Introduction: As humans we influence the climate system and our current emissions of greenhouse gases are higher than ever. Nearly two thirds of the greenhouse gases in the transport sector come from motor cars. Driving car is not only harmful for the environment, but it also contributes to health problems. Issues related to climate change and transport are part of a large challenge of sustainability. Children as future global citizens are the potential victims of these consequences. Raising awareness about the hazardous environmental issues does not ensure a change in human behavior or practice. Rather, alternative forms of education and learning are needed to develop such understandings, attitudes and capacities. As we develop our values, attitudes, behaviors and skills when we are very young, special attention needs to be given to include sustainability issues in early childhood education. However, knowledge is scarce in the field of preschool children’s understanding of transport use and its relation to environmental and sustainability issues.
Objectives: To explore preschool children’s understanding of transport use and its relation to environmental and sustainability issues, and investigate the sources of their understandings.
Methods: A pilot study was conducted with eight children, aged 5-6, in a preschool in Sweden in 2014. Semi-structured questions with colored illustrations of a bus, a car, a bi-cycle and a child walking to school with an adult were used. The interviews were audio recorded. The five levels of Biggs and Collis’ SOLO (Structure of the Observed Leaning Outcomes) taxonomy was used to organize, categorize and analyze the responses.
Results: All children mentioned that walking to preschool is best for the environment when someone lives close to the school. Some children could tell that going by bus is better than going by car, but the reason was unknown to them. Thus, they could connect single to multiple aspects of various modes of transport, but relationships between these connections or their effects on the environment were missing. One child responded at a relational level by telling that walking is good for health and going by car is bad for the nature. Another child responded at an extended level by mentioning that driving car is bad for health and for the environment, while walking is good for health, because one gets fresh air. Two children mentioned that it is not enjoyable to travel by bus during winter when it is freezing cold and one has to wait for the bus. Guardians and teachers were mentioned as the main sources of children’s understandings of transport and the environment.
Conclusion: The findings indicate that children understand different modes of transport and their relation to environmental issues and health. However, their levels of understanding vary. The findings also suggest that both preschool teachers and guardians play instrumental roles in children’s understandings of sustainability issues and can help them grow as agents of change.
climate change, environmental education, preschool children, sustainability, transport
The 8th World Environmental Education Congress, Planet and People-how can they develop together? Gothenburg June 29-July 2, 2015, Sweden