QECSN was formed between 1995 and 2004 coordinated by Julie Davis and Noeleen Rowntree. 2008 QECEEN relaunched and renamed in summer 2008.
There was discussion regarding a “top down” or “bottom up” approach to the topic of educating children about sustainable living. It was suggested that both were probably necessary because we probably can’t wait for the latter to happen and the former will give a focus and a support.
First, the participants strongly agreed that the notion of the child embedded in the vision of sustainable development is that as portrayed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – the child as a right holder, who is an active participant and has his or her contribution to make to society’s present and future, and not an invisible, marginal worthless being. In education for sustainable development, young children’s perspectives and meanings are listened to, considered and shape the content and approaches of learning.
Second, early childhood education for sustainability is much more than environmental education. It should be broader than simply taking children outdoors to discover the beauty of nature and speaking about the natural environment. It must include opportunities for children to engage in intellectual dialogue regarding sustainability, and in concrete actions in favour of the environment. In addition, it should incorporate learning to be compassionate and respect differences, equality and fairness as the world is increasingly interdependent and inter-connected. It was suggested that, instead of talking about the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic), one should refer to the 7Rs for education for sustainable development (reduce, reuse, recycle, respect, repair, reflect and refuse). Encouraging scientific and technological literacy was also pointed out as a component to be included.
Third, diversity was considered a key issue in thinking about early childhood education that contributes to sustainability
In the globalizing world where different nationalities and ethnicities increasingly live side by side, learning to respect and appreciate diversity should begin early – through parents, community members, and early childhood programmes.
Early education should help children acquire an identity firmly grounded in a culture closest to them, while developing a sense of themselves as world citizens.
Fourth, sustainable development requires people to be able to think critically about things taken for granted, and to find creative solutions and alternatives to unsustainable habits and practices, which tend to dominate at present. The work in the early years should not be about teaching how to read and write early and formally. Young children can be encouraged to question over-consumption through discussions about familiar food products, clothes, toys and advertisements. Such discussions could be expanded to incorporate considerations about their counterparts in less materially rich circumstances, and stimulate conversations about solidarity and co-operation.”