Special Issue "Reimagining Early Childhood Education for Social Sustainability in a Future We Want"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Education and Approaches".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 March 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Veronica Bergan
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, 9037 Tromsø, Norway
Interests: early childhood teacher education; early childhood; education for sustainability; science didactics; embodied and emplaced learning
Prof. Dr. and Director Elin Eriksen Ødegaard
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
KINDknow—Kindergarten Knowledge Centre for Systemic Research on Diversity and Sustainable Futures, Faculty of Teacher Education, Arts and Sports, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, 5063 Bergen, Norway
Interests: early childhood education; bildung; play and imagination; narrative inquiry; ecological and dialogical approaches; sustainability
Dr. Sidsel Boldermo
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, 9037 Tromsø, Norway
Interests: education for sustainability; early childhood; diversity; belonging and togetherness

Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

Early childhood education has a long tradition of supporting children’s participation in play and development of social skills, creativity, and normative relations. A variety of pedagogical practices that support social sustainability have been developed in early childhood education. Terms like belonging, generation, adults responsibilities and children’s agency, imagination, citizenship, bildung, and normative relationality can help establish a more holistic ecological, socially just, and relational way of creating spaces that encourage an ethic of care for fellow humans, other species, and the planet (Wals, 2017). Sustainability research within education has placed a hegemonic weight on environmental education, while cultural and social aspects have not had the same attention (Boldermo & Ødegaard, 2019; Eizenberg & Jabareen, 2017).

Young children have the right to be secure, included, heard, and followed up with in matters of everyday life, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, 1989). As climate change is expected to increase the frequency of natural disasters, the world we share as global citizens is changing. In our time we are thrown into the largest disruption of education ever, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This leaves researchers, policymakers, parents, and children with a generational opportunity to reimagine education. We have seen that children with disabilities, those in minority or disadvantaged communities, displaced and refugee children and those in remote areas are at highest risk of being affected when a crisis strike. The potential for social exclusion and boundaries due to issues of lack of digital infrastructure, lack of open green places in local neighborhoods, isolation, language barriers, citizenship, and value conflicts is evident and challenges us to address the consequences of a changed world beginning in early years education and care (Boldermo & Ødegaard, 2019; Häggelund & Johansson, 2014; Nutbrown & Clough, 2009; Presthus et al., 2019).

It is time to create a space for research addressing social sustainability for the future we want. The purpose of this Special Issue is to outline how social sustainability can be a thinking tool for new knowledge and understandings that nourish a reimagination of education in a world of trouble.  We welcome contributions with entry points such as “belonging”, “generation”, “the role of family”, “the role of local places”, “local and global aspects”, “radical local perspectives” and “explorative and innovative pedagogical ideas and practices”.  We aim to elaborate on the development of early childhood educational practices that unite and include children as local and global citizens. Furthermore, we want to explore what practices can enhance children’s belonging in their peer groups, their local places, and local and global communities in a world of trouble.

Social aspects of sustainability include topics such as social justice, citizenship, building of stable social societies, multicultural diversity, and equity. This Special Issue is seeking studies and theoretical perspectives that describe or reimagine pedagogical practices that aim to enhance adults’ responsibilities and children’s belonging and agency in a changing world.

References:

Boldermo, S. & Ødegaard, E. E. (2019). What about the migrant Children? The State-Of-The-Art in Research Claiming Social Sustainability. Sustainability, 11, 459.

Eizenberg, E. & Jabareen, Y. (2017). Social sustainability: A new conceptual framework. Sustainability, 9, 68.

Häggelund, S. & Johansson, E. M. (2014). Belonging, value conflicts and children’s rights in learning for sustainability in early childhood. In J. Davis & S. Elliot (eds.). Research in Early Childhood Education for Sustainability (p. 38-48). Oxon and New York: Routledge.

Heggen, M. P., Sageidet, B. M., Goga, N., Grindheim, L. T., Bergan, V., Krempig, I. W., Utsi, T. Aa. & Lynngård, A. M. (2019). Children as eco-citizens? NORDINA, 15 (4), 387-402.

Nutbrown, C. & Clough, P. (2009). Citizenship and inclusion in the early years: understanding and responding to children’s perspectives on ‘belonging’. Int. J. Early Years Educ., 17(3), 191-206.

United Nations (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx

Wals, A. E. J. (2017). Sustainability by Default: Co-creating Care and Relationality Through Early Childhood Education. International Journal of Early Childhood, 49(2), 155-164.

