UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Children, families, environmental education : co-constructing ecological identities in a changing world Ostertag, Julia Kathleen


In this thesis I present a case study of five children’s experiences at the Intergenerational Landed Learning on the Farm for the Environment Project, and consider how the interplay between children’s agency, their family contexts, and a farm-based environmental education project co-constructs children’s ecological identities. Children’s ability to explore, expand, and enact their ecological identities is considered in terms of contexts that facilitate and constrain their agency. Findings from the research indicate that children’s identities are shifting, and that, increasingly, children are being perceived as teachers empowered to make changes in their families and communities to address environmental issues. Numerous barriers, such as urbanization, increasingly busy childhoods, family contexts, and societal, economic, and ecological transformation as a result of globalization, were found to constrain children’s ability to enact their ecological identities. Informed by a critical pedagogy of place and the new social studies of childhood, I portray children as complex, unique individuals situated within overlapping spheres of influence, and suggest that the Intergenerational Landed Learning on the Farm for the Environment Project provides a model of community-based environmental education that supports children’s exploration and expansion of their ecological identities. The study illustrates that greater efforts are needed to include families and more diverse communities in environmental education in order to validate the knowledge and ways of being of marginalized populations, build stronger intergenerational and intercultural relationships, and distribute the challenges of enacting environmental change at scales appropriate for addressing the extent of current environmental degradation.

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