30 SES 14 A, Out-of-School ESE
In this presentation, I will use a short piece of video data from my doctoral research to map what happens when children, teachers and environments come together during school-based outdoor learning at a Scottish primary school. The purpose of the research is to better understand how ethics of care for the natural world might be nurtured through outdoor learning. Using the tools of sensory ethnography and feminist materialist theories, I found that inter-species relationality, environments and pedagogies all affect the ways in which young children come to know nature during school-based outdoor learning. This creates potential for nurturing emergent understandings of sustainability as relational ethics but may lead to inconsistent experiences across settings.
Environmental and sustainability education is often positioned as transcultural and globally oriented (Gough, 2013) but approaches vary across Europe. Scottish children have an entitlement to learning for sustainability, which is described as “an approach to life and learning which enables learners, educators, schools and their wider communities to build a socially-just, sustainable and equitable society” (Learning for Sustainability National Implementation Group, 2016). Outdoor learning is usually seen as a key strand of this approach, as well as a pedagogy for educational experiences across the curriculum (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2007). As such, it takes a variety of forms and is enacted in school grounds, local communities and greenspaces as well as in places further away from the school where human presences may be less tangible (Mannion, Mattu & Wilson, 2015).
Concerns about the “extinction of experience” in childhood (Soga & Gaston, 2016) and acknowledgement of the multi-faceted benefits of time spent in nature mean that school-based outdoor learning is an important (and potentially contested) site for the formation of environmental values, identities and ways of being in the world, as well as a way to meet health, 'pro-environmental behaviour' and attainment related outcomes (Kuo, Barnes, & Jordan, 2019). Most research in this field focuses on 'connection to nature' and how this relates to these outcomes or specific interventions (e.g. Richardson, Sheffield, Harvey & Petronzi, 2015), often using tools and ways of thinking about education which position humans as separate from the rest of nature, and learning and cognition as something which occurs within the individual.
While this work undoubtedly has value, particularly in guiding the policy framework needed to support regular and equitable access to rich natural environments, it is less helpful for responding to practice or suggesting ways that ethics of care for the world might be integrated into schooling. This is especially important during early childhood education, where children come to know the world through direct experiences, literacies and relations that are inherently embodied as well as embedded in socio-cultural settings (Rogoff, 2003). Research on the development of environmental identity suggests that early experiences of nature, both independent of and alongside supportive adults, can be influential in the development of conservation behaviours (Chawla & Derr, 2012). However, some environmental educators feel that the Anthropocene and the associated global climate and biodiversity crises call for more radical shifts to educational discourse and practice beyond simply spending more time outdoors (Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, Malone, & Barratt Hacking, 2019; Jickling & Sterling, 2017)
Situated in the middle of interacting research, policy and practice systems, my doctoral work involved ethnography grounded in feminist materialist approaches that focus on processes of relationality rather than outcomes. In this presentation, I will refer to a short piece of video data to map some of the lines that I tried to follow, focussing specifically on how inter-species relationality, environments and pedagogies play in the process of children coming to know (and care for) the world.
Doing this in a way that tries to honour the unique knowledges of the different actors requires empirical materials which can be re-read and re-presented through different filters. In this presentation, the video data will be read through experience, method, theory and policy simultaneously (Smartt Gullion, 2018). Posthuman research practices are an increasingly valued response to understanding life in the Anthropocene across a range of social sciences (Fox & Alldred, 2016) and the environmental humanities (Heise et al., 2017), but are emerging as particularly valuable in educational research (Snaza & Weaver, 2014; Taylor & Hughes, 2016), environmental education research (Clarke & McPhie, 2020; Mannion, 2020) and early childhood research (Taylor, 2013; Taylor & Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2018). Within a feminist materialist framework, rather than looking for representational meaning in one place (the human subject), the work of the researcher becomes looking at how the actors (human, non-human, animate and inanimate) ‘intra-act’ with each other as ongoing material phenomena, and how the flows of affect move between them (Lenz Taguchi, 2010). As such, a research ‘subject’ cannot be considered independent of the research process but is part of the assemblage that “comprises the bodies, things and abstractions that get caught up in social inquiry, including the events that are studied and the researchers” (Fox & Alldred, 2016, p. 122). The research assemblage used here involves the methodological tools of ethnography, and particularly sensory and visual ethnography (Pink, 2009), to ‘rebuild’ the relations that emerge during school-based outdoor learning in order to develop an understanding of how they affect learners. For Jessica Smartt Gullion, this methodology requires that "rather than ask what an event means, we should reframe our question to ask how it works" (2018, p.123). Re-turning to material from my fieldwork, I will show how diffractive ethnography can create space for taking the 'messiness' of childhood, nature and schooling seriously and consider specifically what this means in relation to potential links between outdoor experiences at school and learning for sustainability.
