Live Play Learn at glance

Live Play Learn is a research project running from 2020 to 2022 at the Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies, Åbo Akademi University in Finland. The project is conducted in collaboration with the ECEC teacher education programme and the Centre for Life-long Learning.

Children are among those who suffer most from the multiple sustainability challenges of the Anthropocene. In this project, we seek to explore fruitful ways of supporting children´s resilience i.e. their capacities to handle challenges and adversities in life in a constructive manner. We adopt the social ecological view of resilience as defined by Ungar (2011) and Masten and Barnes (2018). Thus, resilience is seen not as an individual capacity, but as relational and contextual.

More specifically, the project aims to understand how children´s capacity to lead a sustainable life can be promoted by sustainability education. We study how sustainability issues in ECEC can be addressed by the way of enhancing nature contact and nature play as well as through adopting holistic and arts-based approaches to learning in the early years. We also aim to develop the understanding of how the organizational culture of ECEC teams and settings can contribute to sustainability.

Relational ontology (following the writings of Martin Buber) and deep ecology (based upon the legacy of Arne Naess) provide philosphical foundations for the project. Further, the understanding of human and non-human life as deeply entagled (Weldemariam & Wals, 2020) and of our civilization as in need of deep transformation in order to meet the present challenges (Taylor, 2017; Wals, 2017) serve as conceptual frameworks. Methodologically we embrace narrative approaches to researching the lived experiences of children and adults in ECEC.

The project is lead by EdD Ann-Christin Furu who has a background in researching sustainability in ECEC from a relational perspective. Our empirical research is conducted in close collaboration with practitioners in ECEC settings in the Southern and Western parts of Finland. Practitioners and students at the bachelor and master programmes at Åbo Akademi University are invited as co-learners in workshops, case studies, and in participatory research. Thereby, the project seeks to create a platform for the promotion of sustainability work in Finnish ECEC.



Masten, A.S. & Barnes, A.J. (2018). Resilience in Children: Developmental Perspectives.  Children, https://doi:10.3390/children5070098.

Taylor, A. (2017). Beyond stewardship: Common world pedagogies for the Anthropocene. Environ Educ Res, 23, 1448-1461.

Ungar, M. (2011). The social ecology of resilience: Addressing contextual and cultural ambiguity of a nascent construct. The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81(1): 1–17.

Wals, A. (2017). Sustainability by default: Co-creating care and relationality through early childhood education. IJEC, 49, 155-164.

Weldemariam, K. & Wals, A. (2020). From autonomous child to a child entangled within an agentic world. Inplications for early childhood Education for sustainability. In S. Elliott, E. Ärlemalm-Hagsér & J. Davis (Eds.) Researching early Childhood Education for Sustainability. Challenging Assumptions and Orthodoxies. London: Routledge.