In late August SUSTE researchers Lili-Ann Wolff, Hannah Kaihovirta and Ann-Christin Furu participated in the 29th annual EECERA conference in Thessaloniki, Greece. Here is a glimpse from it!
EECERA is short for European Early Childhood Education Research association and the annual conference is the largest European conference on matters related to learning in the early years. With more than 900 delegates it provides an excellent arena for scholars, researchers, practitioners as well as policy makers to meet up and share knowledge on ECEC. The conference attracts not only European delegates, but also researchers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US.
On the first day of the conference, SUSTE researchers Ann-Christin Furu and Lily-Ann Wolff took part in the inaguation of a brand new EECERA Special Interest Group: the SIG on Sustainability in Early Childhood. The SIG group is the result of an initiative from Ann-Christin together with professor Eva Ärlemalm-Hagsér from Mälardalen University in Sweden and PhD Sue Elliot from University of New England in Australia. The first meeting gathered some 15 participants and during the following days more than 30 researchers from three continents (Europe, Australia, and America) registered as members of the new SIG group. The group aims strengthen research and debate around sustainability issues in the early years and it can hopefully contribute to a sustainable future for children across the globe.
Research from the SUSTE project was presented in three separate sessions during the conference, which gave the project good visibility and created nice opportunities for networking in various contexts.
Hannah Kaihovirta presented the paper Desires of the other. Multimodality and aesthetics in sustainability education (co-authored with Furu) in a session on children´s agency, citizenship and sustainability.
Lili-Ann Wolff presented the paper Sustainability education in Finnish early childhood Teacher Education. Why does policy fail? (co-authored with Furu) in a symposium called “Where is education for sustainable development in early childhood teacher education? Perspectives from Australia, Norway and Finland.”
Ann-Christin Furu presented the paper Developing sustainability education in Finnish ECEC – merging bits and pieces (co-authored with Kaihovirta and Wolff) in a session where focus was on issues of sustainability in ECEC.
All three papers will be turned into scientific articles during late 2019 and published in international journals. The findings will also be integrated in both teacher education and professional development projects in Finnish ECEC.
An important aspect of every conference are the social events. Coffee breaks, lunches and dinners provide excellent opportunities for informal discussions and networking. During the conference SUSTE researchers connected with researchers from all over Europe as well as from Australia and America. Some of these new acquaintances will surely lead to future collaborations and exchanges.
From a sustainable stories-perspective, the EECERA conference was hence a valuable give and take.
The multiple and multilayered stories of sustainability (and perhaps un-sustainability) unfolded during the conference, both verbally, visually, and in terms of artifacts and practice were thought provoking. It is obvious that the path to sustainability is still both long and demanding and it seems that countries like Finland has both a special responsibility and possibility to raise discussion about these matters and to take a leading role in the development of sustainability education in the early years. With respect to the urgency and magnitude of the sustainability challenges, new and fruitful approaches has to been explored. In this sense, the core idea of SUSTE – to engage children and adults in multimodal storytelling and sustainability – and the intention to create a “pedagogy of hope and action” is both relevant and timely.
Last, but not least, the SUSTE researchers wants to direct a warm thank you to Svenska Kulturfonden, which made it possible to attend the conference!