School of Education

Children's participation in environmental education: Chinese, English and Indonesian experiences

Thursday 28th September 2023 (10:00-11:30)

Please join via Zoom using the below details. No registration required.
ZOOM Meeting ID: 926 8693 8965
Passcode: 178989
Starts 10am BST



Global Childhoods Research Group (GCRG) Interdisciplinary Webinar Series 2023

The GCRG is an interdisciplinary group that brings together academic researchers, teacher educators, and postgraduate students to explore diverse constructions and experiences of childhoods (birth to 18) across the globe. In 2023, GCRG is hosting four interdisciplinary webinars to showcase our members’ and partners’ work on childhood studies; as well as to engage international audience in debates and discussions around issues concerning different aspects of global childhoods across disciplines.  Webinar three focuses on children’s participation in environmental education. 


Dr Frans Kruger, School of Education, University of Nottingham, UK 


1. Towards children’s democratic participation: Co-constructing place-based pedagogies for early years environmentalism in England

Dr Francesca Salvi, School of Education, University of Nottingham, UK 


This talk reports back from a period of two months of participant observation in three primary schools in the South of England.  Two of the schools are in an urban setting, and did not offer any environmental education to the pupils, despite expressing the desire to enhance their provision in this sense. In these schools, the PI ran an after-school club with approximately five university students aiming to one day work with children and young people, and up to 20 children aged 5-7. The sessions offered children the opportunity to engage with a number of activities broadly aimed at supporting the development of an emotional bond with their immediate environments. In line with Malone (2013), the theory of change maintains that a positive interactive cycle of accessibility, mobility and engagement with the environment leads to environmental change agency. The third school is set in a semi-urban area, benefits from an extended outdoor space, and has embraced a stronger environmental ethos, whereby environmentalism is embedded in the curriculum, and therefore open and accessible to all pupils. 

In reflecting upon these experiences, this contribution asks: What pedagogies might our education systems embrace that enable the development of capacities to act – for those who are generally constructed as passive? The pedagogical approach I discuss here revolves around a practice of ‘doing’ that takes after John Dewey’s educational philosophy (1958). Pedagogies that are co-constructed with children necessarily present as disruptions in educational scenarios that are mostly structured by adults. Moreover, they offer insight into how to operationalise Kirby and Webb’s (2023) encouragement to embrace uncertainty as a necessary prerequisite for participation and inclusion. My claim here is that mainstreaming uncertainty ultimately enables a specific type of agency, one that exists within the relations that develop around the production of knowledge. Uncertainty disrupts the age-related hierarchies traditional education setting rely on – yet by so doing may be more meaningfully conducive to children’s democratic participation. 


Dr Francesca Salvi is Assistant Professor in the School of Education, University of Nottingham. Prior to this, she worked at the University of Portsmouth and University of Sussex - always in education. Her work has focused on transitions between childhood and adulthood: She has worked prevalently in sub-Saharan Africa to consider how global discourses of teenage pregnancy and parenthood are constructed in opposition to education and employment imperatives. Presently, she is also developing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding how education can successfully support both mitigation and adaptation.

 2.  Connecting Chinese urban children with nature: The power of outdoor and nature play

Dr Junqing Zhai, College of Education, Zhejiang University, China 


Whether it’s work, school, or leisure, modern life often revolves around time spent indoors, which means that the more time we commit to modern-day living, the less time we spend outdoors exploring nature. Contemporary children’s play has changed significantly, as their play space has shifted from outdoors to indoors, and materials have changed from natural loose parts to electronics. The alienation from nature in daily life in childhood leads to a number of physical and mental health problems, also known as nature deficit disorder. 

In order to promote connectedness with nature for young children, a group of preschoolers aged 5 to 6 years old from two urban kindergartens located in coastal eastern China were invited to participate in this study. A quasi-experimental with pretest-posttest and with control group design method was followed. Both the control and the experiment group comprised 32 children. The experiment group received a play-based pedagogy which consists of a long period of outdoor and nature play during school time. A modified game-based interview instrument was used to assess children’s connectedness with nature. The results of the analysis revealed that compared with the control group, the children in the experiment group developed a higher level of nature connectedness through outdoor and nature play. It’s also noted that the emotional and experiential dimensions of nature connectedness of the experiment group have significantly enhanced after the intervention, but not the cognitive dimension. We argue that the outdoor and nature play offered to the children in the experiment group reshaped their understanding of nature and rebuilt their relationship with nature. 


Dr Junqing Zhai is an associate professor at the College of Education, Zhejiang University, China. He earned his doctorate from King’s College London, UK. Prior to his current position, Junqing worked as a research fellow at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Junqing’s work focuses on science and environmental education, especially learning taking place in informal settings like the outdoors. Presently, he is engaging in developing a play-based pedagogy to enhance urban children’s connection with nature.

 3. Beyond the Western, Secular, and Middle-Class Environmental Education: A Case Analysis of an Eco-Pesantren in Indonesia

Dr Teguh Wijaya Mulya, Faculty of Psychology, University of Surabaya, Indonesia 


In this webinar Teguh offers a critique towards 21st century environmental education theories, research, and practices which mainly originated from the middle-class contexts in the Global North. Western scientific rationalism, modern individualism, and secular democratic approaches to socio-ecological transformation often underpinned the available environmental educational materials and pedagogical methods; from scientific facts about environmental degradation delivered in the classroom, encouragement of individual lifestyle change, to collective climate actions through democratic participation. Seeking to contribute to the diversification of environmental education, Teguh will present a case study from an eco-pesantren (Islamic boarding school) in Indonesia to show how an environmental education praxis can be closely connected to local grassroots struggles, grounded in culturally-relevant discursive resources and material conditions, and based on Islamic spiritual ontology.


Dr Teguh Wijaya Mulya is Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Psychology, University of Surabaya. He has a doctorate in education from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Informed by feminism and poststructuralist theories, his research interests have revolved around the identification and destabilisation of dominant discourses in various domains, including gender, sexuality, religion, neoliberalism, and environmentalism.



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