A visit to the archive to see the ducks!

Chris writes:

Did you know, there were ducks at Edge Hill, 70 years before the pond was built?  I went to the Edge Hill University archive the other day and saw these beautiful 1950’s flash cards!  Given their age the card is so sturdy, and they are just big enough to be held by little fingers, and look at those stencilled letters, so carefully applied by the trainee teacher so long ago!  Wasn’t she creative, the duck, her babies, the reeds, and the water are all carefully cut, glued, and layered onto the card, decoupage!

My imagination runs away, how did the trainee teachers of those days use this.  In the best chalk and talk tradition of those times, they probably held them up at the front of the classroom, for their pupils’ row on row.  The cards are in such great condition, I wonder if the children ever touched them.  I wonder what raptures that may have begun, once they felt the soft card, the dazzling vibrancy of the colours and smelled the newness of the print.  Did the trainee teachers think about the visual affect these cards had on children, or the importance of repeating and connecting, sounds to words and pictures.  Did the teacher ask the children “what sound does the duck make?”  Or did an excitable pupil, shout out “quack, quack before she could ask!”  I wonder too, how the children used their imagination when the trainee teacher asked – where is the mother taking her babies?  What stories did the children of long ago tell of the ducks’ destination?    

A visit to the archive to see the ducks, ignited memories, imaginations and stories, the promise in the fusion of documents of the past, and practices of the present.  The connections are exciting.  They reminded me of a time long past with my children and I reflect on the future when archival documents, flash cards, and more, will continue to make as well as disrupt debate.  In the photograph, today’s Edge Hill mother duck is taking her babies for a walk to the Catalyst!

Jo writes:

What interesting questions about how the cards may have been used, and your imagining of those excitable children responding to the materiality of the cards themselves. An invitation to see the Edge Hill University archive in our library is something I can’t resist. What we know about young children is that they want to experience the world through all their senses. A little picture of a duck reminds me that the richest learning experiences involve getting out with children and seeing, hearing, chasing, and watching the ducks. A little paper picture of a duck can only scratch that surface. The wonderful thing about the Edge Hill campus is the ducks, and so many students and staff past and present must have a story that relates to them. When the ducklings hatch, there is talk of how many there are, and how big they are, and I’ve been known to take detours in my daily teaching just so I can catch a glimpse of them. It is part of a lovely cycle of the year, and I can almost chart how long I have been working here as to how many cycles of the seasons and their ducklings I have witnessed. All these memories, questions and resonances occur when you engage with physical things from archives. And one thing I do know, is that I’ll take a real duck instead of a picture card of a duck in a heartbeat!

Dr Christine Lewis and Dr Jo Albin-Clark