What is the role of early childhood education in environmental sustainability?
The rising population and massive increase in consumption patterns make it clearly evident that earth's natural resources are consumed at an alarming rate, resulting in several environmental issues that include pollution, ozone depletion and loss of bio-diversity. Global facts and figures demonstrate that we are increasingly compromising the sustainability of our planet. The deteriorating quality of our natural environment has implications for both our physical and mental wellbeing, and the future of our children, thus requiring urgent action from all segments of the population that include the young.
The early years are especially critical as it is during this phase that children's attitudes towards the environment are hardwired, and therefore ought not to be missed. Furthermore, young children should be heard on matters that affect their growth and wellbeing, and engage in issues that are relevant to them. Early childhood education, therefore, provides the platform that facilitates children's environmental meaning-making, and prepares them with relevant knowledge and skills to enable critical thinking and informed decision making. It serves as a key tool that equips young children to become resilient, active and informed citizens who can contribute to healthy and sustainable ways of living.
"Early childhood education, therefore, provides the platform that facilitates children's environmental meaning-making, and prepares them with relevant knowledge and skills to enable critical thinking and informed decision making"
Dr G Kaveri. Lecturer, Early Childhood Education Programme
What are some considerations when integrating environmental experiences into the ECE curriculum?
The curriculum should be built on children's prior knowledge and offer opportunities for continuous learning. The experiences must arouse young children's sense of wonder and curiosity. In addition, they should be tangible and play-based that gradually pave the way for critical thinking and reflective discussions.
Many early childhood educators often feel professionally ill-prepared to embark on this journey. Inadequate professional development pathways are frequently cited as the main hindrance. While this is a valid concern, it is noteworthy that educators' passion and interest in the environment, willingness to be an advocate for environmental sustainability, and the ability to facilitate young children's meaning-making are at the heart of successful curriculum experiences.
How does home school partnership facilitate planning appropriate environmental experiences for young children?
Home-school partnership refers to collaborative relationships established by both parties when working towards common goals. Relationships built through respectful two-way communication serve as the foundation for planning and implementing appropriate curriculum experiences. They allow understanding children's environmental practices at home, thus enabling a strength-based approach to curriculum planning. Learning experiences built on children's prior knowledge and skills make learning meaningful and fun for children.
Featuring findings from:
Kaveri, G. (2020). Household waste generation: Understanding family practices and challenges in Singapore. Manuscript submitted for publication.
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