Caring for people and the planet: preschool children’s knowledge and practices of sustainability

Borg, F.
Doctoral dissertation. Umeå: Umeå University.


The overall purpose of this dissertation is to examine children's self-reported knowledge and skills within sustainability. The author explores whether there is a correlation between children's knowledge and skills with regard to sustainability and various conditions in preschool and at home. Among other things, the dissertation examines the effect of eco-certification in preschools. Moreover, the children's perceived sources of knowledge are included in the analysis.



The results show that many of the children have acquired knowledge about economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainability. They have knowledge about how to use money, about how to separate different recyclable items at home and at preschool, and about the impact of different modes of transport on the environment and people’s lives. The children also have ideas about the lives of other children in the world and what it means to share resources with other people.

The analysis shows a positive correlation between children's sustainability-related knowledge and skills and the involvement of teachers and guardians in sustainability-related discussions and activities. The analysis finds no statistically significant differences between eco-certified and non-eco-certified preschools in terms of children’s knowledge and skills regarding sustainability. The children report parents/guardians as the main sources of their knowledge along with teachers and media. Finally, several children say that their knowledge about sustainability comes from themselves.


The author collected both qualitative and quantitative data from 12 preschools (förskolor) in six municipalities. Six of the participating preschools were eco-certified preschools. To gain insight into the children's knowledge and skills within sustainability, the author conducted interviews with 53 children aged 5-6 years in their last year of preschool. Moreover, the data material consists of questionnaire responses from 74 preschool teachers and 89 guardians/parents (vårdnadshavare). Finally, seven directors (förskolechefer) were interviewed. The qualitative data was processed using content analysis and SOLO Taxonomy to define various levels in the children's arguments regarding sustainability. The quantitative part of the study consisted of multivariate statistics analysis.


Borg, F. (2017). Caring for people and the planet: preschool children’s knowledge and practices of sustainability. Doctoral dissertation. Umeå: Umeå University.


Financed by

Dissertation from Umeå University in collaboration with Dalarna University.