Dr. Veronica Bergan
Prof. Dr. and Director Elin Eriksen Ødegaard
Dr. Sidsel Boldermo
Guest Editors


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Keywords

  • education for social sustainability
  • belonging
  • generation
  • reimagining early childhood education
  • relationality

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Fostering Cultural Sustainability in Early Childhood Education through a Neighbourhood Project
Sustainability 2021, 13(9), 5203; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13095203 - 06 May 2021
Viewed by 370
Abstract
Culture is the life blood of a society, which influences people’s worldviews, values, and behaviours. Research has confirmed that children’s participation in culture helps develop thinking skills, builds self-esteem, and improves resilience. This paper aims to explore how a purposely designed project can [...] Read more.
Culture is the life blood of a society, which influences people’s worldviews, values, and behaviours. Research has confirmed that children’s participation in culture helps develop thinking skills, builds self-esteem, and improves resilience. This paper aims to explore how a purposely designed project can foster cultural sustainability through a case study of a neighbourhood project conducted in Chinese and Norwegian kindergartens. A qualitative research methodology is utilised. Major data sources are an overall project plan prepared by one of the Norwegian university researchers, project descriptions and PowerPoint presentations from the kindergartens, as well as workshop notes taken by one researcher during the workshop, complemented and triangulated by the follow-up reflective narratives from three kindergartens. Qualitative content analysis and comparative analysis are used to analyse the collected data. Findings have indicated that kindergartens hold similar views on culture and cultural stainability. Though the actual activities are diverse and implemented in different ways, the goal of fostering cultural sustainability is achieved in all participating kindergartens. Children not only have gained knowledge of their neighbourhood and problem solving and social skills but also have developed sense of belonging and emotional link with their local culture through the active participation. More importantly, this study has indicated that purposely designed projects/activities can promote early childhood education for sustainability and quality of ECE. It is thus recommended cultivating student teachers’ and kindergarten teachers’ competence to design projects/activities integrating different dimensions of sustainability in early childhood teacher education Full article
Open AccessArticle
Reimagining “Collaborative Exploration”—A Signature Pedagogy for Sustainability in Early Childhood Education and Care
Sustainability 2021, 13(9), 5139; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13095139 - 04 May 2021
Viewed by 439
Abstract
The purpose of this article is to identify the components and features of a signature pedagogy for sustainability in early childhood education and care to respond to the call for tradition and innovation in early childhood education. Collaborative exploration is proposed as a [...] Read more.
The purpose of this article is to identify the components and features of a signature pedagogy for sustainability in early childhood education and care to respond to the call for tradition and innovation in early childhood education. Collaborative exploration is proposed as a pedagogical strategy, a relevant mode of action for sustainable practice. This is a conceptual article that recalls the origins of early childhood pedagogy and uses an exemplary empirical narrative from a recent study to illustrate collaborative exploration in an early childhood educational setting. The outlining of the key features of collaborative exploration is furthermore inspired by dialogism. This article provides an argument against mainstream understandings of pedagogical strategies for early childhood education, which are often based on instrumental program approaches, emphasizing the transmission of information in a traditional classroom setting. It is argued that practices of collaborative exploration are embodied in a way that is aligned with the tradition of child-centered early years pedagogy. Moreover, they are crucial to ensuring that all participating children are given responsive support to become members of ecologically, socially and culturally sustainable educational practices, strengthening children’s resilience and agency and inclusive education. The article’s value lies in its potential to support teachers’ thinking and practice in recognizing and articulating collaborative exploration as a signature pedagogy. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Unfreezing the Discursive Hegemonies Underpinning Current Versions of “Social Sustainability” in ECE Policies in Anglo–Celtic, Nordic and Continental Contexts
Sustainability 2021, 13(9), 4758; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13094758 - 23 Apr 2021
Viewed by 312
Abstract
Social sustainability is linked to finding new ways of living together and strengthening social capital and participation, as well as to social justice and equity in societies, and it is becoming increasingly important for diverse multicultural societies. In this article, we trace understandings [...] Read more.
Social sustainability is linked to finding new ways of living together and strengthening social capital and participation, as well as to social justice and equity in societies, and it is becoming increasingly important for diverse multicultural societies. In this article, we trace understandings of social sustainability as established in Early Childhood Education (ECE) policy documents by following the chains of meaning connected to sense of belonging, local place and cultural diversity and through ECE collaboration with children’s parents/caregivers. Critical discourse analysis has been applied to trace the chains of meaning attached to these concepts in ECE steering documents in Australia, Croatia, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Such analysis shows different ways in which the ECE polices indirectly work with social sustainability, as well as create critical distance from the sets of meanings established in each country (by proving a chain of meaning established in the policy documents of another country). In conclusion, we do not advocate in favour of any of the chains of meaning but argue for continual reflection and reflexivity, and we see research to be a particularly significant arena in which to unfreeze the taken for granted and sustainable notion. Full article
