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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A case for complexity : contextualizing places of learning in early childhood education for sustainability Montague, Annie


Our collective world currently resides in a time of far-reaching environmental precarity. Now more than ever, educational institutions are faced with an unprecedented responsibility to encourage students to foster relationships with the environment and inspire their responses for transformative change. The under-researched yet rapidly expanding field of Early Childhood Education for Sustainability (ECEfS) has emerged as a platform to achieve this among young learners. However, the majority of literature in the field of ECEfS is underpinned by simplistic representations of “children’s connection to nature” in their learning environments. In a field that claims to promote understanding the interconnectedness of the systems of which we are a part (i.e. the environmental, social and economic pillars of sustainability) there is a significant lack of research that critically explores the complexities of learning environments as these connections are being formed. Given an even greater lack of ECEfS research being conducted in diverse communities across cultures, this thesis details research conducted in 2017 with the Early Years Program at Green School Bali; a world-renowned sustainability-oriented international school in Indonesia. My research was conducted through a social constructionist theoretical framework and blended methodological approach (nested case study, grounded theory, and ethnography). My qualitative data, collected over six months of immersive fieldwork, combines participant observation with children ages three to six years old; formal and informal teacher and administrator interviews; document analysis; and personal reflection. The findings were clarified through thematic analysis and writing as inquiry. Presented in narrative form, the findings from this research analyze the context of the school at large (Green School in the context of Bali) and within the Early Years Program (as part of Green School). I complicate three broad themes (Setting, Culture, Curriculum) to illustrate the paramount need to incorporate critical and contextualized place-based learning in order to improve theory, research and practice in ECEfS. As schools aim to promote sustainability agendas worldwide, it is imperative to understand the complexities inherent in our leaning environments, and the implications this has regarding children’s relationships within the multifaceted environments in which they are a part.

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