Learning with Idea Station: What Can Children on One Canadian Playground Teach Us About Climate Change?

  • Sarah HennessyEmail author
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


Idea Station, the student portion of a research project to revitalize one urban Canadian school’s outdated playground helps to re-envision new approaches to education, environment and climate change, shifting the education ‘of children’ in favour of learning ‘with children’—a shift that mirrors the language of a common world pedagogies. There is benefit from learning with non-human others. There is an organic and interdisciplinary way of thinking with the world. As adults and educators we need to value and foster more of this thinking with climate change. To ignore this approach of thinking with children we run the risk of losing their valuable insights. Idea Station reveals that children already think with natureculture and non-human others and can teach adults. Experiences from Idea Station have a number of practical applications and can model partnerships for future thinking with education and climate change. Idea Station presents opportunities for shifts in the ways we think about children and nature. The core learnings can all be refined down to a single shift to a more inclusive way of thinking for adults. Idea Station teaches us that the inclusive shift includes making room for (1) informal, out-of-curriculum learning; (2) the values in a child-to-adult model of learning; (3) a Common worlds pedagogy that includes a lens of natureculture, and; (4) the inclusion of technology. In thinking with Idea Station we can learn to think with bats, rats, coons, trees, roots, backstops, vines, plants, birds, bugs, technology and humans.


