Young children and the environment: Early education for sustainability

In Young children and the environment, Julie Davis has edited a wide-ranging anthology, covering early education for sustainability from a holistic view. This is consistent through both outline and content of the book.

The book is divided in two parts, a first general part on early childhood education for sustainability (ECEfS) and a second part with international perspectives and examples.

Good literature about young children and early education for sustainability is often biased towards certain dimensions of sustainability. This book covers the four dimensions in ECEfS, building on a rights based approach to sustainability, often manifested as the view of children as agents of change. In the first chapter, Julie Davis sets off with explaining the holistic view and the underlying four dimensions of sustainability. She also shows the evolution of education for sustainability as education about, in and for the environment, and further developing into sustainable education in a rights-based context. After this introduction, the chapters are more specific. Some written by researchers exploring their field of expertise, and other chapters written by pre-school teachers giving hands on insights into their experiences. In the second chapter, Sue Elliott is given space to explore the topic of children in the natural world, while still showing how the holistic view on ECEfS allows also nature activities to rely on all four dimensions of sustainability. In the next two chapters, Gibson and Pratt explore how leadership, practical possibilities and pedagogical approaches can be parts in developing a culture for sustainability within the pre-schools. Later, the role of ethics in ECEfS is explored as well as the role of reconciliation in ECEfS. The next chapters are more specific and address the importance of communication technology or arts in ECEfS, and the connection between food, health and sustainability. Stuhmcke’s chapter on how you may use a children’s environment project to develop a transformative approach binds together this first part of the book.

The first part of the book is general, but the authors and examples are from the Australian context. In part two of the book, ECEfS is explored in different international contexts. From Sweden, the emphasis of care, for one self, each other and the environment is highlighted. While the chapter from Japan highlights how ECEfS can go beyond traditional nature-based activities. From Korea, the background and culture of ECEfS is explained, and a case study show how a pre-school uses a projects approach in their ECEfS’. From Korea, where the focus on ECEfS has increased through governmental policies, the UK chapter tells a different story of how this focus may diminish due to external pressure. Ferreira and Davis round up the book with pinpointing how we may use research and a systems’ approach in ECEfS.

Unlike most anthologies, Young children and the environment is written primarily for bachelor-level pre-school teacher students. In general, many anthologies written by experts on their fields may be less suited to this group, as experts on their fields tend to dig too deep into their fields. For young students early in their studies, this, in combination with the often lacking connection between chapters may be a challenge. In this book, the well-formulated texts are brought together through common philosophies, in their common view on children and on ECEfS. In addition, all the chapters have assignments for the students, as provocations, small thought experiments to perform as you read. The chapters also include exploring frames and review provocations at the end of each chapter. In combination, these makes the impressive amount of information in each chapter more accessible for students. All chapters also, however, include many layers of information and includes references, increasing the books value also for pre-school teachers and researchers within early childhood education.

Marianne Presthus Heggen

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