Designing in the Language of Sticks and Stones: Building a Joyful Early Childhood Relationship with Natural Forces

By Eileen Hughes and Marilyn Chu.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This case study represents the work of two faculty members and a university student who engaged in a collaborative inquiry project for the purpose of discovering how young children learn through their connections to the natural world. The article highlights a case study of immigrant preschool children and their use of natural materials. The process of inquiry involved the documentation and narrative analysis of children’s conversations and actions. Themes identified in the work of a university student and a small group of children offer insights into the ways that children may use their connections with elements of the natural world. A variety of sustainable and natural materials are used to inspire the children’s creativity while learning to communicate and to integrate mathematical concepts into their visual art displays. Creation of the artifacts suggests ways that educators can support children’s appreciation for the aesthetic qualities of natural elements and deepens the interdependent relationship between children and their sense of place. As our society seeks to reconnect many children to the outdoors in this period of technological saturation, it is critical that early childhood educators rethink teaching practices to support children who come to school with an existing relationship with the natural world and to reconnect those who do not.

Keywords: Immigrant Preschool Children, Use of Natural Materials, Creating Visual Art Displays, Communication, Mathematical Concepts, Children’s Sense of Place

The International Journal of Sustainability Education, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.1-14. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 648.401KB).

Dr. Eileen Hughes

Associate Professor, Elementary Education Department, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington, USA

Eileen Hughes, PhD is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Western Washington University. Her interests are in inquiry-oriented approaches and in working with novice and experienced teachers to develop their classroom research abilities for analzying the relationship of their practices and children’s learning.

Dr. Marilyn Chu

Assistant Professor, Elementary Education Department, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington, USA

Marilyn Chu, EdD, is an assistant professor of Early Childhood Education, Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. Dr. Chu’s interests focus on culturally and linguistically relevant programs for young children. Her work in teacher preparation emphasizes the development of child care/primary school partnerships with university teacher preparation programs and mentoring strategies for future and current teachers.