Young children’s imagination in science education and education for sustainability

Caiman, C., & Lundegård, I.
Cultural Studies of Science Education, 1-19.


Overall, the authors seek to gain insight into children's meaning-making and learning related to sustainability, including animal survival. The purpose of this study is to examine how children's imagination is expressed when children invent, anticipate and explore a problem that is important to them. More specifically, the study examines how children's imaginations emerge and develop during and immediately after educational activities related to issues regarding animal survival, and what previous experiences children use when coming up with imaginative solutions to animal welfare.


The analyses in the study show that children's imagination is of great significance in the process of finding different solutions to issues relating to sustainability, including animal survival. In the first of the two illustrative examples, the authors show how several imaginative blends emerge in how children transfer their previous experiences, such as the children's suggestions on how to effectively improve animals' hunting skills with a "tongue with super-glue" or "a poison tongue that can be changed into a five-arrowed tongue". The children hereby use their previous experiences with gluing and hunting with arrows as well as their knowledge of animal tongues to resolve a problem regarding animals' hunting skills. In the second illustrative example, the authors show how the children's previous experiences continuously transform into new imaginative blends. An example of this is the children's suggestion on how frogs and other animals can avoid being run over when crossing a busy road. The authors find that the children use their previous experiences with prams (for frogs to transport their offspring), tunnels (which can be used by small animals) and trampolines (which both small and larger animals can use when crossing the road).

The analysis shows that what originally began as playful nonsense among the children later developed into imaginative problem-solving that made sense to the children. By virtue of their previous experiences, the children created new imaginative solutions by allowing new imaginative blends to come into existence. According to the authors, practicing an open, listening approach and encouraging children to explore their concerns and questions related to sustainability issues more thoroughly without incautious recommendations or suggestions from adults are vital in order to allow the process of imagination to flourish.


The data collection builds on video observations from a department in one preschool. The department consisted of 20 children, two preschool teachers and one assistant. The data material consists of 9.5 hours of videotape, photos of the children's work, pedagogical documentation and the children's drawings. Two sequences were analysed on the basis of transcriptions of the videotape and the children's drawings. According to the authors, these sequences were unique, illustrative examples of children's imagination as an outcome (a finished drawing) and an imaginative, cooperative process in a preschool context. Practical Epistemology Analysis and analytical concepts such as "transaction" and "blending" were used in the analysis.



Caiman, C., & Lundegård, I. (2017). Young children’s imagination in science education and education for sustainability. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 1-19. DOI 10.1007/s11422-017-9811-7