Environmental Education Essay
Environmental education and play in Swedish and Australian early childhood curriculum. Environmental education and play are two important facets of both Swedish and Australian early childhood curriculum. Sandberg and Arlemalm-Hagser (2011) provide us with an overview of the Swedish curriculum, the current landscape of environmental education and the place of play in environment curriculum. An Australian perspective is demonstrated by Edwards and Cutter-Mackenzie who examines domestic responses to environment curriculum in early childhood settings and the importance of play in this context.
A synthesis of both accounts provides us with an overview of environmental education across the two nations and the way in which place of play in the curriculum. Sandberg and Arlemalm-Hagser (2011) argue that Swedish early childhood education is influenced by sociocultural theory with a child-centred focus. Values of Swedish society are transmitted through the curriculum with sustainable development featured. Children are stakeholders because they are citizens and future leaders.
Learning for sustainable development is implemented via the Pedagogical Programme for the Preschool which was adopted in 1987 which aims to promote environmental awareness. A key difference between the Swedish and Australian stances on environmental education is that Swedish curriculum explicitly refers to the concept as “learning for sustainable development” while the Australian documents use terminology such as “environmental education. ” Sweden makes it clear that the purpose of environmental education is to equip children with tools and dispositions to address sustainability as adults.
The Australian perspective may appear to have more emphasis on biodiversity and appreciation of outdoor environments, however Edwards and Cutter-Mackenzie point out that sustainability is dealt with through one indicator of the EYLF’s Learning Outcome Two which states: ” (children) develop an awareness of the impact of human activity on environments and the interdependence of living things” (DEEWR, 2009, p. 29). For both Sweden and Australia, play permeates early childhood curriculum and is the basis for learning and development.
Play can advance problem solving skills, and provide opportunities to practice creative instincts (Sandberg &Arlemalm-Hagser, 2011). With regards to environmental education, both articles point out that many opportunities for environmental education take place during play activities in the outdoor. For Sandberg and Arlemalm-Hagser (2011), the principle of pleasure creates a joyful learning environment where the children are actively engaged. Similarly, Edwards and Cutter-Mackenzie highlight the uniquely Australian environment can be used to engage children with nature.
For Edwards and Cutter-Mackenzie, play and environment education in Australia are two key features of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations , 2009). The EYLF presents play as a pedagogical tool for connecting learning and environment involves children’s learning spaces. Play in the outdoors is highlighted and educators are encouraged to use the Australian learning environment to offer children groundwork for lifelong environmental education. Also, play develops social skills. Through play, friend making and social interactions take place.
“Children become conscious of themselves through others” (Sandberg & Arlemalm-Hagser, 20011, p45) and play promotes awareness of society as children grow to see themselves in relation to others, and as part of a group. Edwards and Cutter Mackenzie suggest that social skills can be developed through play as children begin to take moral standpoints. This dynamic relationship building and social experimentation can, as Mead (1995, in Sandberg & Arlemalm-Hagser, 2011) suggests, lay the fundamental groundwork integral for a child’s development.
In conclusion, both Swedish and Australian early childhood curriculum approaches environmental education in similar ways. While there are differences in terminology and focus, a key aspect of successful early childhood education is a consideration of context and making curriculum relevant. This accounts for the contrast in environmental education approaches. Play is seen as significant across both nations and creates a pleasurable learning experience that children can actively engage and learn in.
In the future, it is likely that a global trend to environmentalise early childhood curriculum will develop as educators see a growing need to develop sustainable thinkers for the future. References: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. (2009). Belonging, Being & Becoming. The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. Edwards, S. and Cutter-Mackenzie, A. , (2011). Environmentalising early childhood education curriculum through pedagogies of play. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood; v. 36 n. 1 p.
51-59; Retrieved from
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