International Journal of Early Childhood

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 327–346 | Cite as

Pedagogical Play Types: What Do They Suggest for Learning About Sustainability in Early Childhood Education?

  • Susan Edwards
  • Amy Cutter-Mackenzie
Original Article


Sustainability education is increasingly understood as necessary for young children. An important aspect of early childhood sustainability education is associated with how best to integrate the conceptual basis of sustainability education with existing play-based pedagogies. Play-based pedagogies can be understood as occurring along a continuum, including more open-ended and freely chosen play to more teacher orientated play-based activities. Each of these play types suggests different opportunities for teacher's engagement with children’s learning. This paper examines how three different types of play-based pedagogy, including open-ended, modelled and purposefully framed play, prompt teacher planning for children’s learning about biodiversity as a knowledge subset of sustainability education. Vygotsky’s description of combinatorial activity is used to consider the extent to which each play type prompts teachers to plan for children’s engagement with biodiversity concepts in ways that are most likely to support knowledge construction.


Sustainability Early childhood education Play-based learning 


L'éducation au développement durable est de plus en plus considérée nécessaire pourles jeunes enfants. Un aspect important de l'éducation au développement durable estassocié à la meilleure façon d'intégrer le fondement conceptuel du développement durable aux pédagogies existantes, axées sur le jeu. Les pédagogies axées sur le jeu peuvent être comprises comme situées le long d'un continuum, allant de plus ouverte avec choix libre du jeu jusqu'à des activités axées sur le jeu plus dirigées par l'enseignant. Chacun de ces types de jeu suggère des occasions différentes d'implication des enseignants dans l'apprentissage des enfants. Cet article examine la façon dont trois différents types de pédagogie axée sur le jeu, soit jeu libre ouvert, modélisé et encadré dans un but spécifique, poussent l'enseignant à planifier en vue de l'apprentissage de la biodiversité comme sous-ensemble de la connaissance en éducation au développement durable. La description de Vygotsky de l'activité combinatoire est utilisée pour voir à quel point chaque type de jeu amène les enseignants à planifier pour que les enfants s'engagent dans les concepts de la biodiversité, des façons les plus susceptibles de soutenir la construction de connaissances.


La sostenibilidad en la educación o educación sustentable, se entiende cada vez más como algo necesario para la formación de los niños pequeños. Un aspecto importante de la educación sustentable para la edad temprana está asociado con cómo es mejor integrar el concepto base de sostenibilidad en la educación con pedagogías existentes basadas en el juego. Las pedagogías basadas en el juego pueden ser entendidas como un continuo, incluyendo un juego más abierto y libremente elegido, así como actividades basadas en el juego orientadas más hacia los profesores y sus estrategias. Cada uno de estos tipos de juegos, sugieren diferentes oportunidades para que los profesores se comprometan con el aprendizaje de los niños. Este artículo examina cómo tres tipos distintos de pedagogías basadas en el juego, incluyendo aquellas abiertas, modeladas y con un propósito enmarcado, apuntan a la planificación de los profesores hacia el aprendizaje de los niños acerca de biodiversidad, como un conocimiento que corresponde a un subconjunto de la Educación Sustentable. La descripción de Vygotsky sobre actividad combinatoria es usada para considerar el grado en el que cada tipo de juego apunta a que los profesores planifiquen para el compromiso de los niños con el concepto de biodiversidad de una forma en la que sea más plausible apoyar la construcción del conocimiento.



The work presented in this paper was supported by funding from the Australian Research Council under the Discovery Project Scheme and with ethical approval from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee. The authors wish to thank the participating children, families and teachers for their contribution to the work. The authors also wish to acknowledge support with fieldwork and data management provided by Deb Moore, Tracy Young, Sylvia Almedia and Tiffany Cutter. Data collection for this project was conducted whilst both authors were employed at Monash University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Catholic UniversityFitzroyAustralia
  2. 2.Southern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia

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