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Young children's spirituality: A focus on engaging with nature.


Holistic approaches are premised on nurturing the 'whole child' through affordances for children to develop across the cognitive, social, emotional, physical, creative, moral and spiritual capacities of the human person (Department for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), 2009, p. 14). Attending to the spiritual capacity of young children is considered an essential component of a holistic approach to education and care in the early years (Adams, Bull & Maynes, 2016). Despite pressure on educators to focus on children's cognitive development (Eaude, 2016), research has brought to light the inter-relatability of development, emphasising the need for a more holistic and integrated approach to learning in the early years (Cameron, 2009); that is, one that includes children's spirituality. Furthermore, Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (EYLF) (DEEWR, 2009) is the mandated early years' framework in Australia that requires educators working with children aged from birth to five years to attend to children's spirituality as a component of their holistic development. One of the five outcomes in the EYLF (DEEWR, 2009) tasks educators with promoting children's connectedness with and contribution to the world, and this includes engagement with natural environments. Existing literature affirms the connection between engagement with natural environments and experiences of spirituality (Nah & Waller, 2015) which is the focus of this paper.

In this paper I present findings that have emanated from a broader qualitative investigation to discover educators' understandings of spirituality and the practices they employed (both intentionally and incidentally) to promote children's spirituality. Specifically, findings are presented pertaining to educators' understandings and practices about children's relationality with nature as characteristic of children's spiritual experience and expression. This is considered in light of educators' requirements to attend to children's spirituality and to meet Learning Outcome 2 (DEEWR, 2009).

Research context

The EYLF (DEEWR, 2009) is embedded within the legislated National Quality Standard (NQS) (Council of Australian Government, 2009) and, specifically, Quality Area 1: Education Program and Practice. The EYLF (DEEWR, 2009) is implemented across birth to age 5 settings and outlines the principles, practices and learning outcomes for working with children in this age range. It is the key guide for practice that educators are required to implement; the EYLF addresses quality practice in the early years and explicitly states that educators are to attend to the spiritual aspect of children's lives and learning (DEEWR, 2009, p. 14). The EYLF (DEEWR, 2009) is therefore a pivotal document within the context of this research. As Grajczonek (2012, p. 159) pointed out, 'The Early Years Learning Framework document's explicit inclusion of the spiritual is undoubtedly significant.' However, how educators might promote children's spirituality is not clearly articulated (Grajczonek, 2012).

Furthermore, despite the EYLF stating that educators are to attend to the spiritual aspect of children's lives and learning (DEEWR, 2009, p. 14), Learning Outcome 2 within the EYLF (DEEWR, 2009, p. 25), which states that children are connected with and contribute to their world, makes no explicit link to children's spirituality. Existing research advocates that a characteristic of spirituality is experiencing and expressing a sense of connectedness with the natural world (Harris, 2016; Louv, 2012). Learning Outcome 2 comprises four elements, one of which states 'children become socially responsible and show respect for the environment' (DEEWR, 2009, p. 29). Suggestions for how educators could promote learning within this element Learning Outcome 2 include,
providing children with natural materials and play spaces; showing
consideration for children's connectedness to the land and modelling
respect for the environment; and, embedding sustainability practices in
daily routines and looking for opportunities to discuss the
inter-connectedness of life and the natural world (DEEWR, 2009, p. 29).

Educators are guided to include these elements to assist children in achieving Learning Outcome 2. However, no explicit link is made in the document to guide educators in their understandings of the connections between Learning Outcome 2 and children's spirituality.

Young children's spirituality: The 'What' and the 'How'

It is widely acknowledged within the literature that arriving at one definition of spirituality is a complex task fraught with ontological difficulties (for example in describing spirituality) and epistemological difficulties (such as contradictions regarding the origins and nature of the phenomenon) (Adams et al., 2016). A further difficulty exists due to the limited number of empirical studies that have investigated spirituality within early childhood (Giesenberg, 2007; Sifers, Warren & Jackson, 2012) and the lack of distinction between spirituality and religion existing in the seminal works on which subsequent literature has been built (Coles, 1990; Hay with Nye, 1998; Robinson, 1983). Despite difficulties in defining spirituality, characteristics are used rather than a definition, and these generally agree that spirituality is manifest in humanity. Spirituality is recognised as a human capacity residing alongside the cognitive, physical, social-emotional and creative ones (Miller, 2015); and, it is an 'innate human trait that is implicit in the relational dimension of Being' (De Souza, 2016a, p. 84). Contemporary research suggests spirituality is an essential element of the human condition and an entity separate to religion (De Souza, 2016b).

