Place and young children: A response to calls for place consideration in Early Childhood

Ms Marion Sturges1
1Western Sydney University, Bankstown, Australia


I explore young children, the socio-aspects of participation and place in two Australian early childhood centres. In doing this, I respond to Mannion’s (2007) call, over a decade ago, for a shift in educational policy, practice and research to move place and space from part of the background to “centre-stage” (p. 406).
The methodology is located within the critical paradigm and uses two research methods: critical ethnography and child focused participatory research workshops. I explore the encounters between adult educators and children in two preschools and the role educators played in supporting a participatory and place pedagogy. There is a particular focus on the ways in which educators are complicit in enabling or impeding children’s place opportunities and how children subvert educator’s regulatory practices to find spaces and places to engage in their own play.

I explore this from three perspectives – place, children and educators. ‘Place,’ locates the study, by describing the role the place plays as its own character always influencing children’s participation. I engage with Tuck & McKenzie’s (2015) characteristics of place-materiality, physical characteristics and historical connections, as factors in how the children and educators influence a place, by being with and in it and how the place shapes children’s experience and opportunities for participation. As children share their stories of being a learner, being in place and engaging with educators, recurring themes around what matters to them are examined in an unfurling of their entangled lives in the centre. ‘Educators’ enter the storyline and it is through educators grappling with participation, using Gruenewald’s (2003) dimensions of place, I explore how power, ideologies and the pedagogical decisions of the educators influence the place. In exploring the preschools from these perspectives, opportunities for new ways of theorising deeply with children’s place relations are identified.

I have worked in the Australian education system for close to three decades. Following on from 18 years of classroom and specialist teaching experience, I have 14 years’ experience working as an academic at Western Sydney University My current role includes working with preservice and post graduate educators in the area of inclusive education. This role involves coordinating and lecturing large cohorts of preservice education students and a team of sessional staff members.

I have held crucial leadership roles within the School of Education including
 Master of Inclusive Education Academic Course Advisor (2018-2019)
 Summer Academic Course Advisor (2013-2019)
 Primary Academic Course advisor (Acting 2015)
 Bachelor of Education (B-12) Academic Course Advisor (2012)

My research interests include; participation, place, inclusion and preservice education. Developing my research capacity has also been important to me. Despite a heavy teaching and leadership load, I have been consistently working towards completing my PhD which explores children’s participatory rights and place pedagogy. I have published three authored refereed journal/conference papers with nineteen citations (Google scholar, 9/12/19). I have presented at a number of educational conferences, including four International venues (China, Indonesia, Italy and England) and within Australia outlining my pedagogical and research practices. In July 2018 I was the invited keynote presenter at the “Bilingual International Conference, Ningbo, China:2018 The International Conference on Excellence in Primary Teacher Education: Perspectives of Key Competencies.” My presentation was titled: Exploring primary school education in an Australian context.

About OEA and Outdoors NSW

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