Early childhood Common worlds Pedagogies Climate change Natureculture 


  1. Ballantyne R, Packer J (2009) Introducing a fifth pedagogy: experience-based strategies for facilitating learning in natural environments. Environ Educ Res 15(2):243–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ballantyne R, Fien J, Packer J (2001) Program effectiveness in facilitating intergenerational influence in environmental education: Lessons from the field. J Environ Educ 32(4):8–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barad K (2003) Posthumanist performatively: toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter. Signs 28(3):801–831CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barad KM (2007) Meeting the universe halfway. Duke University Press, Durham, NCGoogle Scholar
  5. Bryan A (2015) Development education, climate change and the “imperial mode of living”: “thinking institutionally about the ecological crisis”. Policy Pract Dev Educ Rev 21:1–10Google Scholar
  6. Clarke DAG (2018) Place in research. Theory, methodology, and methods. Environ Educ Res 24(1):146–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clarke DAG, Mcphie J (2016) From places to paths: learning for Sustainability, teacher education and a philosophy of becoming. Environ Educ Res 22(7):1002–1024CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clough P (2002) Narratives and fictions in educational research. Open University Press, Buckingham, UKGoogle Scholar
  9. Common Worlds Research Collective (2019) Common world research collective website.
  10. Dahlberg G, Moss P (2005) Ethics and politics in early childhood education. Routledge Falmer, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  11. Davis J, Elliott S (eds) (2014) Research in early childhood education for sustainability: international perspectives and provocations. Routledge, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  12. Davis JM (2014) Young children and the environment. Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, AustraliaCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Duerden MD, Witt PA (2010a) An ecological systems theory perspective on youth programming. J Park Recreation Adm 28(2)Google Scholar
  14. Duerden MD, Witt PA (2010b) The impact of direct and indirect experiences on the development of environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. J Environ Psychol 30(4):379–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dunkley RA (2016) Learning at eco-attractions: exploring the bifurcation of nature and culture through experiential environmental education. J Environ Educ 47(3):213–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Elliott S, Young T (2016) Nature by default in early childhood education for sustainability. Aust J Environ Educ 32(1):57–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Falk JH, Dierking LD (2010) The 95 percent solution. Am Sci 98(6):486–493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fernandez G, Thi TTM, Shaw R (2014) Climate change education: recent trends and future prospects. In: Shaw R, Oikawa Y (eds) Education for sustainable development and disaster risk reduction. Springer, Tokyo, Japan, pp 53–74. Scholar
  19. Francis J, Davis T (2014) Exploring children’s socialization to three dimensions of sustainability. Young Consum 15(2):125–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fuller B (2007) Standardized childhood: the political and cultural struggle over early education, 1st edn. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CAGoogle Scholar
  21. González N, Moll LC, Amanti C (2005) Funds of knowledge. Routledge, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  22. Goodley D, Clough P (2004) Community projects and excluded young people: reflections on a participatory narrative research approach. Int J Inclusive Educ 8(4):331–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Greenwood DA, Hougham RJ (2015) Mitigation and adaptation: critical perspectives toward digital technologies in place-conscious environmental education. Policy Futures Educ 13(1):97–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gruenewald DA (2003a) Foundations of place: a multidisciplinary framework for place-conscious education. Am Educ Res J 40(3):619–654CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gruenewald DA (2003b) The best of both worlds: a critical pedagogy of place. Educ Res 32(4):3–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hamm C (2015) Walking with place: storying reconciliation pedagogies in early childhood education. Can Child 40(2):56Google Scholar
  27. Haraway D (2004) The haraway reader. Routledge, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  28. Haraway D (2008) When species meet. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MNGoogle Scholar
  29. Haraway DJ (2016) Staying with the trouble: making kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University PressGoogle Scholar
  30. Harvard Family Research Project (2007) Findings from HFRP’s study of predictors of participation in out-of-school time activities: fact sheet. Retrieved from
  31. Higgins P (2009) Into the big wide world: sustainable experiential education for the 21st century. J Experiential Educ 32(1):44–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ho L-C, Seow T (2015) Teaching controversial issues in geography: climate change education in Singaporean schools. Theor Res Soc Educ 43(3):314–344. Scholar
  33. Hung CC (2014) Climate change education: knowing, doing and being. Routledge, New York, NY. Scholar
  34. Istead L, Shapiro B (2014) Recognizing the child as knowledgeable other: intergenerational learning research to consider child-to-adult influence on parent and family eco-knowledge. J Res Childhood Educ 28(1):115–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. James A, Prout A (2015) Constructing and reconstructing childhood. Routledge, New York, NYCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kellett M, Forrest (aged ten) R, Dent (aged ten) N, Ward (aged ten) S (2004) Just teach us the skills please, we’ll do the rest?: empowering ten-year-olds as active researchers. Child Soc 18(5):329–343Google Scholar
  37. Kola-Olusanya A (2005) Free-choice environmental education: understanding where children learn outside of school. Environ Educ Res 11(3):297–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kopnina H (2014) Revisiting education for sustainable development (ESD): examining anthropocentric bias through the transition of environmental education to ESD. Sustain Dev 22(2):73–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kraftl P (2015) Alter-childhoods: biopolitics and childhoods in alternative education spaces. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 105(1):219–237. Scholar
  40. Latour B (1993) We have never been modern. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  41. Latour B (2004) Politics of nature: how to bring the sciences into democracy. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  42. Latour B (2011) Politics of nature: east and west perspectives. Ethics Glob Polit 4(1):71–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nxumalo F (2015) Forest stories: restorying encounters with “natural” places in early childhood education. In: Pacini-Ketchabaw V, Taylor A (eds) Unsettling the colonial places and spaces of early childhood education. Routledge, New York, NY, pp 31–52Google Scholar
  44. O’Malley S (2015) The relationship between children’s perceptions of the natural environment and solving environmental problems. Policy Pract Dev Educ Rev 21:87–104Google Scholar
  45. Ontario Ministry of Education (2010–2011) The full-day early learning–Kindergarten program (draft version). Queen’s Printer, Toronto, ONGoogle Scholar
  46. Pacini-Ketchabaw V (2013) Frictions in forest pedagogies: common worlds in settler colonial spaces. Glob Stud Childhood 3(4):355–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pacini-Ketchabaw V, Taylor A (2015) Unsettling the colonial places and spaces of early childhood education. Routledge, New York, NYCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pacini-Ketchabaw V, Taylor A, Blaise M (2016) Decentring the human in multispecies ethnographies. In: Taylor C, Hughes C (eds) Posthuman research practices in education. Palgrave MacMillan, London, UK, pp 149–167Google Scholar
  49. Rautio P (2013) Being nature: interspecies articulation as a species-specific practice of relating to environment. Environ Educ Res 19(4):445–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Reis J, Ballinger RC (2018) Creating a climate for learning-experiences of educating existing and future decision-makers about climate change. Mar Policy. Scholar
  51. Savransky M, Stengers I (2018) Relearning the art of paying attention: a conversation. SubStance 47(1):130–145Google Scholar
  52. Schweizer S, Davis S, Thompson JL (2013) Changing the conversation about climate change: a theoretical framework for place-based climate change engagement. Environ Commun J Nat Cult 7(1):42–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Smith LT, Tuck E, Yang KW (2019) Indigenous and decolonizing studies in education: mapping the long view. Routledge, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  54. St. Pierre E (2013) The appearance of data. Cult Stud Crit Methodol 13(4):223–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Stengers I (2012) Cosmopolitics: learning to think with sciences, peoples and natures. Presented at the situating science knowledge. St. Marys, Halifax, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  56. Stengers I (2013) Matters of cosmopolitics: on the Provocations of Gaïa. (in conversation with Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin). In: Architecture in the anthropocene: encounters among design, deep time, science and philosophy. Open Humanities Press, London, UK, pp 171–182Google Scholar
  57. Sweeney J (2015) Climate change and development education: new opportunities for partnership. Policy Pract Dev Educ Rev 20:11–30Google Scholar
  58. Taylor A (2011) Reconceptualizing the ‘nature’ of childhood. Childhood 18(4):420–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Taylor A (2014) Situated and entangled childhoods: imagining and materializing children’s common world relations. In: Bloch M, Swadener B, Cannella G (eds) Reconceptualizing early childhood care and education: a reader: critical questions, new imaginaries and social activism. Peter Lang Publishing Inc., New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  60. Taylor A (2017) Beyond stewardship: common world pedagogies for the Anthropocene. Environ Educ Res 23(10):1448–1461CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Taylor A, Blaise M, Giugni M (2013) Haraway’s ‘bag lady story-telling’: relocating childhood and learning within a ‘post-human landscape.’ Discourse Stud Cult Polit Educ 34(1):48–62Google Scholar
  62. Todd S (2001) “Bringing more than i contain”: ethics, curriculum and the pedagogical demand for altered egos. J Curriculum Stud 33(4):431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. UNESCO (2017) UNESCO strategy for action on climate change. In; Presented at the UNESCO general conference, Paris, France: UNESCO. Retrieved from
  64. Van Manen M (1997) Researching lived experience. Althouse Press, London, ONGoogle Scholar
  65. Vaughan C, Gack J, Solorazano H, Ray R (2003) The effect of environmental education on schoolchildren, their parents, and community members: a study of intergenerational and intercommunity learning. J Environ Educ 34(3):12–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wandersee JH, Schussler EE (1999) Preventing plant blindness. Am Biol Teach 61(2):82–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Warming H (2011) Getting under their skins? Accessing young children’s perspectives through ethnographic fieldwork. Childhood 18(1):39–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Yahya R, Wood EA (2017) Play as third space between home and school: bridging cultural discourses. J Early Childhood Res 15(3):305–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Yusoff K (2013) Geologic life: prehistory, climate, futures in the anthropocene. Environ Plann D-Soc Space 31(5):779–795. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationWestern UniversityLondonCanada

Personalised recommendations