Background/Context: There are recent trends of bringing highly defined, teacher-directed pedagogies into early-childhood contexts in Australia, the United States. and other Western contexts. While the justification for these moves is often the improvement of outcomes for young children, they ignore the large body of research that attests to the social, emotional, and academic benefits of children having time to play and to experience educational programs founded in play-based pedagogies.
Focus of the study: In this study, we were interested in considering how young children name their worlds in education contexts in which literacies and sustainability education are brought together as educational concepts. This paper reports on the playing of one game over time and considers the opportunities that were created by the playing of the game and the competence of the young children in using the game to collaborate, to learn literacy, and to make spaces for other everyday business together.
Setting: The fieldwork which produced the data for this paper involved two researchers attending a suburban Australian early-childhood education context regularly for one year.
Participants: The children and educators of the center were engaged in an approved program, in the year before school starts within Australian requirements. Therefore the children ranged in age from 3 to 5 years.
Research design: This paper reports on a qualitative study of one class of young children and their educators. Data were collected during fieldwork visits over a period of one year. We observed the children’s engagement in outdoor play, collecting data in the form of short video recordings, still images, field notes, and texts produced by the children.
Conclusions: Our analysis provides evidence that children can demonstrate competent understandings of how language, bodies, movement, and space position themselves and others. The children involved competently collaborated and used language and texts to get along and to sustain a game over many months. They were only able to achieve this because they were given space to play, to own and govern spaces of play, and to problem-solve together as issues arose. The opportunity to direct themselves and their friends was vital as they developed respectful language and literacy practices.