This past co-op I worked at Mills Lawn Elementary School in Yellow Springs, Ohio as an assistant kindergarten teacher for all the kindergarten classes, which consisted of sixty kids total. My main job was working with the kids who scored lowest on tests on things like letter recognition, sound, and writing. It was very gratifying to see the kids I worked with develop their skills. Beyond this, I helped Dawn Boyer, the director of advancement, with emails, distributing newsletters, database entry, and writing thank you letters to donors.
I took the class Sound, Sight, and Sentiment: Phenomenology of Place. On the syllabus, it states: “First, we explore how people move through place in a technology-saturated epoch where, for sure, the present is shot through with the past. Second, we become aware of the dominant sensory tendencies of our day, and consider nuancing the visual epistemologies of Western thought in order to raise a greater awareness of the function of sound in society— embracing Nancy’s concept of the sonorous. Then we exercise our developing ability to think critically about culture through a documentation of experience in situ, resulting in rich media or long form narrative reflections on the sounds, sights, and pervading sentiments in the place that is your co-op.”
Though my job was in Yellow Springs, I lived fifteen minutes away in Springfield, Ohio. I was able to have an in-depth, reflective experience of the places I was in and visiting. I made myself be aware of each sensory aspect of experiencing a place, with a focus on the visual and auditory elements. I documented much of my experiences through video, audio, and pictures to capture the feeling of the spaces I encountered.
I created a map of community assets of Yellow Springs that included pictures, videos, and audio. I also added vignette pieces, which were open-ended creative pieces. The assets I put in my map were: Spirited Goat Coffee House, Mills Lawn Elementary School, the Glen Helen Nature Preserve, Emporium Wines and Underdog Cafe, and the Village Council Art Gallery. My vignette pieces were a poem, a photo series on my experiences of the sky as a place, as well as another photo series of my apartment in Springfield called “I brought home to a temporary living space.”
To check out my map and vignette pieces, click here to be taken to my blog.
Place is complicated. There are a lot of approaches that have gone into defining place. In this course, we read “Place: A Short Introduction” by Tim Cresswell. On page fifty-one, he stated that there are three ways place can be approached. The first one is a descriptive approach which is particularly concerned with the distinctiveness of a place. The second approach is a social constructionist approach to place. This approach is held by feminists, Marxists, and post-structuralists. They look at the social construction that gives places their distinct attributes. For example, wider systems such as the patriarchy, capitalism, heterosexism, and post-colonialism have had a massive influence on the development of places. Lastly, the third is the phenomenological approach. This approach is focused on seeing the “essence” of human existence as a “place.” Essentially, they look at the deeper, across-the-board sense of place amongst humankind. The author recommended looking at the overlap between the three approaches and to see them as all equally important.
I think these three approaches are good to look at. Of course, we can look at places by their distinct place. I can tell my friend where I am at by providing an address. I am also familiar with the second approach due to being a political-economic major. I have done quite a lot of contemplation of how places are socially constructed. The third approach caused me to contemplate some new things. I thought about my collective senses that assist me in creating my idea of place. In this course, we went into how sound deeply impacts place. When I do a dishwashing shift at Antioch’s farm-to-table kitchen, whether or not I have music to listen to impacts my experience in the place immensely. Our senses are able to deepen, and even shape, our experiences.
Here is how I broadly define place: a specific location in space and time. I think what is interesting is how much our senses impact our ideas of these locations. You can go to a restaurant, for example, and the first time you go you feel one way about the place, and the second time you may feel another. The restaurant is the same place, but… the place is different once you feel differently. You and a partner could have a special location you like to go sit on, but that location is not the same when going without them. We hold significance to place and define a place at a fluid level, as our experiences and feelings fluctuate.
Photo credit: https://www.ysschools.org