Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Preschool Children's Ideas on Sustainable Development: How Preschool Children Perceive Three Pillars of Sustainability with the Regard to 7R*

Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Preschool Children's Ideas on Sustainable Development: How Preschool Children Perceive Three Pillars of Sustainability with the Regard to 7R*

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to describe ideas of preschool children about sustainable development. Basic qualitative research was utilized and 36 preschool children enrolled in four different preschools in Ankara were included in the study. Semi-structured interviews were used to obtain data related to ideas of preschool children on three pillars (Environmental, Economical, and Social Cultural) of Education for Sustainable Development and analyzed with inductive content analysis based on 7R's (reduce, reuse, respect, reflect, rethink, and redistribute). Participant children reflected their ideas about reduce, reuse, respect, and recycle; while they did not report any ideas related to reflect, rethink, and redistribute. Moreover, gender did not seem to have an influence on preschool children's ideas about sustainability. It is suggested that sustainable practices should be integrated into early childhood curriculum and supported by preschool teachers, parents and society.

Key Words

Sustainable Development, Education for Sustainable Development, 7R, Early Childhood Education.

Impacts of humankind on the Earth and ecological systems in terms of climate change, resource depletion, and extinction of species revealed us that sustainable development (SD) should be an essential part of human life, not optional (Elliott, 2010). SD is a difficult concept to define. The most popular definition is reported by the Brundtland World Commission on Environment. According to that definition, "...sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (WCED, 1987, p. 43). In a similar way, SD was defined by World Conservation Union (IUCN) as 'improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems', which highlights enhancing the quality of human life while protecting the Earth's capacity for next generations. Besides these two definitions, focusing on the relationship between the natural environment and humankind, Johannesburg Summit in 2002, added two more pillars in economical and socio-cultural terms into the definition of sustainable development to emphasize social justice and the fight against poverty. As the definition offers, sustainable development includes three integrated pillars: social-cultural, economic and environmental, and these three act together (UNESCO, 2005).

Environmental pillar of sustainable development deals with "the drawbacks of depleting natural resources, increased greenhouse gas emissions, overflowing landfills, rising sea levels and polluted waterways focusing on how poorest countries are the worst affected by these challenges in terms of poverty, migration, food and water scarcity, and health care problems" (Siraj-Blatchford, Smith, & Pramling Samuelsson, 2010, p. 14). Additionally, "Social, cultural and political issues regarding participation, emancipation, freedom, security, solidarity, equality and fairness that affect the quality and continuity of people's lives, between individuals and groups within and beyond national borders and between generations" are the issues grouped under the social-cultural pillar of sustainability" (Siraj-Blatchford et al., p. 18). The last component of the sustainability is economical pillar and it deals with concerns about "reducing of the direct environmental burden of producing, using and disposing goods and services; consuming goods and services that contribute positively to the health and well-being of women and children; and increasing the development and adoption of energy and water efficient appliances, public transport and other demand-side measures; production and sale of new goods and services adapted to the global environmental constraints" (Siraj-Blatchford et al., p. 25).

Education is regarded the essential tool to achieve aims of these threefold sustainable development (UNESCO, 1997, p. 16). …

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