Young children’s perceptions of environmental sustainability: a Maltese perspective
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This thesis is located in the emerging field of early childhood education for sustainability and has particular focus on Malta. It sought to gather insights into young children’s perceptions of environmental sustainability, and the influences that shaped these perceptions, particularly in the context of the family and the school. Twelve Maltese children, aged between 3 and 7 years, ten parents, five teachers and a head teacher participated in this study, which was conducted in two Maltese State schools and one household. Designed within interpretive methodology, this study adopted a qualitative multiple case study approach. It was guided by cognitive theory, socio-cultural theory, bio-ecological theory of human development, the “new sociology of childhood” and related policy initiatives like the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and theories of inter-generational influence. Data were generated through observations; conversational interviews with children; their interpretations of photographs; and their drawings and interpretation of them. Semi-structured interviews with parents, teachers and head teacher, a researcher’s journal and document analysis were used to triangulate the data. Manual data analysis produced a plethora of rich and in-depth data. The main findings reveal three themes which reveal children’s perceptions of the environment; their perceptions of environmental sustainability; and the contextual influences upon these perceptions. Children’s perceptions of environmental sustainability started at an early age; were influenced by context; and were socially and culturally constructed. Children were able to discuss issues related to environmental sustainability at a basic level by drawing on personal experience. Overall, the study indicates that young children possess some knowledge of environmental sustainability and can talk about it. This thesis concludes by considering the implications of the study for educators, researchers, curriculum and policy-makers; and by outlining several avenues for future research.