Sharing Postcards about Where We Live: Early Childhood Environmental Understanding

By Reesa Sorin.

Published by The International Journal of Early Childhood Learning

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 9, 2014 $US5.00

Louv’s 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods,” highlights the growing divide between children and their local, natural environments, which he referred to as “nature deficit disorder.” Yet, children today are the ones who will be responsible for the maintenance of a sustainable future. In the early years of life, attitudes are formative, and so this is a time when understanding and habits of sustainability are best developed. This action research study, conducted in kindergarten/pre-Preparatory (ages 4-5) classes in Australia and in Canada, utilised postcard creating and sharing in an online environment to facilitate environmental understanding in young children. Using arts-based methods of drawing and storytelling, children in Australia created postcards for their peers in Canada, constructing their knowledge and understanding about local and foreign environments in the process. Children were engaged in the learning process through sending and receiving postcards to their overseas peers, and this form of pedagogy was developed through action research cycles. Researchers and teachers trialed various arts-based pedagogies during this process. Children’s postcards (artefacts) along with semi-structured interviews, observations, and critical reflections were collected as data and analysed using emergent coding and content/interpretive/developmental analysis of drawings. By implementing an authentic task (drawing postcards and storytelling) and refining our pedagogical practices, we developed an approach that encouraged children to: (1) share their understandings in a confident, engaged, and deep manner with their peers, and (2) generate rich, cross-cultural representations, understandings, concerns, and perceptions of their local, natural environments from two different locations. The study concluded that arts-based pedagogy can support young children to further their knowledge of environmental and conservation issues, encompassing a range of different perspectives and possible solutions to their own and others’ environmental concerns.

Keywords: Early Childhood Education, Environmental Sustainability, Action Research, Arts-based Pedagogy

The International Journal of Early Childhood Learning, Volume 20, Issue 3, May 2014, pp.35-49. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 9, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.419MB)).

Reesa Sorin

Associate Professor, School of Education, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Dr. Reesa Sorin is the coordinator of Early Childhood Education and Arts Education at James Cook University Cairns. She holds a PhD in education from the University of Wollongong. Her research interests include: conceptualisations of childhood, emotional literacy, teaching and learning through the arts, and school readiness. She is also a painter and photographer. Dr. Sorin has been researching the nexus between art and science in her collaborative research, “Drawing the Countryside,” with Professor Iain Gordon, CSIRO. The underpinning beliefs in this research are that children learn in multimodal ways (with the arts being particularly beneficial ways) and that to retain knowledge, they must be given the opportunities to learn and to demonstrate learning in ways that suit them. We recognise that environmental sustainability is an important issue in the world today and that it is important for children to understand the concept from the beginning of their school years. The arts are appropriate tools for collecting information about their understandings and for teaching the concept of environmental sustainability.