"Preschool-Naturing" in the Anthropocene
About the project
This is a PhD project in science education with a focus on nature’s role in preschool. This study takes an interest in how nature is enacted with preschool practices. Through an ethnographic approach inspired by actor-network theory (ANT), the purpose is to disrupt taken-for-granted assumptions concerning relations between nature and preschool.
The departure is that we live in a time where humans' relationship to nature is high on the agenda and that these troubling times connect to early childhood education (ECE) in different ways. In Sweden “nature” can be seen as a part of preschool's aim and practice in several ways. This stems from a long tradition of connecting children to nature through natural environments but also as a part of the educational system, articulated in the curricula connected to science education, sustainable development, health and wellbeing.
We live in a time where human relationships with nature are coming to a head with climate change and loss of biodiversity as some of several challenges, a time that can be called the Anthropocene. It is a special time to be a child and a large part of childhood in Sweden is today spent in preschool. I want to contribute to an expanded understanding of nature’s role in children's lives in order to create knowledge about people's role in the climate crisis.
Aims and questions
Nature has an undisputable role in Swedish preschools, historically and in current practice. This project is interested in this complex relationship and asks questions such as:
- How is nature done together with preschool practice?
- Which actors are involved?
- How can we understand these enactments in relation to the Anthropocene? The purpose of asking these types of questions is to highlight nature’s role in preschool.
Preschool is part of children's everyday lives, a large part of early childhood and the first step in the education system. Nature is not only "out there" for us to discover, it is also created with humans and our culture. In this project, "nature" is seen as a hybrid that includes both nature and culture, constantly reshaped through different relational networks, where different actors (both social and material) play varying roles. In the Anthropocene, science education needs to ask questions that challenge previously assumed ideas about the relationship between humans and nature. This project seeks answers to how this relationship is made in a practice such as preschool so that science education and preschool practice can be further understood and developed.
Method and result
The research project has an ANT (actor-network theory) inspired ethnographic approach and will result in a monograph in English.