Constructing Perspectives of Child-Nature Relationships in Early Learning Curriculum Frameworks

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Ashley, Robyn
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Mount Saint Vincent University
This research examines the perspectives of child-nature relationships in early learning curriculum frameworks across cultural contexts. Outdoor play is an increasingly important aspect of early childhood education for children’s healthy development and learning opportunities, though children’s engagement in nature play is less explored and nature is often artificially divided from children’s lives by adults. Children’s relationships with nature in the early learning and child care (ELCC) context in Nova Scotia is yet to be explored in-depth. The Nova Scotia early learning curriculum framework is compared to the Aotearoa New Zealand early childhood curriculum framework using reflexive thematic analysis to generate themes in understanding their constructions of child-nature relationships and their motivations for engagement with nature. The researcher’s professional ELCC experience is used as an analytic research tool, which is informed by ecological systems theory and a common worlds lens which views humans and nature as inseparable from each other. From this analysis, the researcher learned that Nova Scotia and Aotearoa New Zealand demonstrate dichotomous motivations for environmental stewardship as a main approach to children’s relationship with nature. Provocations and invitations are presented to ELCC stakeholders in Nova Scotia to reflect and shift their perspectives of child-nature relationships to move beyond stewardship practices and engage with more culturally responsive and inclusive approaches of engaging and belonging with nature in ELCC settings.