The impact and potential of water education in early childhood care and education settings : a report of the Rous Water Early Childhood Water Aware Centre Program
Davis, Julie M., Miller, Melinda G., Boyd, Wendy A., & Gibson, Megan L. (2008) The impact and potential of water education in early childhood care and education settings : a report of the Rous Water Early Childhood Water Aware Centre Program.
Water consumption and water conservation are significant issues in Australia. In comparison
to the many schools across Australia that are already engaged in water education and water
conservation programs, the early childhood education sector has been slow to respond to this
challenge. One initiative of note is Rous Water’s Early Childhood Water Aware Centre Programs,
an education program targeted to child care services (long day care, kindergartens and
preschools) located in northern New South Wales.
The study’s aim was to evaluate program outcomes and comprised two parts. The first was a
statistical analysis to investigate reductions in water usage in the seventeen centres engaged
in the program. The second was a qualitative analysis exploring the ‘quadruple bottom line’
benefits (social, environmental, educational and economic) that stemmed from engagement in
Rous Water’s Water Aware Centre Program. Qualitative data was obtained from water audits and
follow-up reports developed for each of the participating centres as well as from an interview
with Rous Water’s community educator. Additionally, interviews and surveys were conducted
with staff and parents, and conversations were held with children, at three of these centres.
The results of the statistical analysis were inconclusive. From the data available it was not
possible to show measurable reductions in water consumption across all centres. This is not
to say that reductions in water use did not occur; there were simply too many variables that
prevented a valid calculation of any reductions. The qualitative findings were compelling in
determining the impact of the program. For this reason, these results provide the primary focus
for this report.
The qualitative results showed important ‘quadruple bottom line’ benefits that arose from
participation in the program. These included, but were not limited to:
• child leadership and advocacy for water conservation (social benefits);
• uptake by teaching staff of sustainability education pedagogies (educational benefits);
• improved water conservation and other resources management practices (environmental
• more efficient use of water resources (economic benefits).
Correlations between awareness and action, and action and consequence were noteworthy in
these results, with positive changes to practices, intentions and ideals at centre level transferring
to home and community contexts. Also of interest were the efforts of numerous centres to make
physical changes to their water infrastructure. For example, some centres undertook large scale
redevelopments of centre grounds, while others made substantive efforts to purchase and install
water-saving devices. One surprising element of the results was the extent to which children
influenced the adults around them in relation to water conservation practices. Both teachers
and parents were compelled to make changes to their own water use habits because of the
children’s advocacy for water-conserving alternatives, a direct consequence of what they had
learned in the Water Aware Centre Program.
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The results of this study reveal that even a relatively small-scale sustainability education
program can provide considerable social, environmental, educational and economic benefits.
To date, the early childhood education sector has been an ‘untapped’ resource in addressing
sustainability issues of water use and water conservation. This study demonstrates clearly the
potential of sustainability education investments in early years education.
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|Keywords:||education for sustainability, early childhood, water education, environmental education, sustainability|
|Divisions:||Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research|
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Past > Institutes > Institute for Sustainable Resources
Current > Schools > School of Early Childhood
|Copyright Owner:||Copyright 2008 Queensland University of Technology|
|Deposited On:||16 Feb 2009 16:36|
|Last Modified:||09 Jun 2010 23:22|
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