Similarly, spirituality is described as being experienced and expressed in a variety of ways. The relational focus of spirituality discussed by De Souza (2016a) can manifest as relationship with the self, with others, with the world or for some, with a transcendent. Spirituality can also be viewed as a capacity that requires awakening in order to develop (Champagne, 2008; Harris, 2013; King, 2013) and as a construct that crosses cultural boundaries (Harris, 2016). Literature connects the construct of spirituality with the development of well-being (De Souza, 2016a; Howell, Passmore & Buro, 2013), imagination and creativity (King, 2008), identity (MacDonald, 2009; Sifers et al., 2012), belonging (Eaude, 2003) and the sense of meaning and purpose an individual has in their life (Benson, Scales, Syvertsen & Roehlk-epartain, 2012). The notion of 'meaning making' is drawn on by Gibson (2014, p. 521) who explains the complexity of the term spirituality in that people's 'meaning making' is 'shaped by personal agency interwoven with social, cultural, economic and, in many cases, religious life experiences'.

In relation to the role of others in nurturing spirituality, Champagne (2008) emphasises from her empirical work, the important role of adults in providing opportunities for children to participate actively in the 'collective journey of spiritual interpretation' (Champagne, 2008, p. 261). In addition, Champagne (2008) states that adults must listen to the richness and depth that childhood experiences of spirituality can offer. Similarly, Harris (2013, p. 14) states 'to awaken spiritually, children and young people need examples and guidance' suggesting the need for adults, and in the context of this research, educators, to be knowledgeable and skilful in how to attend to children's spiritual capacities.

Spirituality: Relationality with the environment

The relational focus of spirituality is a recurring theme in the literature (Adams et al., 2016; Champagne, 2008; Harris, 2016; Hay with Nye, 2006). Relational spirituality is articulated as 'an awareness or consciousness of the surrounding world, a sense of compassion and love towards this world and anything in it shown through wonder and through activities and relationships with peers and significant adults in the child's life' (Giesenberg, 2007, p. 270).

Relationality with the environment, as one characteristic of spirituality is described in the scholarly work of Bone (2008, p. 344) who suggests that spirituality is 'a means of connecting people to all things, to nature and the universe'. Spirituality is described as a sense of connectedness to the self (I-Self), to others (I-Other), to the environment (I-World) and for some people to a transcendent (I-God) (Adams et al., 2016; Hay with Nye, 2006). The connection between an individual and the natural world is referred to as an 'I-World' relationship (Hay with Nye, 1998). The I-World relationship can be viewed as vertical or horizontal in the natural world. Vertical dimensions are described as the connection an individual feels to their past and future, for example the way a person may feel responsible for the future of the planet for the next generation. Horizontal dimensions refer to whether individuals perceive a need to act on behalf of their environment (Skamp, 1991). The sense of 'I-World' connectedness is explained by De Souza (2016a, p. 123) in her discussion on recognising more complementarity of the dimensions, 'a starting point would be to begin by recognising the child is a multidimensional being... encased in the physical body which allows the individual child to engage, mediate and interact with the world around them'.

Empirical work, whilst limited, supports the 'I-World' relationship. A study that investigated early childhood educators' perspectives of spiritual development of young children within the Jewish faith found that participants regularly connected children's nature experiences as spiritual (Schein, 2013). This research by Schein (2013) identified connectedness to the environment as being able to enhance children's spirituality. In addition, an investigation into adolescents' connection to nature, as a component of spirituality, affirmed that nature connectedness provides people with 'feelings and experiences of self-transcendence... and continuity in an unstable world, affiliating with nature can enhance our sense of meaning in life, and ultimately lead to increased happiness and well-being' (Howell et al., 2013, p. 1683). From a cultural perspective, it is acknowledged that connectedness to the natural world is particularly significant to Australia's Indigenous peoples. Literature espouses that Australia's Indigenous culture is characterised by a land-based spirituality (Baskin, 2016) and feeling connected to the world is a key component of Indigenous identity and belonging. The SAGE Handbook of Outdoor Play and Learning (Waller et al., 2017) highlights the significance of the natural world to Indigenous spirituality, stating, 'there is no division between human life and other forms of life in the natural world; there has always been and will always continue to be a deep and mutual connection' (Lee-Hammond, 2017, p. 321). Indigenous spirituality lies beyond the scope of this paper, although it is recognised that the 'I-World' relationship, from an Indigenous cultural perspective, is a relationship that transcends the experience of the individual, to incorporate collective and relational understandings of spirituality (Dylan & Smallboy, 2016).

Young children's spiritual expression

Creativity, imagination, wonder and awe are described in the literature as ways in which young children may experience and express spirituality (Adams, 2009; Harris, 2016; King, 2008). It is acknowledged that these experiences and expressions of creativity or wonder are not synonymous with spirituality, rather, it is that they offer the potential for children's spiritual voices to be expressed and nurtured (Adams, 2009). In relation to very young children, empirical research specifically emphasises that spirituality can be expressed through wonder and awe. Ratcliff and May's (2004) investigation with children aged 3 to 4 years provides a useful description of the way in which spirituality can be communicated:
It is a craving deep within for transcendence and meaning. It surfaces
from time to time as awe and wonder, perhaps in response to a red,
purple, and orange sky, leaving adults and children amazed at the
progression of colours and shades, wondering about the source of sky
and sun, or possible meaning to such an incredible beautiful event...
Children are just as much spiritual beings as the adults in their
lives. From the very beginning of life, infants seem to live a life of
awe and wonder (Ratcliff & May, 2004, p. 7).