In this paper, as in my thesis, I try to follow Deleuze and Guattari’s guidance to “make a map, not a tracing” (1987, p.12). My mapping shows that even in a very short observation of outdoor play and learning, convenient meta-narratives about nature, connection and pro-environmental behaviour are easily disrupted by the complexity of children's experiences at school. Simultaneously charting the affect that flows from policy moves, international research, young children's perspectives, teachers' experiences, biodiversity loss and school grounds design allows us to see the complexity of contemporary childhoods, learning and conceptions of sustainability. Acknowledging the messiness of such a situation and trying to work with it makes space for research and practice that responds to the assemblage that Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, Malone and Barratt-Hacking (2018) call childhoodnature; the pragmatic, un-romanticised entanglement of children-as-nature in our current times. My attempts to follow this approach show that small differences in environments, pedagogies and inter-species relationality hold significant potential for shifting how childhoodnatures emerge at school, as well as some of the dominant structures that might inhibit these shifts. Rather than a satisfying conclusion, this presentation will end with questions about how we might teach for ethical relationality in (and for) such complex, disrupted systems, and how we might draw on the existing practices and experience of teachers and school to do so.
Chawla, L., & Derr, V. (2012). The development of conservation behaviors in childhood and youth. The Oxford handbook of environmental and conservation psychology. Clarke, D.A.G. & Mcphie, J. (2020) Tensions, knots, and lines of flight: themes and directions of travel for new materialisms and environmental education, Environmental Education Research, 26:9-10, 1231-1254. Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, A., Malone, K., & Barratt Hacking, E. (2019). Childhoodnature – An Assemblage Adventure. In Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, A., Malone, K., & Barratt Hacking, E. (2019). Research Handbook on Childhoodnature Assemblages of Childhood and Nature Research, 1-16. Cham: Springer International Publishing : Imprint: Springer. Gough, A. (2013). The emergence of environmental education research: a history of the field in R. Stevenson, M. Bordy, J. Dillon & A. Wals (Eds.), International handbook of research on environmental education, pp.13-23. Routledge. Heise, J., Christensen, U., Niemann, J., Christensen, Jon, & Niemann, Michelle. (2017). The Routledge companion to the environmental humanities (Routledge companions). Routledge. Jickling, B., & Sterling, S. (2017). Post-Sustainability and Environmental Education Remaking Education for the Future (1st ed. 2017.. ed., Palgrave Studies in Education and the Environment). Cham: Springer International Publishing : Imprint: Palgrave Macmillan. Kuo, M., Barnes, M., & Jordan, C. (2019). Do Experiences With Nature Promote Learning? Converging Evidence of a Cause-and-Effect Relationship. Frontiers in Psychology, 10(February), 1–9. Learning and Teaching Scotland (2007). Taking learning outdoors: partnerships for excellence. http://www.docs.hss.ed.ac.uk/education/outdoored/taking_learning_outdoors.pdf Learning for Sustainability National Implementation Group (2016). Vision 2030+ concluding report from the learning for sustainability national implementation group. Retrieved from https://education.gov.scot/improvement/documents/res1-vision-2030.pdf Lenz-Taguchi, H. (2010). Going beyond the theory/practice divide in early childhood education : Introducing an intra-active pedagogy (Contesting early childhood). London: Routledge. Mannion, G. (2020). Re-assembling environmental and sustainability education: Orientations from New Materialism. Environmental Education Research, 26(9-10), 1353-1372. Mannion, G., Mattu, L. & Wilson, M. 2015. Teaching, learning, and play in the outdoors: a survey of school and pre-school provision in Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage. Commissioned Report No. 779. Richardson, M, Sheffield, D, Harvey,C. & Petronzi, D. (2015). The impact of children’s connection to nature. A report for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. https://www.rspb.org.uk/globalassets/downloads/documents/positions/education/the-impact-of-childrens-connection-to-nature.pdf Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Soga, M., & Gaston, K. J. (2016). Extinction of experience: The loss of human-nature interactions. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 14(2), 94–101. Smartt Gullion, J. (2018). Diffractive ethnography. New York: Routledge. Taylor, A. (2013). Reconfiguring the natures of childhood (Contesting early childhood). Routledge. Taylor, A., Pacini-Ketchabaw, V. (2018). The Common Worlds of Children and Animals : Relational Ethics for Entangled Lives. Routledge.
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