Fostering an Ecological Worldview in Children: Rethinking Children and Nature in Early Childhood Education from a Japanese Perspective

  • Michiko InoueEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


Ecological systems thinking is indispensable in order to build a sustainable society, and fostering an ecological worldview should begin from birth. However, learning about ecology in formal schooling is often superficial and insufficient. For example, in Japan, the content related to ecology appears first in the national curriculum only at the third grade (aged 8 years) of primary school, and for younger children there are no clear descriptions of ecological concepts in the national early childhood curriculum. As a result, early childhood teachers in Japan have little concern with providing opportunities for children to experience activities related to an understanding of ecology. On the other hand, early childhood education has recognized the significance of nature-based activities for young children’s development since Froebel in the early nineteenth century. Early childhood education in Japan has been strongly influenced by this traditional pedagogy, and Japanese educators have practiced nature-based activities, such as gardening and caring for animals, since this time. Recently, interest in education for sustainability (EfS) has increased within early childhood education and has reemphasized the importance of nature-based learning activities. The question now asked is, “How can we distinguish nature-based activities for the purposes of EfS, which constructs an ecological worldview, from the traditional nature-based activities in early childhood education that have been in use since the nineteenth century?” To answer this question, this chapter demonstrates through three vignettes how toddlers and young children might begin to realize the relationships between animals and the natural environment and their own connectedness to the natural world in a Japanese early childhood education and care center. The potential of learning from traditional primary industries or indigenous cultures and the importance of transforming the educator’s lens in order to foster an ecological worldview about nature-based activities in early childhood are also considered.


Ecological worldview Early childhood Japanese perspective 



This research was partially supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 15K00668 and Special Research Grant of Osaka Ohtani University, Japan.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Osaka Ohtani UniversityTondabayashiJapan

Section editors and affiliations

  • Marianne Logan
    • 1
  • Helen Widdop Quinton
    • 2
  1. 1.Southern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia
  2. 2.Victoria UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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