Open AccessArticle
(Re)imagining Entangled Sustainability: A Human and Nonhuman Theorisation of Belonging to Safeguard Sustainability’s Holism
Sustainability 2021, 13(9), 4714; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13094714 - 23 Apr 2021
Viewed by 398
Abstract
After years of research and theorisation connected to education for sustainable development, the holistic core of sustainability seems to have disappeared within the frames of the social, environmental and economic pillars. This article suggests a post-humanism inspired understanding of a sense of belonging. [...] Read more.
After years of research and theorisation connected to education for sustainable development, the holistic core of sustainability seems to have disappeared within the frames of the social, environmental and economic pillars. This article suggests a post-humanism inspired understanding of a sense of belonging. Even though the phenomenon of belonging is ascribed to social sustainability, the post-human theoretical toolkit challenges the humanism-based understanding of a sense of belonging as a human-related phenomenon. Using Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome and affect concepts and Barad’s concept of intra-action, we show the connections between the human and nonhuman elements constituting each other in our world. We conclude with the implications that using post-human language (to understand belonging) may have for policy, Early Childhood Education and care (ECEC) practice and theory. Full article
Open AccessArticle
I Want to Participate—Communities of Practice in Foraging and Gardening Projects as a Contribution to Social and Cultural Sustainability in Early Childhood Education
Sustainability 2021, 13(8), 4368; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13084368 - 14 Apr 2021
Viewed by 452
Abstract
Learning and development in early childhood is highly dependent on social interaction and exploration through continuous encounters with the real world. Foraging and gardening are outdoor pedagogical practices that have relevance to education for sustainability. Previous work suggests that engagement in such activities [...] Read more.
Learning and development in early childhood is highly dependent on social interaction and exploration through continuous encounters with the real world. Foraging and gardening are outdoor pedagogical practices that have relevance to education for sustainability. Previous work suggests that engagement in such activities can be characterized by the concept “community of practice” (CoP). In this paper, we explore how characteristics of the CoP can be recognized in foraging and gardening projects performed in the Arctic region of Norway, and we discuss how these activities can contribute to social and cultural aspects of sustainability. Data collection included focus group interviews with kindergarten staff (teachers and assistants) and videos taken of foraging and gardening activities with the children. Our data indicate that the hallmarks of CoP, domain, community, and practice, are strongly recognized in these projects through increased interest, social interaction, and agency for learning. This mutual engagement and participation in the CoPs for foraging and gardening connect both staff and children to local food heritage and culture for a sustainable future. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Social Sustainable Education in a Refugee Camp
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3925; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073925 - 01 Apr 2021
Viewed by 861
Abstract
The main objective of this article is to discuss how an Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) institution in a refugee camp can promote social sustainable education. By giving empirical examples of innovative pedagogical ideas and practices inside a Greek ECEC institution, this [...] Read more.
The main objective of this article is to discuss how an Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) institution in a refugee camp can promote social sustainable education. By giving empirical examples of innovative pedagogical ideas and practices inside a Greek ECEC institution, this article argues that concepts of formation are ways to promote social sustainable education. The article draws on data from an ECEC institution in which both the children living in a refugee camp and Greek children are located together. With nature as a neutral cultural mediator, serving as a pedagogical framework, children can make new experiences based on participation, equality and mutual respect. Data were produced through field observations, semi-structured interviews and one group interview from March 2019 until September 2019. The empirical data reveal three dimensions that we suggest work as markers for social sustainable pedagogical practice: the importance of nature and play as a facilitator for children’s activities; the importance of participation and equality; and the importance of commitment to the community. The findings are discussed in relation with theoretical concepts of formation, with a particular focus on children as active agents and the value of experiences, and the importance of highly qualified educators. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Social Sustainability through Children’s Expressions of Belonging in Peer Communities
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3839; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073839 - 31 Mar 2021
Viewed by 388
Abstract
The aim of this article is to explore the social dimension of sustainable development through children’s expressions of belonging in peer communities in preschool. Social sustainability and sustainable communities emphasize practices, human activity, and interactions that are equitable, inclusive, and sustainable, and preschool [...] Read more.
The aim of this article is to explore the social dimension of sustainable development through children’s expressions of belonging in peer communities in preschool. Social sustainability and sustainable communities emphasize practices, human activity, and interactions that are equitable, inclusive, and sustainable, and preschool provides children with experiences of participation in collective groups and networks. Belonging to a community is an existential need and belonging, itself, is a relational phenomenon. Belonging is connected to power; the notion of “us” sets boundaries and creates a “them”. Based on Yuval-Davis’ analytical concepts and using video observation of children’s (aged 3–5) free play, this article explores children’s belonging in peer communities. This study contributes new knowledge in the field of social sustainability by illuminating communities of belonging built on closeness, conflict/negotiations, and joyfulness. Together, these elements embody experiences of importance to children’s belonging. A common thread running through these communities is the relationship between the individual and the community. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Local and Global Aspects: Teaching Social Sustainability in Swedish Preschools
