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Nature by Default in Early Childhood Education for Sustainability

  • Sue Elliott (a1) and Tracy Young (a2)


This essay critiques the relevance of historical antecedents about children's play in nature and how these historical and political mechanisms create cultural rovoked by Taylor's (2013) exploration of the pervasive influence of romanticised images of innocent children in nature and our own experiences of never-ending ‘nice’ stories about young children in nature, here we trouble how nature experiences may or may not preclude children's meaningful and agentic participation in sustainability. We question is engagement with nature, a tangible and easily accessible approach in early childhood education (ECE) promoting a ‘nature by default paradigm’ and potentially thwarting a fuller transformative engagement with sustainability. Thus, we argue the case for shifting our frames beyond idealised romanticised notions and human–nature dualisms to a ‘common worlds’ (Haraway, 2008; Latour, 2004; Taylor, 2013) frame guided by collectivist understandings within connective life worlds. Such a shift requires a significant recasting of ethical human–nature understandings and relationships in ECE.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Sue Elliott, University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351, Australia. Email:


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Australian Journal of Environmental Education
  • ISSN: 0814-0626
  • EISSN: 2049-775X
  • URL: /core/journals/australian-journal-of-environmental-education
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