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Preschool-naturing in the Anthropocene
Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för lärande och samhälle (LS), Institutionen för naturvetenskap, matematik och samhälle (NMS).
2023 (Engelska)Konferensbidrag, Muntlig presentation med publicerat abstract (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
Abstract [en]

Preschool-naturing in the Anthropocene

We live in peculiar times, a time where humans relationship to nature is high on the agenda and referred to in various ways: as Anthropocene (Crutzen, 2006; Steffen et al., 2007) as  Capitalocene (Malm, 2019; Malm & Hornborg, 2014; Moore, 2016) and Chthulucene (Haraway, 2016) just to mention some. In this study the Anthropocene concept, originally a suggested name of a geological time period to mark humans’ substantial impact on planet earth (Steffen et al., 2007), is used as an underpinning to stress the need for studies concerning human/nature relations in this peculiar time. In Sweden “nature” can be seen as a part of preschools aim and practice in several ways. This is stemming 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 (Halldén, 2011; National Agency of  Education, 2018). More than half a million children in Sweden attend preschool which is roughly 85 percent of all children in the age 1-5 and 95 percent of all children over 4 years (SKR, 2020). Preschool is today a significant part of childhood and preschool is not only situated in these challenging times, of Anthropocene, but education is often also seen as a part of the solution to rising challenges (Gilbert, 2022; Jickling & Sterling, 2017; Somerville & Williams, 2015; Wolff et al., 2020). With preschool now as a part of the Swedish educational system situated, in the time of Anthropocene, it becomes relevant to further investigate and understand nature’s role in preschool, how it is enacted and upheld, with children, preschool staff, materials, surroundings, organization, policy, ideas, and discourses.

In a literature review Sjögren (2020) looks at how the relationship between children and nature is described in articles with a focus on Anthropocene in early childhood education (ECE) and comes to the conclusion that the most common view of the child’s relationship to nature can be described as entangled. This entangled child is described in the articles as “interdependent”, “relational” and “connected”, and builds on the notion that it is impossible to separate culture from nature (Sjögren, 2020 s. 5-6). This review also shows that when a post human perspective is used to approach nature and ECE there seems to be a lack of power perspectives (Sjögren, 2020). With an actor-network theory (ANT) approach this PhD project takes an interest in not only that children are entangled but how these entanglements are created, enacted, and upheld, by whom and where. These aspects of ANT, developed by for instance Mol (1999, 2002, 2010) also says something about the power relations between the actors involved, which means all actors, between human actors as well as other-than human actors. With an ANT inspired ethnographic method, the idea with the present project is to understand how “nature” is made, upheld, and translated, in an organization as preschool, that has such a strong tie to nature both historically and in the present.

Methods/methodology

In an ANT inspired hybrid understanding of the world where everything is nature and culture, – constantly connecting, disconnecting, and reconnecting – this study is an attempt to investigate taken for granted assumptions concerning nature and preschool. When it comes to preschool practice, humans enact with the world to create meaning and actions. The methodology is structured around the concept of preschool-naturing, a concept created by the author, inspired by actor-network theory (Latour, 2005; Law, 2004; Mol, 2002) with an ambition to try to investigate how nature and preschool are assembled together in various preschool practices. By creating the concept of preschool-naturing the idea is to investigate how networks that involve preschool, and nature are upheld, broken down and translated. By joining these words (preschool and nature) into one, also making them into a verb, the idea is to move away from the dualistic views of thinking that nature is enacted in preschool, or that preschool is enacted in nature and rather think of this preschool-naturing as something that enacts different ontologies. Mol (1999) discusses how decisions can be made invisible by pushing them out of sight making them appear as if they are not decisions, but facts. This makes it interesting to understand where these facts, associated with natures role in preschool, are made and which places, and actors are involved. These decisions are not only intellectually made but occurs in practice involving both human and other-than-human actors. This is a practical and necessary stabilization of the actor-network that enable practicians to handle reality and the idea is to try to understand where decisions are made since they often are taken for granted as facts when they rather could be reconstructed into other understandings of reality (Mol, 1999). By empirically studying how these assemblages, of nature and preschool, are made possible (or impossible) the idea is to further understand nature’s role in preschool practices. The aim is to trace the complexity of how ”nature” is done together with preschool practice by also taking an interest in power aspects involved in the enactments. Materials collected with an ethnographic method includes fieldnotes from observations at two different preschools in an urban setting, photographs of preschools physical environments and materials, documents, and interviews. The analysis of the material is focused on how preschool-naturing is enacted, to visualize how understandings of nature are stabilized by drawing on already stable assumptions.

