The art of caring and connecting: Moving pre-service teachers toward ecological sustainability and social justice through arts-based reflection on childhoods, people and place

Year: 2019

Author: Black, Ali

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Interrelationships between humans and more-than-human worlds are complicated - with critical climate justice issues influencing our shared fates. This presentation explores research where innovative assessment practices have awakened future teachers to the delights of childhood and the realities of changing environments. The context of this presentation is a sustainability-focused course in an Australian undergraduate early childhood education teaching degree. Over the last four years, cohorts of pre-service teachers have used arts-based methods and stories of experience to explore their childhood memories, interactions and relationships with people, place, and more-than-human worlds. Harnessing the power of the arts to celebrate the natural environment and human relationships with-in it, pre-service teachers use their own stories and creative and historical artefacts to remember, reflect upon, and represent significant childhood experiences. The making visible of early relationships with people, place and more-than-human, serves to expand their minds and hearts, connecting them to their hopes for children and for the planet. Pre-service teachers’ reflections illuminate their renewed understandings about how significant early experiences with-in nature contribute to resilience, physical, mental and spiritual health across the lifespan. Their experiential and narrative understandings inspire feelings of connection and empathy with the natural world, environmental and ethical awareness, and advance sustainability as they reconnect with their passion for the planet and renew plans for advocacy, action and change. Through storied and arts-based assemblages and reflections, this research highlights the power of the arts for connecting educators to their personal and professional commitments about working with young children toward sustainable, well, and hopeful futures.