Aotearoa New Zealand has seen more than 40 years of education for the environment. Globally, education for sustainability (EfS) is viewed as imperative, and education is orientating towards sustainability. In 2003, Bolstad argued that within the Aotearoa New Zealand context environmental education had yet to become accepted as a part of teaching and learning, and lacked integration within the school curriculum. However, a shift is now evident.
EfS can be identified as a framework that does all the following:
- Provides an environment that allows for inquiry and deeper thinking, and encourages co-constructed learning pathways and collaborative teaching.
- Reflects ‘ako’, and is a platform for communities to come together and learn from one another as a community of practice.
- Creates an environment for learning that is sensitive and responsive to the social climate, and connects with people, places, and things.
- Provides both a historical and a modern learning environment that is a stage for a sustained sense of wonder for all stakeholders.
- Focuses on caring for ourselves, others, and the environment, underpinned by kaupapa Māori constructs of manaakitanga (caring, generosity, hospitality) and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) (Ritchie, 2010).
- Creates a synergy between home and whānau, and the early childhood centre, and school. Which, did I mention, can also create a segway and conduit between these places through the transference of knowledge from one space to the next, hereby supporting transitions?
- Is a framework that supports biculturalism by providing a space for our learners to understanding and appreciate Atua and their meaning.
- Is holistic and is prescribed in both Te Whāriki (The Early Childhood Curriculum) and the New Zealand Curriculum — a framework that supports the principles of Te Whāriki, the Key Competencies, and learning dispositions, with both presenting similar constructs around Education for Sustainability.
- Is a platform for cross curricula learning that is woven with symbols, language, number and text, and storying.
- Provides a rich, robust environment to challenge the learners of the 21st century?
Well, look no more people! Just stand up and open your door (and your heart) and your mind then, walk outside. The framework you have been searching for your entire career is here! The gift from Papatuanuku …
Education for Sustainability (EfS)
Okay, so I’m not the world’s ‘best practice’ Greenie, but I try. My thesis explored the multiple complexities of the ideas of sustainability and the interconnectedness of early childhood education, education for sustainability (EfS) and transition, and identity as children move into the primary sector.
So where has this come from?
In a text written by the New Zealand Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (2004), a shift and momentum of the notion of ‘sustainability’ developed in the 1990s. The Commissioner identified that education is, “essential for environmental sustainability and to sustain the social, cultural and economic well-being of people living now and in the future” (p. 37). It is suggested that the notion of Education for Sustainability has morphed out of the Environmental Education Curriculum of the 1970, in response to growing concern over global environmental issues (Tilbury, 1995).
OK, so what is it?
EfS addresses the complex set of factors that interplay between social, environmental, and economic conditions that make up the world in which we live (Littledyke, Taylor, Eames, 2009, p.4). Now entrenched in educational curriculum across Aotearoa, it is time for us to respond to the call. The Aotearoa New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum, Te Whaariki (1996), and the New Zealand Curriculum (2007) have similar orientation in terms of education for sustainability and their place in the transference of knowledge across spaces.
Many common conceptions within EfS appear to correlate with the terms commonly used within the rhetoric of educators, such as: holistic, authentic, social, creative, critical thinking, and inquiry. Elliot (2010) identified that ‘these pedagogical elements are fundamental to early childhood education. In other words, early childhood education has a pedagogical advantage for education for sustainability’ (p. 35). Therefore, it appears sensible that young children are exposed to education for sustainability in the early years and beyond.
Through EfS, there was evidence that students were connecting with various representations, as described by Beach (2003), that demonstrated their knowledge propagation and transference of this knowledge over space and time. These were often linked to EfS, for example, worm farms, flaxes and native trees, gardens, growing and harvesting, and recycling processes.
The study also suggested that it is possible that the student learning journal or portfolio from the early childhood centre could be viewed as an artefact that supports the transference of knowledge over social settings, in this case from the early childhood centre, to home and to primary school. Perhaps the key feature of transition from this study is the crucial importance of the open reciprocal communication between the three main entities of the child’s world: the early childhood centre, the primary school, and their home and family. This connection across spaces with visitations reinforced with the learning journal is the beginning of the new pathway that the student and the primary school will construct together. In terms of EfS, the study indicated that EfS itself was a vehicle for transition, as it promotes memorable learning experiences that activate recall and experiences around co-construction.
Photographs courtesy of Grey Lynn Kindergarten, Auckland.
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- The Possibilities of Education for Sustainability (EfS) - December 11, 2015