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World through the Eyes of Children: A Qualitative Study of Preschool Children’s Understanding of the World

Tue, April 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview B


In recent early childhood education literature, the dominant discourses on child-centered individualistic pedagogy and developmental psychology have been increasingly challenged. Critics pointing to the diverse contexts of childhood, and the impact of globalization and technological advancement, have questioned the universal application of the developmental paradigms. Responding to a rapidly changing post-modern world, scholars have offered alternative narratives drawing on the scholarship in other disciplines like sociology, anthropology, human geography, science studies, postmodernist, and post-structural feminist studies (Grieshaber & Cannella, 2001). Pointing to the increasingly complex and ecologically challenging world of the 21st century, these scholars propose the concepts of “common worlds” and “nature-cultures” to re-conceptualize childhood within a broader context of a world that expands beyond the human/social dimensions to include other life forms and nature (Taylor, 2013; Pacini-Ketchabaw, Taylor, Blaise, & Finney, 2015). Children’s world, these scholars argue, consist of a range of relationships, histories, traditions, and culture that are part of the place where they grow up (Taylor, 2013; Massey, 1993). These relationships include their natural environment, human made environments, and other life worlds. They emphasize the inter-relatedness and interdependence of humans and nature, a shift from the long tradition of situating early childhood in the idealized world of nature (Taylor, 2013).
This ethnographic case study used participant observation with preschool children as co-researchers in the study design. It examined how preschool children described and expressed their knowledge and understanding about their world as well as their place in it through their experiences in both concrete and virtual ways. The findings demonstrate that children’s world is without any boundaries spanning over the physical, spatial and virtual worlds. Children traverse these worlds as nomads forming multitude of relationships with family, pets, animals, nature, places, and material objects both far and near. Technology and media expand children’s reach to cross boundaries and connect to human, non-human, and other co-inhabitants of their worlds. Their world is a common world shared by all, open to all, in its current form and all is future imaginings.


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