The key concepts of children, place and sustainability are introduced in this chapter, 'Children's place in sustainability education'. We begin with the global imagination of a four year old child in order to ground our exploration in the everyday lives of particular children. This enables us to ask the question: where are the children in the empirical literature of sustainability education? Despite the trend towards children's participation there is little evidence that children's views are considered in international or national policy documents about sustainability education. A review of the empirical literature similarly reveals that there is little empirical research about sustainability education that includes data from children. Categorising the data into the different methodological approaches helps to identify the ways that children are, or are not, made visible within the different research paradigms. The most recent, the posthuman paradigm, is evident only in early childhood research which leads the field in research that focuses on human entanglement in the more-than-human world. The concept of place provides a common language that can link the local and global, indigenous and non-indigenous, and different disciplinary orientations. We examine the different theoretical positions in relation to place that are elaborated in later chapters in the book. Finally in this chapter we ask: what can sustainability mean in the context of its critiques and the all-encompassing presence of advanced capitalism? We offer the global movement of scholarship provoked by the notion of the Anthropocene that recognises human entanglement in the fate of the planet. Many people accept their responsibility for global warming and seek to live differently. The perspective of children who will become citizens and leaders of the new world order is a crucial inclusion in educational programmes and global policies. The following chapters each make a contribution to the literature of empirical research that includes data about, for and with children.
'Sustainability education in practice' is a pivotal chapter between the universal ideas about sustainability education in Chapter 1 and how it is enacted in practice in specific local places in the following chapters of the book. Understanding the nature of sustainability education as it emerges in practice addresses the pitfalls of arguments over terminology. These arguments have beset the field since environmental education was replaced by sustainability education internationally with the publication of the Brundtland Report and the introduction of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The data in this chapter is drawn from two sequential studies in the Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia. The first study was a collaboration with Max Sargent, the visionary teacher from Commercial Road Primary School who had led their integrated wetlands programme for the last twenty years. As he approached his retirement we designed a collaborative study to pass on his unique knowledge to current and future generations of teachers.
The second study was an extended investigation of sustainability education in eight schools spread across the Gippsland region. The chapter introduces a bioregional approach to conceptualise the move from one school to many in understanding the nature of sustainability education.
This study identified four key themes through which the nature of sustainability education can be understood: as constituted within constellations of local places; collective with community partners; incorporating creative methods of inquiry and representation; and connecting material practice to abstract thought. In these themes it is clear that sustainability education necessarily involves a relational pedagogy between teachers, children and place. It is the emergent possibilities contained within this practice that enables children to participate in the ways that are explored in the following chapters of the book.
'A coastal classroom without walls' focuses on the place-responsive pedagogies that underpin an environmental and sustainability Landcare programme in a southern Tasmanian school. As part of the Landcare curriculum, children undertake learning in the outside school environment and are allocated a particular section of the school grounds for which they take responsibility in their weekly conservation/gardening lessons. In these 'living classrooms' - wetlands, foreshore, food gardens and native gardens - children's learning is informed by different environmental activities such as tree planting, seed propagation, and land and waterway conservation. The Landcare pedagogies that are framed by supervised and self-initiated interactions with local ecologies or the more-than-human world are undertaken in sympathetic and intimate ways. The Landcare work highlights how learning can occur in collaboration with local community experts such as beekeepers, orchardists, poultry farmers and nursery folk who share skills and knowledge with students. Community capacity in this sense is understood and practised as a way of linking children to the broader world.
Interviews with the Landcare teacher, principal and 18 children are used to explore the impact of the Landcare curriculum and to critique children's views about their involvement in the programme. The data is valuable for understanding how place-oriented pedagogies can inform curriculum, strengthen children's connection to local places and promote varied learning opportunities for a diverse school population. Analysis of the data provides important insights into the ways the Landcare curriculum has transformed school culture, bringing the school into greater contact with the wider community and strengthening children's perceptions of themselves as astute and competent activists.
'Children's place learning maps: Thinking through Country' explores the question of how we can teach and learn beyond the nature/culture binary for a more sustainable world by using the merged concept of natureculture. For children growing up in contemporary Australia, naturecultures are evident at the interface with Aboriginal culture whether explicitly or implicitly. In the Morwell River wetlands programme, children learn with an Aboriginal elder who teaches them about the storylines of the great walks from the Snowy Mountains down to the sea through the country of the Morwell River wetlands. Even more significantly, however, they learn within and on Country, the country of the Gunnai/Kurnai people of Gippsland whose cultural practices continue in contemporary forms of art, dance, storytelling and performance.
The particular focus of data analysis in this chapter is a set of drawings with text produced by the children in response to their experience in the wetlands. These place learning maps are analysed through the lens of ‘thinking through Country'. Thinking through Country offers a contemporary translation of an Aboriginal onto-epistemology in which embodied experience of the world enters into representation with nature and culture conjoined (natureculture). Using this contemporary Aboriginal onto-epistemological framework as a lens for analysis reveals the ways that children's place learning can enter representation and language without losing the materiality of embodied place connection. In this way place learning becomes available as natureculture for pedagogical work and opens the possibility of new ways to teach and learn for planetary sustainability.
‘Place-making by design' explores the contribution of design principles and pedagogies in a school and garden-based setting. The chapter examines children's involvement in a whole school environ- mental/gardening programme at The Patch Primary School in Victoria where they generate design ideas for a proposed ecological garden in the school's playground. Children's learning is focused on researching, debating and modelling ideas for the garden with their peers, and includes the physical construction and inhabitation of the garden through a range of gardening and environmental activities. The pedagogies featured in the chapter highlight the impact of imagination and creativity in children's learning, illustrating how children appreciate the opportunity to share and take charge of their ideas that will inform the eventual garden plan. The chapter argues that design pedagogies strengthen children's view of themselves as having something to say about the everyday places they inhabit.
