UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Through the kaleidoscope : a common worlds attunement to lively child-place relationships van Groll, Nancy


Contextualizing early childhood pedagogies within the 21st century requires a readjustment of the lens through which early childhood education (ECE) is viewed and enacted. Provoked by Taylor and Pacini-Ketchabaw’s (2015) statement that “we can no longer afford the illusion of our separateness from the rest of the natural world” (p. 45), this thesis seeks to untangle and re-tangle the complexities of reconfiguring human relationships with(in) the places we inhabit, experience and hold as meaningful. I look to reconceptualize what early childhood pedagogy might look like in the Anthropocene if educators and children attune to our relationships with(in) place. Explorations into the pedagogical possibilities of enacting place-conscious practices are innovative research engagements that make visible ways of living and learning reciprocally in times of climate precarity. A variety of theoretical and epistemological traditions such as developmental and environmental psychology; ecojustice and sustainability initiatives; and postcolonial, feminist and Indigenous research, are critically analyzed in order to deconstruct romanticized and capitalistic assumptions of nature as pedagogical or developmental resource. Using a narrative methodological approach informed by a common worlds theoretical framework, research was undertaken with four four-year-old children at a forest preschool in British Columbia to surface and assemble rich, detailed and relational insight into place-child relationships. Data were collected using pedagogical narration and conversive wayfinding and analyzed from a lively storytelling approach conceptualized as a spiral of attunement. The stories created and retold offer an opportunity to disrupt artificial nature/culture binaries embedded in ECE practices, to assemble place-conscious pedagogies that resist anthropocentrism, and to reconceptualize methodological approaches to early childhood studies. Opportunities to re-examine the ethical responsibilities of 21st century early childhood educators and to expand common notions of well-being to be inclusive to more-than-human community members are suggested. Learnings could ultimately inform early childhood educators while they make pedagogical choices, inspire researchers to examine similar questions, and motivate policy makers to reconsider what is important in decision-making in the early years.

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