Children’s systems telling and the story of a meatball’s social-ecological system : A narrative approach to systems thinking in early childhood education for sustainable development

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Stockholm Resilience Centre

Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to investigate how young children’s narration of an everyday object, the meatball, is a beneficial approach to systems thinking and if something emerges that could be useful in education for sustainable development in early childhood education. In a world of complexities, our role as participants in systems encompassing food, energy and waste is neglected in favor of drawing attention to individual events. Systems thinking is about understanding complexity, a key aspect of the resilience approach to sustainable development. Research shows valuable return-on-investments from early childhood education for sustainable development, but the field lack academic attention. The research method is case studies at pre-schools based on narrative inquiry. The study creates situations where children explore their own boundaries. Findings show that humans are largely missing from the children’s social-ecological system and a difference in the approach of acknowledging uncertainty vs. imaginary explanations to phenomena surrounding a meatball. It finds that zooming out from one familiar object is a simple way to introduce systems thinking in early childhood education and that narration is a useful approach to identify knowledge gaps.

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