Using research and a systems approach to mainstream change in early childhood education for sustainability
Many educational policymakers, particularly in early childhood education (ECE), which has come late to the environmental and sustainability agenda, are unaware of the scale of change required if education is to contribute towards the achievement of sustainable .societies. This chapter draws together themes and perspectives from previous chapters, emphasising the necessity for further change within ECE - deep changes to how we think, learn, teach and act. What is clear from all the previous chapters is that replicating 'business as usual' in ECE will not help to achieve sustainable societies. Instead, we must rethink daily educative ·practices, leadership approaches, ethical foundations and ideas relating to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians; we need to revalue nature for both environmental and human health; we have to replace worn-out, unengaging pedagogies with those that stimulate; and we must more fully recognise the powerful role that young children can play as agents of change for sustainability. Many early childhood educators are seeking to address the challenges of sustainability through changing their curriculum and pedagogical practices; this book provides readers with ideas and insights into how such change might happen through EfS within their own classrooms, centres and schools. While small-scale changes in individual classrooms and centres are vitally important, they are not enough on their own. As has been observed, the 'patches of green' identified within ECE are required to become more than the 'exemplary individuals, organisations and centres that share a passion and commitment' for EfS (New South Wales Environmental Protection Agency 2003, p. 1). A new evolutionary point is necessary that constitutes broad coverage across, and deep infiltration into, ECE. This requires system-wide changes, driven by a strong research and evidence base, within and across the field. This chapter focuses, therefore, on how the ECE sector can leverage its current position - arguably still at the fringes of endeavours to embed sustainability into everyday educational practices- to make a more significant contribution towards the cultural and educational shifts that are necessary for sustainability to be realised. Two key ways are proposed. The first is the development of research and evidence to help the field grow on solid foundations. The second is the use of systems theory for creating system-wide changes within ECE. Systems approaches to creating change are well known in management and organisational change circles, but are newly emerging in education.
Young Children and the Environment: Early Education for Sustainability
Environmental Education and Extension