279 – Sustainable development through STEM in early childhood education: A narrative analysis using cultural-historical theory

Presentation - ECV2022-279

Sustainable development through STEM in early childhood education: A narrative analysis using cultural-historical theory 

Sabira Sultana, Charles Sturt University, Australia (ssultana@csu.edu.au)
Lena Danaia, Charles Sturt University, Australia (LDanaia@csu.edu.au)
Shukla Sikder, Charles Sturt University, Australia (ssikder@csu.edu.au)

Background: The term “sustainable development” has received attention among policymakers and researchers, yet sustainable development in the early years is not in focus. Many studies show how science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education can create multiple rich learning opportunities for young children. However, sustainable development through STEM education in children’s everyday life is yet to be understood.

Aim: To review the literature to understand the significance and scope of STEM education in developing children’s concept of sustainable development through everyday experiences.

Method: A narrative analysis of existing literature on early childhood education for sustainable development and early childhood STEM education has been done using a cultural-historical theoretical framework to understand how STEM education can develop the concept of sustainable development among children in their everyday lives.

Results: There are only few studies found on sustainable development through STEM in early years. The review of the literature revealed that in the early years the concept of sustainable development tends to be covered through environmental education where only the environmental aspect of sustainable development is highlighted to some extent and nothing about other aspects, such as social and economic as well as their interdependences, is emphasised through STEM education.

Conclusions: The findings of the literature review revealed little about how children develop their agency regarding sustainable development through STEM learning experiences in everyday life. This is something that warrants further investigation. 

Implications for children and families: Children’s concept of sustainable development can be developed through reflecting on activities from everyday life. For example, when grocery shopping you can discuss the impact of plastic bags on the environment. Together you may decide to use bags made from biodegradable materials, such as jute as a solution.

Implications for practitioners: You can plan and create learning conditions for children through different activities in your centre to develop their scientific concept of sustainable development. For example, when you make craft with recycled materials, discuss with the children why we should recycle things and how that activity promotes sustainable development.

Funding: Australian Government Research Training Program

Key words: early childhood education, STEM education for sustainable development, children’s agency, children’s rights, cultural historical theory, narrative review

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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