Expected outcomes/results

By using the concept of preschool-naturing as a theoretical and methodological tool the idea is to allow complexities to emerge, not looking for single enactments of nature in preschool but rather investigate how assemblages are held together by enrolling some actors but not others, sometimes allowing discrepancies and contradictions and sometimes depending on powerful actors. The aim is to trace how nature is made with an ambition to also say something about why these efforts of preschool-naturing are made in these precarious times. In this session I will present some preliminary results and discus how nature is enacted with preschool practices and also discuss these results connections to ideas of nature/culture in the Anthropocene. Some early results from analyzing the study’s fieldnotes shows how the physical design of the preschools outdoor environments, such as fences and gates, take part in preschool-naturing enacting assemblages that allows children to enroll in different kinds of “nature”. The results are expected to broaden our understandings of nature’s role in preschool practice and make visible other understandings of how to organize ECE in urban settings in the future. 

Intent of publication: Part of a PhD thesis that will be written in English. 

References 

Crutzen, P. J. (2006). The “anthropocene”. In Earth system science in the anthropocene (pp. 13-18). Springer. 

Gilbert, J. (2022). Resurrecting Science Education by Re-Inserting Women, Nature, and Complexity. In Reimagining Science Education in the Anthropocene (pp. 259-275). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. 

Halldén, G. (2011). Barndomens skogar : om barn i natur och barns natur. Carlsson Bokförlag. 

Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the Trouble : Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press. 

Jickling, B., & Sterling, S. (2017). Post-sustainability and environmental education: Remaking education for the future. Springer. 

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social. An introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford University Press. 

Law, J. (2004). After method : mess in social science research. Routledge. 

Malm, A. (2019). Against Hybridism: Why We Need to Distinguish between Nature and Society, Now More than Ever. Historical Materialism, 27(2), 156-187. https://doi.org/10.1163/1569206x-00001610 

Malm, A., & Hornborg, A. (2014). The geology of mankind? A critique of the Anthropocene narrative. The Anthropocene Review, 1(1), 62-69. 

Mol, A. (1999). Ontological politics. A word and some questions. In J. H. John Law (Ed.), Actor Network Theory and after. Blachwell Publishing. 

Mol, A. (2002). The body multiple: Ontology in medical practice. Duke University Press. 

Mol, A. (2010). Actor-network theory: Sensitive terms and enduring tensions. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 50(1), 253-269. 

Moore, J. W. (2016). Anthropocene or capitalocene?: Nature, history, and the crisis of capitalism. Pm Press. 

National Agency of  Education. (2018). Curriculum for the Preschool. Lpfö 18. In. Stockholm: Norstedts Juridik.

Sjögren, H. (2020). A review of research on the Anthropocene in early childhood education. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood. https://doi.org/10.1177/1463949120981787 

SKR, S. k. o. r. (2020). Förskola 2020. Öppna jämförelser. Likvärdig förskola. . 

Somerville, M., & Williams, C. (2015). Sustainability education in early childhood: An updated review of research in the field. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 16(2), 102-117. https://doi.org/10.1177/1463949115585658 

Steffen, W., Crutzen, P. J., & McNeill, J. R. (2007). The Anthropocene: are humans now overwhelming the great forces of nature. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 36(8), 614-621. 

Wolff, L.-A., Skarstein, T. H., & Skarstein, F. (2020). The Mission of early childhood education in the Anthropocene. Education Sciences, 10(2), 27. 

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
2023.
Nationell ämneskategori
Utbildningsvetenskap
Forskningsämne
Naturvetenskapernas didaktik
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URN: urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-59323OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mau-59323DiVA, id: diva2:1752337
Konferens
European Conference on Educational Research, ECER. 22 - 25 August 2023, Glasgow.
Tillgänglig från: 2023-04-21 Skapad: 2023-04-21 Senast uppdaterad: 2024-06-11Bibliografiskt granskad

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