As an early childhood educator, I know that I cannot separate a young child’s education from the act of caring. Caring about children is the reason I made early childhood education my career, and I regularly find myself thinking about what caring, and particularly caring for children, really means. I am inspired by María Puig de la Bellacasa (2017), who invites us to ask not only for whom do we care, “but also ‘Who cares?’ ‘What for?’ ‘Why do we care?’ and mostly ‘How to care?’” (p. 61, italics in original). Asking such questions in early childhood spaces is important because care is often a taken-for-granted concept primarily understood through Euro-Western traditions as a universal principle that is unproblematic, apolitical, and understood by all (Hodgins et al., 2019). For Puig de la Bellacasa, care is an act not limited to humans but something that circulates through and in relation to the natural world. This view of care is extremely important for 21st-century education.
Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw and Affrica Taylor (2015) recognize that critical changes in the earth’s systems are primarily human induced and carry significant ethical implications for early childhood pedagogies. An ethics of care for people, the planet, and the future is an aspect of care found in most traditional societies, and these ethics also form the foundation of a permaculture design model, a model that I am greatly inspired by. Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren coined the term permaculture and co- originated permaculture design principles to address long-term cultural and biological survival in response to modern-day social and ecological problems. In Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, Holmgren (2002) proposes that the more power humans gain, the more critical it becomes to ground worldly relations in an ethical approach. Connecting permaculture with her notions of care, Puig de la Bellacasa (2017) invites us “to envision alterbiopolitics as an ethics of collective empowerment that puts caring at the heart of the search for everyday struggles for hopeful flourishing of all beings, of bios understood as more than human community” (p. 22, italics in original).
Permaculture design is a collective and creative process through which it takes great care to build something new. So too does my work as a pedagogist. Through collaborative dialogue and experimentation, I support educators and children to coconstruct curriculum grounded in a common worlds framework, wherein we might learn to inhabit the world in much-needed reimagined ways of living well together (Common Worlds Research Collective, 2020; Hodgins et al., 2019; Pacini-Ketchabaw & Taylor, 2015). My hope is to support the necessary shifts in education, “from fostering human environmental stewardship to participating in more-than-human collective recuperative ethics [and] from learning how to better manage, control or save the world to learning how to become with the world” (Common Worlds Research Collective, 2020, p. 10, italics in original).
Common Worlds Research Collective. (2020). Learning to become with the world: Education for future survival. Paper commissioned for UNESCO Futures of Education initiative. https://en.unesco.org/futuresofeducation/news/just-published-learning-become-world-education- future-survival
Hodgins, B. D., Yazbeck, S., & Wapenaar, K. (2019). Enacting twenty first-century early childhood education: Curriculum as caring. In R. Langford (Ed.), Theorizing feminist ethics of care in early childhood practice: Possibilities and dangers (pp. 203–225). Bloomsbury.
Holmgren, D. (2002). Permaculture: Principles and pathways beyond sustainability. Holmgren Design Services.
Pacini-Ketchabaw, V., & Taylor, A. (2015). Unsettling pedagogies through common world encounters: Grappling with (post)colonial legacies in Canadian forests and Australian bushlands. In V. Pacini- Ketchabaw & A. Taylor (Eds.) Unsettling the colonial places and spaces of early childhood education (pp. 43–62). Routledge.
Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2017). Matters of care: Speculative ethics in more than human worlds. University of Minnesota Press.
Sunshine Coast Child Care Resource and Referral
Janet has been working in the field of early childhood education for three decades and holds an MEd in Early Childhood Education from the University of British Columbia. She brings a life-long passion for supporting the well-being of young children within a thriving world and her practice embraces ethical considerations of care and collective empowerment for the flourishment of all beings.