In this chapter interviews with the school principal and lead environmental teacher about the establishment of the garden and the ensuing garden programme are used to examine the rationale behind the garden innovation and children's participation in it. Interviews with 30 children about their involvement in the garden programme and participation in the different stages of the project are used to understand children's perceptions about garden learning, design and sustainability.
'Emergent literacies in "the land of do anything you want" ' examines young children's informal learning and the possibilities this offers for developing common worlds pedagogies. It is informed by new materialist methods of theory and research with a particular focus on children who carry stones in their pockets (Rautio, 2013b) as a way of thinking about children's intra-actions in their everyday worlds. Rautio proposes that we consider bridging the nature/culture divide by exploring the practices through which children themselves seem to do this. She suggests that children may not need special equipment but may need adults 'to take seriously the things and actions with which they encounter their worlds anyway, things called toys, or stones' (p. 396). The concept of intra-action attends to the ways that the world and child interact to produce each other as subjects-in-the world.
The data in this chapter is based on a series of recorded observations with two young children over a 12-month period of participating in, and exploring, their intra-actions within their everyday worlds. The places of these young children's spontaneous intra-actions with the everyday things and elements around them included playing in the backyard, walking along a dirt track and playing at the river. The observations were recorded in photographs, short videos, journal entries and audio recordings. The chapter explores what methods best offered access to children's spontaneous intra-actions and what these different methods might tell about the relationships between place, bodies, language and materiality. It became evident in the analysis of this data that language, story and spatial concepts emerge in these intra-actions, proposing new ways to think about young children's literacy and capacity to name their worlds.
'In the kitchen garden' explores some of the contemporary food garden pedagogies that have been developed at Kallista Primary School near Melbourne, Victoria. What are the contributions of kitchen garden pedagogies for the teaching, and children's understanding, of sustainability; what is being sustained through the enactment of these pedagogies? Despite the expansive and well-considered literature on kitchen garden pedagogies that illustrate the educational, social and ecological benefits of gardening, children's own perspectives of learning in these contexts are less emphasised. The chapter focuses on some of the key dimensions of the programme, including children's participation in the school's extensive seed bank, food production, cooking and maintaining the garden environment.
The chapter draws on an interview with the gardening teacher, six students from grades 3-6 who participate in the school's kitchen garden programme and personal observations of children's participation in gardening and cooking lessons. For some children garden learning represents an opportunity to work alongside friends as they engage with plants, seeds, compost and other non-human species that reside in the garden world, such as chickens and worms. Other children experience the garden as an aesthetic domain that captures their artistic imagination and creativity. For the teacher, gardening forms the basis for engaging children in simple and complex ideas of sustainability through the practice of seed saving, creating and participating in a local food system and caring for the natural world. In this school setting, gardening and cooking are understood as a personal and collective practice that embraces children's subjective understandings.
'Separation and connection: Children negotiating difference' considers social sustainability as an important and under-researched aspect of sustainability education. It was provoked by a week of relentless violence against children reported on the television news. From 17 to 24 July 2014, the world witnessed the crash of the MH17 airplane, intensified violence in the Gaza strip and the escalation of the civil war in Iraq. In each of these sites, children featured as innocent victims of violence. While it is not possible to understand the meaning of these events for children as they are filtered through the Western media machine, witnessing them raises questions about how to respond. What difference can we make in such a globalised world so as not to be simply rendered powerless by vicarious violence? How can we stay alive to the global suffering of children and take action locally? Witnessing these events prompted the need to seriously consider the contribution of social sustainability to the question of how children learn to live well together in a globalised world.
These questions are explored through a research project in Western Sydney, a microcosm of global diversity. In this study of classes with high multicultural and high Aboriginal enrolments, children became ethnographers of their own language practices. They mapped the ways they use language across the diverse spaces and places of their everyday lives. The children's maps are the focus of data analysis in this chapter, with supplementary data from the teachers' responses to, and understandings of, the maps. Dividing the maps into categories of similar spatial arrangements enabled insights into the ways that children negotiate complex culturally and linguistically diverse relationships and meanings. Some children portrayed seamless navigational pathways between the different domains of language practice at home, in community settings and in school. Others represented their experience of barriers, of disconnection, invisibility and isolation. Teachers' observations and learning from the children's maps suggest that it is possible to begin to hear, see and understand each child, and collectives of children, in their difference. Drawing on this knowledge, it is possible to design classroom pedagogies in which children learn to live with difference in an increasingly globalised and precarious world.
'Children, place and sustainability' brings together the findings from all of the studies considered in this book to ask what we now know about children, their places and sustainability learning. Children born in the 21st century face an entirely different world than the one that adults of today took for granted. Many nations are radically assessing their use of natural resources. The intensification of the global effects of climate change and its conspicuous absence in the school curriculum challenge us to not only face the unfolding implications but warrant significant consideration about the world that future generations will inherit and inhabit. The shared concerns are clear: how we nurture human relations with local places, people, communities and with the ecological systems that support our wellbeing has become the greatest issue facing the world.
Empirical research in this field is in its infancy, and especially empirical research in which the participation of children is evident. By viewing each of the individual case studies through the lens of children's participation, we hope to make a major contribution to the field. We intentionally seek out the new and different ways that children experience their common world relations and challenge our own thinking.