The living curriculum: a natural wonder: enhancing the ways in which early childhood educators scaffold young children's learning about the environment by using self-generated creative arts experiences as a core component of the early childhood program

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

Abstract

The natural environment is in focus as never before in human history. Concerns about exploitation of the planet’s resources and the need for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavour are daily features of news and current affairs programs and of syllabi in education settings for children of all ages.This research project draws on the principles of ecopsychology, deep ecology, ecofeminism and biophillia. It is predicated on the view that in order to interact with the natural world in a sustainable and meaningful way, we have to develop a connection with the natural world that speaks to all domains of our human makeup, and that includes the cognitive, psychological, affective and physical. This is necessary in order for us to integrate sustainable interactions as an everyday, constructive way of living. This thesis reports on collaborative, action research studies implemented throughout 2009, and demonstrates the value of positive, creative programs infused with content about the natural world and based on the arts, in assisting early childhood educators and 3 to 5 year old children to develop a greater understanding of, and connection with, their local natural environment. It highlights this approach as an important and innovative way of developing educational curricula for young children in its own right, and attempts to provide a pedagogical alternative to what are often fear-based messages in environmental education that can negatively affect children’s abilities to connect with the natural world. The creative, arts based pedagogy used throughout the study is also a positive motivational model and brings into focus the wonder-filled reality that we are part of what makes up our planet, not separate to it. Monthly field visits were conducted in four early childhood sites throughout the academic year of 2009. During this time the researcher modelled and conducted self developed creative arts experiences for the educators and the children. These experiences were newly created for each visit in collaboration with the educators in the settings, and were based on the local natural flora and fauna and the interests of the children. The natural environment was the basis for new stories, songs, verses, drawings, paintings, sculpture, and music and drama experiences. As the year progressed, the educators gradually took on the role of researcher and transformed the outcomes of their research into their local natural environments, into the types of creative experiences listed above. They experimented with their emerging environmental/creative awareness by writing songs, stories, and verses that focused on the natural world. The content of these self-generated artefacts became the basis for drama and visual arts experiences that reflected the natural environment. This thesis also reports on the effect this had on the way in which the educators viewed the natural world, the programs they presented to the children, and the effect this had on the children.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherWestern Sydney University
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • Early childhood education
  • Curriculum design
  • Sustainability
  • arts based education

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