International Journal of Research in Environmental Studies
ISSN: 2059-1977
Vol. 5(6), pp. 77-90, October 2018

A 21st Century pedagogy approach to environmental education in the early years

Janice Deans* and Harriet Deans

The University of Melbourne, Early Learning Centre, 40 Clarke Street, Abbotsford Victoria 3067, Australia.

*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:,

Received 17 May, 2018; Received in revised form 01 June, 2018; Accepted 05 June, 2018.


Childhood education, Critical thinking, Learning, Pedagogy.

In early childhood education there is growing interest in curriculum that recognizes and values environmental education as a prominent area of study for young children. There is also interest in approaches to teaching and learning that integrate the principles of 21st Century Pedagogy, in particular the recognition of the social construction of knowledge, real-life experiences and the role of the intentional and purposeful teacher to stimulate collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication. This paper reports on a qualitative case study that investigated a ‘Learning in Nature Program (LNP)’ designed for 4-year-old children and its impact on their learning. Diverse data were collected, including teacher’s documentation, children’s drawing-tellings and ‘See, Think, Wonder’ thinking routines and photographs. The analysis uncovered the nature of the program, shedding light on the centrality of the intentional teacher in planning, implementing and evaluating a program that enabled experiential learning in the local natural environment. The findings revealed that the LNP stimulated deep engagement with the natural world and supported children’s creative and critical thinking processes. As such, the value of an ecocentric curriculum was identified as highly effective in equipping young children with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary for the development of a respectful and sustainable relationship with the earth.

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