to be able to create experimental collaborative research studies together with other practices and in other places. But, it would be interesting to see how these research methods would have to change and develop in order to work as pedagogical methods where a researcher doesn’t actively participate in creating opportunities for the preschool to take place in public spaces. Here, pedagogues have an incredibly important task in the future.
Something that surprised Christine Eriksson was the care and warmth that both children and pedagogues showed her during the time she was with them.

- They were always very conscious of making me feel welcome. All the children had their own way of greeting me and they often ran towards me and invited me into their play by, for example, giving me a spade, a car, or a purse that was part of the play. I was truly included into their world.
As previous primary school teacher, she is used to leading a children’s group. It surprised her how tough it was not to act as a leader.

- The wait for something to happen was very tough for me at the start of the study. Add to that the fear as a researcher that nothing would happen and that the children wouldn’t  act. It was really important to see what perceptions I myself had on what would happen, and to not act according to them.

What does “vocal strolls” mean?

- We have used the voice to take place. The physical voice – the sound and acoustics. The children are heard, and it affects the public places we have visited. It creates an interaction with people in these places, and it also surprised me. When we sang on the bus, the bus driver and fellow passengers joined us. In the subway, when the vibrations of the body created imprints on a paper, many came close to see what the children were doing and some sat down beside us.
The dissertation work has also put focus on the researcher’s task. What can a researcher contribute with and how can the researcher participate in developing a sustainable social society, for example the preschool? The research methods that Christine Eriksson has used could be a way to modify the organized institutions, she implies.

In the future, Christine Eriksson hopes to be able to continue developing the research methods that make it possible for children to become participants in creating public spaces in different ways and in different areas. And she will also continue teaching preschool teachers to be.

- It is incredibly fun to meet these hungry students who have many thoughts on how the preschool could develop.

Advice to future doctoral students:

  1. Follow former phD-colleagues’ advice who previously wished that they had read more – seize the opportunity to read a lot. I have read and read and read.
  2. At the same time, it is important that research is not only about reading, but about actively doing something or changing something. I want to encourage doctoral students in pedagogical and didactic areas to do more collaborative and experimental studies that aim to, together with pedagogues and children, develop the pedagogical institution into participating in the creation of our sustainable social society.