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3838; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073838 - 31 Mar 2021
Viewed by 415
Abstract
Although policy documents emphasize the importance of integrating social, economic, and environmental dimensions into education for sustainability (EfS), there is a lack of studies investigating how social sustainability can be included in preschool teaching. Therefore, this study aims to increase knowledge about preschool [...] Read more.
Although policy documents emphasize the importance of integrating social, economic, and environmental dimensions into education for sustainability (EfS), there is a lack of studies investigating how social sustainability can be included in preschool teaching. Therefore, this study aims to increase knowledge about preschool teachers’ teaching practices relating to social sustainability. This study uses EfS as a conceptual framework that includes a holistic view of sustainability addressing social, economic, and environmental aspects, as well as pluralistic teaching approach from a transformative perspective. To explore the views and teaching practices, individual interviews were conducted with 12 preschool teachers from eight preschools that took part in a school development project. The project included professional development workshops for teachers on EfS and local implementation efforts. Thematic content analysis was conducted. The interviews made it apparent that the teachers initially viewed sustainability from an environmental perspective; however, after involvement in the school development project, they began to integrate the social sustainability dimension into their teaching. The teachers associated local sustainability challenges with those faced internationally. To a certain extent, children’s agency was noted in pluralistic educational activities that supported children’s active participation. The level at which preschool teachers integrated social sustainability into their teaching varied. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Pedagogical Translanguaging to Create Sustainable Minority Language Practices in Kindergarten
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3613; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073613 - 24 Mar 2021
Viewed by 593
Abstract
The coastal areas of Finnmark have deep Sámi roots. With the Norwegian assimilation policy—Norwegianization—the transition to the Norwegian language has been extensive here, placing the region outside Sámi core areas. Nevertheless, indigenous Sea Sámi identity still exists, and language vitalization and raising awareness [...] Read more.
The coastal areas of Finnmark have deep Sámi roots. With the Norwegian assimilation policy—Norwegianization—the transition to the Norwegian language has been extensive here, placing the region outside Sámi core areas. Nevertheless, indigenous Sea Sámi identity still exists, and language vitalization and raising awareness of culture are shown in Sámi institution building. Within these frames, kindergarten teachers with Sámi backgrounds work to strengthen their local Sámi language and culture in a Sámi department of a kindergarten outside the core Sámi areas. This article aims to shed light on how the use of their bilingual resources in pedagogical translanguaging practices can build sustainable language practices for North Sámi. With children and adults, we explored how culturally aware, situated outdoors activities, such as building a campfire and gathering berries, encouraged children’s use of North Sámi. Both children and adults recorded these activities with GoPro cameras. The material was transcribed and analyzed using Conversation Analysis and translanguaging. For this article, I chose three episodes in which kindergarten teachers used their bilingual language register to interact with children in different pedagogical practices to give children input in North Sámi. Pedagogical translanguaging with young language learners in an emergent bilingual situation could help strengthen North Sámi language and culture outside Sámi core areas. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Exploring Military Artefacts in Early Childhood Education: Conflicting Perspectives on Cultural Sustainability, Belonging and Protection
Sustainability 2021, 13(5), 2587; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052587 - 28 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 422
Abstract
Social and cultural sustainability is outlined as creating surroundings that include and stimulate positive interactions, such as promoting a sense of community and a feeling of belonging to a community, by being safe and attached to the local area. Artefacts chosen in early [...] Read more.
Social and cultural sustainability is outlined as creating surroundings that include and stimulate positive interactions, such as promoting a sense of community and a feeling of belonging to a community, by being safe and attached to the local area. Artefacts chosen in early childhood education (ECE) institutions are integrated parts of the culture in which the ECE institutions are embedded; artefacts, thus, are understood as serving belonging and cultural sustainability. The study examined what insight into cultural sustainability could be surfaced in conflicting perspectives about military artefacts in ECE. Focus group interviews were conducted with Chinese and Norwegian graduate students and ECE researchers, during which photographs of a Chinese kindergarten where military artefacts and toys were highly represented. Conflicting perspectives on military artefacts among the participant surfaced how belonging are closely intertwined with protection and where to belong: locally, nationally or internationally. The skeptical approach to military artefacts is challenged by awareness of different ways to promote national pride and entanglement among generations. The findings indicate a need for more research on conditions for belonging and the normative complexities of artefacts in cultural sustainability. Full article
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