3. The Riverbank

The Riverbank

We revisit Scarlett's idea that the monster lives in the river. We go to Buck Creek, the local waterway, which the educators and children call the river, to search for signs of the monsters and mermaids living alongside us. We bring Scarlett’s drawing along with us and a map that Jesse creates of the trails that lead to Buck Creek.

Jesse: "This is Buck Creek and the trail in the forest." This is the trail from the daycare to the creek that the monster takes.

Visiting the river with monsters in mind allows children to interact with this place in alternative ways.

We spot a dark cave on the opposite bank, eroded by rushing water. “Look! That’s where my monster lives. We can’t see him, because he is invisible and made of water. He might be here!” Scarlett

“A mermaid trap! Look!” Scarlett The bending tree is a trap set for the mermaid by the monster.

As a way to debate where the monster lives and hides, we draw many of our ideas onto a collective map.

“A sign!! The monster marked a sign on that tree! IT IS HERE!” We draw the monster’s marks.

Our hands experiment with how we think the monster’s claw(s) could have marked the tree. A huge gash drips with resin. It might be fresh!

“This is a clue. The monster has red and blue clues.” Celine

Strange marks in the gravel. Claws? Feet? Red clue on the rock.

We call out to the monster. “Hey monster! Come out!” Calum

The map fills with marks that show the signs of the monster as we investigate the surrounding field and bank.

“How did the monster get to the forest?” “The mermaids tricked it! The mermaids said go away, monster!” “I think the monster is scared. He’s by himself.” “Maybe they’re lonely.” “I think maybe the monster is hungry.” We wonder if the mermaids and monsters are enemies who always fight, or if their relations are more complex. A mermaid holds up a picture of herself smiling next to the slashed tree, which many children identify as one of the monster’s possible homes. “She’s giving the monster the picture so they know not to be scared.” Celine

What might the monster eat and do? How do the monster and mermaids live here? In the creek? On the land? “I think the monster ate the poison mushrooms.” Scarlett “Look, a bite! He was here!” Ana While many children draw, others notice details of the riverbank forest.

We go down to the rushing water and find a strange hole near the edge of the bank. Perfectly round, punched into the earth.

“The mons t er did thi s ! ” “Hi s l eg i s sharp . I t punched down and made the ho l e . ” “Hi s arm swooped and scooped l i ke thi s…”

“I drew the hole so we can find it again.” Mary

Drawing together at the creek has created space for dialogues about the monster and mermaids. We return to our drawings and photo documentation to study what is emerging in the classroom.

To attend to the children’s proposed signs of the monster, we print pictures from our walks and offer them to the children. Inspired by Scarlett's image of the monster, children change, elaborate and retell monster and mermaid stories. Through this process more questions emerge as we make collective drawings.

The monster holds food in its arms, foraged from next to the slashed tree.

The slashed tree with blue graffiti is an important indicator of the monster’s presence. “This is so the monster doesn’t get lost.” “It’s a sign of their house.” “The monster sleeps in the grass near the mushrooms.”

Mermaid pools are drawn with teal lines. “The purple is food for the mermaids.” Lily

“How does the monster get in and out of the cave?” Chelsea “It can swim.” Mathew “Uh huh!” Calum “The monster can go there because it’s made of water.” Scarlett The black X marks the monster’s cave under the riverbank.

“There’s another cave at daycare.” Lily Ideas are debated and linger in the collective drawing.