ERG SES C 10, Children and Education
Depleting natural resources, drastic impacts of climate change, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and urbanization are all serious global pandemics that our planet struggles. Even though children have right to live in a sustainable future and are considered as active stakeholders who will stay longest on the planet, they are the ones facing with adverse impacts of those unsustainable patterns. Diminishing green areas, car friendly streets, and rapid urbanization limit children’s connection with natural environment which turns children fragile individuals who are growing without touching natural environment (Elliott, 2010; Chawla, 2007; Malone, 2007). Herein, the pivotal point that we should focus on is creating and cultivating sustainable living and learning environments in which children experience sustainable practices and recognize their own potentials for more sustainable societies.
Education is considered an effective tool to teach individuals how they adopt a sustainable life style (Fien, 2004; Prince, 2010). In this aspect, early childhood education is significant and considerably vital step to start about sustainability (Davis, 2010; Pramling-Samulsson, 2016). Early childhood education for sustainability (ECEfS) clearly becomes a lifelong process that must begin in the early years and must be in advance throughout formal school years (Gothenburg Recommendations, 2008). About this, The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD, 2015) clearly indicated that early years are significant life period to gain necessary knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values to promote more sustainable lifestyle. Therefore, early childhood education for sustainability (ECEfS) is much more than educating individuals about the elements of natural environment and what sustainable development is (Davis, 2010). The main aim is experiencing sustainable practices in learning environments or/and preschools to provide opportunities for educators, children, and parents to embrace sustainability principles into their daily life practice. In this way, children can have opportunities to interact and connect within their own environments in order to develop meaningful understanding of the consequences of sustainability issues.
Chawla (2007) stated that who learn about sustainable living practices and establish a connection with nature is likely to contribute to a sustainable future. ECEfS specifically points out that young children are competent and capable individuals who do not perceive natural environment just as a site and resource for playing and learning (Prince, 2010), yet through utilizing already existing curriculum, the preschool environment can simply turn a participatory learning labs in which children, parents, teachers, and community members can realize their potential toward more sustainable life. At this juncture, parents are the key dimensions to create a substantial change of practices in early childhood settings as first educators and caregivers of their children. Joint experiences with parents have great potential to make children to develop predisposed behaviors toward environment (Malone, 2007; Stuhmcke, 2012). Therefore, it would be bountiful to encourage parents involve in sustainable living practices to boost children’s interests to promote positive dispositions toward nature that can have impact into adulthood (Chawla, 1998).
In this perspective, in the current study it was aimed to explore 6 year-old preschool children’s perceptions on recycling of organic wastes before and immediately after participating an ECEfS program on composting. Another aim was about determining possible effects of mother-guided reminisce about the activities implemented during the program on the children’s understanding about the topic. Accordingly, the following key questions are formulated:
- How do 6 year-old preschool children perceive recycling of organic wastes before and immediately after participating ECEfS program?
- How the mother-guided reminisce about the activities implemented during the ECEfS program affect 6 year-old children’s understandings about recycling of organic wastes?
In the current study, in order to gain in depth information, a qualitative research design was employed. Qualitative research aims to “provide an in-depth description and understanding of human experiences” (Linchtman, 2006). Hence, qualitative research design is employed in order to capture the individuals’ perspectives and ideas with respect to real life situations they experience (Merriam, 2009). The main sample of the study was composed of 6 year-old preschool children and their mothers (N=16) in a public preschool locating in Ankara/Turkey and purposive sampling method was used. The current research is placed within a child-oriented perspective and specifically encourage children’s active participation utilizing maternal reminiscing styles of mothers. Preliminary task of the research was determining maternal reminiscing style of mothers and children’s verbal abilities. Then, in implementation part, children participated a series of composting activities with their mothers. The activities were specifically designed to increase the children and their mothers’ knowledge about what the organic wastes are, why organic wastes should be recycled, how composting process is managed, the role of red worms in composting and so on. Through sustained participation, the children and mothers attended activities (science, math, play, art, storytelling etc.) designed based on National Early Childhood Curriculum. Data collected through observation of child-mother interactions and conversations during ECEfS program and semi-structured pre- and post- interviews conducted with children before and immediately after the implementation of ECEfS program. The data analyzed through multiple coders in order to reach an agreement on codes and themes to ensure reliability. Besides, using multiple sources as interviews and observation ensured the credibility of the study. Before implementation, required ethical permissions were gained both from Turkish Ministry of National Education, school administration and parents.
In the current study, a qualitative methodology was adapted to reveal how children’s perception on recycling is developed through participating an early childhood education for sustainability (ECEfS) program with their mothers. Based on the preliminary analyses, it is expected that children’s understanding will be promoted after participating a series of composting activities. Children will recognize the source of organic wastes, the contribution of recycling of organic wastes and how composting contributes for more sustainable future as a daily practice. Moreover, the ECEfS program aims to help children recognize their own potential through critical thinking about why we need recycling and how organic wastes can be recycled and its noticeable contribution for the planet. At this point, mother-guided reminiscing will be expected an effective tool to develop children’s perceptions toward sustainable composting practices. It is expected that joint experiences with mothers facilitates children’s understanding and boost learning about composting. Differences in mothers’ reminiscing style will also result in differences in children’s memory reports and learning. (Reese & Newcombe, 2007). Thus, the current study will shed light on both the practical importance of mothers’ reminiscing styles on learning and the potential of parent’s participation in sustainable practices as a key stakeholder.
Chawla, L. (1988). Children’s concern for the natural environment. Children’s Environments Quarterly, 5(3), 13-20. Chawla, L. (2007). Childhood experiences associated with care for the natural world: A theoretical framework for empirical results, Children, Youth and Environments, 17(4), 144-170. Davis, J. M. (2010). Early Childhood Education for Sustainability: Why it matters, what it is, and how whole center action research and systems thinking can help. Journal of Action Research Today in Early Childhood, 35-44. Elliot, S. (2010). Children’s natural play. In Davis, J. M. (Ed.). (2010). Young children and the Environment: Early Education for Sustainability. Cambridge University Press. Fien, J. (2004). Education for sustainability. In R. Gilbert (Ed.), Studying society and environment. A guide for Teachers (3rd ed.) (pp.184-200). South Melbourne: Thomson. Lichtman, M. (2013). Qualitative Research in Education: A User’s Guide. London: SAGE Publications. Malone, K. A. (2007). The bubble-wrap generation: Children growing up in walled gardens. Environmental Education Research, 13(4), 513-527. Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. (Rev. ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc. Pramling Samuelsson, I. (2016). What is the future of sustainability in early childhood? In A. Farrell, S. L. Kagan, & E. K. M. Tisdall (Eds.), The Sage handbook of early childhood research (pp. 502–516). London: Sage. Prince, C. (2010). Sowing the seeds: Education for sustainability within the early years curriculum. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 18(3), 273-284. Reese, E., & Newcombe, R. (2007). Training mothers in elaborative reminiscing enhances children’s autobiographical memory and narrative. Child Development, 78 (4), 1153-1170 Stuhmcke, S. M. (2012). Children as change agents for sustainability: an action research case study in a kindergarten. (Doctoral dissertation) UNESCO. (2005). Education for sustainable development (2005-2014). Retrieved September 12, 2018, from agenda/education-for-sustainable-development UNESCO. (2008). The Gothenburg Recommendations on Education for Sustainable Development.
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