Sustainability in preschool educational activities: A case study of an eco-certified preschool in Sweden

Year: 2018

Author: Borg, Farhana

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

One challenge of our time is to find ways of living in harmony with people and the nature without further damaging our planet. To promote sustainability, Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is about ensuring quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. To achieve the SDGs by 2030, they have been integrated in Swedish national policy documents, such as the preschool curriculum. However, research on how preschools include education for sustainability (EfS) in daily educational activities is limited.
This paper presents findings from a case study in an eco-certified preschool that works explicitly with EfS. The aim of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of the preschool’s activities with EfS from a whole-school approach model. The preschool has 36 children aged one to six, and eight preschool teachers (of whom two are child-carers). Since 2009, the preschool has maintained the requirements for the Green Flag award by the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation, which is part of the eco-preschool program of the Foundation for Environmental Education.
Data were collected through group discussions, observations, informal conversations, structured interviews, reading of reports and attending planning meetings. A whole-school approach model in EfS and Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory were utilized to interpret the findings.
Teachers encouraged children to take part in planning and decision-making activities. Together they selected different sustainability themes, such as, friendship, health of people and the planet, energy consumption, and recycling. Teachers used songs, stories, plays, films, illustrations, drawings and different experiments when they work with EfS. Older children took part in group discussions to reflect on different issues. Teachers connected environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability in educational activities. For instance, under the theme health, teachers integrated what is good for our health and what is good for our planet to survive. Some children transferred knowledge about the use of water and electricity from preschool to home.
There were areas that the preschool could improve, e.g., newly employed staff and kitchen staff had less opportunity to be involved in EfS; one reason being that not much time was allocated for collegial learning and reflection. It is important to collaborate within the whole organisation, as sustainability is everyone’s responsibility. The preschool may think of keeping record of its ecological footprint and monitoring impact of their EfS activities to provide an incitement. This study helps developing our knowledge about how to integrate EfS at preschool level.