Considering children’s participation in socio-political sustainability through early childhood education for sustainability

Yvonne Paujik, Queensland University of Technology, Australia (

Background: This action research study investigated contemporary pedagogical practices in early childhood education for sustainability (ECEfS). This action research study explored young children’s engagement with and understandings of poverty through a learning project undertaken with them in their kindergarten.

Aim: The aim was to understand and explore how to deliver and implement the realm of socio-political sustainability within an early childhood context.

Method: The study explored the possibilities and practicalities of implementing socio-political sustainability through well-known early childhood pedagogical methods such as storytelling and role play. Thus, data included observations of children’s play, photographed documentation, children’s artefacts, transcripts of teacher-led and spontaneous conversations, and teacher reflective journal entries. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.

Results: The study findings show that children are interested to explore issues such as poverty in their everyday kindergarten experiences when supported with sensitive and thoughtful pedagogies.

Conclusions: This study fills a ‘gap’ within ECEfS research. It expands current conceptions by moving from a singular focus on ‘green’ or environmental sustainability to broader socio-political sustainability congruent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This study has implications not only for educators but also for young children and how sustainability is conceptualised with national curriculum policies and frameworks in Australia.

Implications for children: You have demonstrated great awareness and understandings of poverty by sharing your big ideas about hunger, family, and having a home to go to. Not only were you able to talk about it with one another, but you also explored your understandings about poverty in your art and play.

Implications for families: It is important that your children’s voices are being heard and listened to, especially in complex ideas about this world that they live in. By giving your children opportunities to share their thoughts, together you and your child can challenge taken-for-granted understandings on wider themes of sustainability. 

Implications for practitioners: Young children are enabled to explore complex and abstract concepts such as poverty through your contemporary practices. You and the children can work as co-researchers in exploring complex understandings of social justice that includes themes of inclusiveness, belonging and power.

Key words: children’s voices, education, communication, qualitative methods, action research, education for sustainability, socio-political sustainability

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