Type: M.E.S. Papers/Theses
This study shares a pedagogical inquiry into Early Childhood Environmental Education (ECEE). With praxis in mind, I connected the academic theory which I was learning with fieldwork practice, aiming to explore more critical understandings of ECEE and share them alongside the growing conversations and stories engaging seriously with young children and their environments. What resulted was an exploration, a ‘first-step’ for myself and participants, towards learning how to build an ECEE project based on participant and community interests. As such, processes and protocols were fluid, as participants and myself navigated and experimented with individual and group learning interests, capacity-building, and teaching/learning with young children about/in/for the ‘natural world’. Exploring learning possibilities through facilitating an inquiry-based community action project focused on ECEE, I asked: (1) How might a group of Toronto daycare students, their families, teachers, interested members in the Las Nubes community, and myself (a FES researcher), collaboratively work together to engage with, learn about, and reflect on our local ‘natural worlds’ in dynamic, collaboratively-border crossing, ways? and (2) What co–constructed experiential narratives might be ‘storied’ as pedagogical lessons of engaging with ECEE? How might the outcomes from the project impact others? As the project emerged, participants engaged in exploring the pedagogical opportunities of group forest walks with children through collaboratively experiencing and sharing their different ways of understanding our local world(s) through observation, documentation, and arts-based methods. While finding shared migratory species was the initial interest, what developed was a collaborative project connecting and sharing the situated learning experiences and understandings of conducting group forest walks and related ECEE activities from each site, aiming to encourage further forest explorations with young children. The study does this by providing a narrative inquiry focused on sharing co-constructed stories and knowledge which grew out of the project. Major narrative themes which emerged were: navigating systemic barriers of/through ECEE practice; ECEE collaboration with/between all ages and experience levels; navigating ethics in practice, safety/risk in ECEE, Stand-out ECEE activities, and children’s expressed EE interests.