Investigating early childhood education for sustainability : insights from history and literature
Elliott, Sue & Davis, Julie M. (2013) Investigating early childhood education for sustainability : insights from history and literature. In Elliott, S., Edwards, S., Davis, J., & Cutter-Mackenzie, A. (Eds.) Early Childhood Australia's Best of Sustainability : Research, Practice and Theory. Early Childhood Australia Inc, Canberra, ACT, pp. 4-10.
Seemingly straightforward tasks often have a way of becoming complex. This was the case for our guest editorial team charged with creating Early Childhood Australia’s Best of Sustainability publication drawn from the the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood and Every Child. The complexities we encountered ranged from the varied terminologies and understandings of constructs such as education for sustainable development, environmental education and education for sustainability, through to the fundamental lack of published research on which to draw as the basis for a special issue. It is timely to explore these complexities as we face the global challenges of The Critical Decade (DCCEE, 2011) including rising sea levels, extreme weather events and food security. At a local level, the early childhood field in Australia is seeking to interpret sustainability with systemic support from the National Quality Standards(NQS) (ACECQA, 2011), while elsewhere environmental/sustainability education is encouraged through national curricula documents (for example, Singapore Ministry of Education, 2008; Swedish National Agency for Education,2010; Ministry of Education of Korea, 2011). Both The Critical Decade and the NQS provide imperatives to drive early childhood education’s engagement with sustainability. In other words, sustainability in early childhood education is no longer optional, but essential (Elliott, 2010). While some twenty years of advocacy has led to this somewhat subdued celebratory position, in this publication we do recognise the historical contexts that have led to early childhood education for sustainability (ECEfS), as we (Elliott & Davis) phrase it, becoming almost ‘mainstream not marginal’ (Davis, 1999)— a stitching together of the isolated ‘patches of green’, first identified a decade ago by Elliott (NSW EPA, 2003). Here we weave together, through these articles, a story of the evolving history of ECEfS from our particular perspective. In so doing, we also acknowledge that there are other perspectives or ‘paths’ for this field as identified by Edwards and Cutter-McKenzie in their concluding paper to this compilation.
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