As articulated within Ratcliff and May's (2004) description, the impetus for wonder and awe for young children is often nature. Childhood wonder is articulated by Hart (2003) as core to children's developing understanding of the world and core to their sense of spiritual identity.

The nature play movement

The current international nature play movement heightens the context for this research and creates opportunities for exploring young children's spirituality. The nature play movement promotes opportunities for young children to engage with the natural world in response to findings that suggest a decline in this particular play experience (Mainella, Agate & Clark, 2011). The international nature play movement refers to the affordance of unstructured play in natural settings (Ernst, 2012). The value of outdoor play experiences for young children is supported by neuroscience that identifies how brain development can be positively impacted by this particular type of play (Rushton, Juola-Rushton & Larkin, 2010). Research advocates the importance of children experiencing a sense of connection with nature as a means of developing their own identity and feelings of belonging (Lee-Hammond, 2017). Research suggests benefits of outdoor play experiences across children's holistic development, specifically advocating benefits to children's physical, social and emotional and cognitive capacities (Robinson et al., 2018). In the context of this research, spiritual gains are also suggested to be a benefit of engagement with the natural world. Wilson (1994) suggests that nature play can foster children's sense of wonder, nurture their creativity and appreciation of beauty, all of which can be connected to children's innate spirituality. As the value of nature play is understood, services that cater for children have become increasingly conscious of the need to provide nature-based play experiences.

Research design

A qualitative research design underpinned by a social constructivist theoretical perspective was employed for this investigation into educators' practices for promoting children's spirituality in the context of religious childcare centres. Within this theoretical perspective, a phenomenological and interpretivist paradigm was selected. Further, an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was employed as a specific form of phenomenological approach (Smith, 2008; Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2009). As the broader research investigation focused on the understandings of spirituality held by the educators as well as the practices they employed to promote children's spirituality, IPA was most suited. To ensure rich and detailed data, I employed three research methods: interview, observation and documentary data collection. However, for the scope and purpose of this paper, findings pertaining to the following two research methods and data sets only are reported:

* observations of practice--of lead educators within their room, on two occasions;

* semi-structured interview--with individual lead educators.

Participants and sampling

An exhaustive sampling technique was applied to select childcare centres that operated within a particular religious tradition in Western Australia. Within each of the centres, the room leader for each of the 3 to 4-year-old rooms formed the participant sample. The room leader was the most qualified educator in the room holding either a teaching qualification (a four-year university early childhood teaching degree) or working towards this qualification. In all cases the lead educator was responsible for the planning, documentation and implementation of the programme. A total of nine educators, across eight rooms, within the three centres were involved in this investigation.

Ethical considerations

All methods of data collection required formal consent from participants. The study obtained ethical approval through a tertiary institution and through the centre regulatory organisation that managed the three centres. Information letters were provided by the researcher and written consent was obtained from the principal/director of the centre and each individual educator. Participants in the research were provided with a pseudonym, such as Educator 1: Centre B, to de-identify the data. Families with children in the rooms where observations were carried out were also provided with an information letter and consent form. It was made clear in the information and consent letters that children were not spoken to as part of the investigation, but rather observed in regards to the educators' practices in the room. As such, the researcher, during the gathering of observational data, was not made aware of children's identities and all data collected was therefore anonymous. Children were not in any way identifiable in any of the data.

Data collection and instruments

The two data collection instruments pertinent to this paper include observation and semi-structured interview. Observations were taken over two full days in each room over a two month period. In most cases observations occurred between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. The purpose of the observational data was to determine the reality of educators' experiences; that is, to discover what actually occurred in the educators' rooms, including the indoor and outdoor environment, in relation to promoting children's spirituality, compared with data revealed from the interview phase. During the collection of observational data, as researcher I took a passive-presence approach and recorded observations on the physical context of the childcare centre rooms; details on the educators such as where they engaged with children and for what purpose; the verbal and non-verbal interactions between the educator and the children; and the pedagogical approach being used. Observations adopted an open-ended approach to enable 'the researcher to a deeper understanding of what is happening as it is embedded within the context in which it naturally occurs' (Kervin, Vialle, Herrington & Okely, 2006, p. 85). In employing the method of observations within a qualitative framework, it is recognised that the researcher cannot observe everything (Babbie, 2011) but rather record key circumstances and events. Observations were recorded on an observational template pre-formatted onto a Word document to enable the researcher to electronically record observations on a laptop.

A key consideration when gathering data in the form of interview was to ensure the interviewee felt at ease (Smith, 2008). Prior to the collection of interview data, as researcher I met informally with the educators several times. This promoted some familiarity between the researcher and educator and was perceived to contribute to educators' feeling at ease. Interviews in this investigation consisted of a number of prepared questions, thus followed a semi-structured format. However, as listening is a key component of the interview (Letts et al., 2007), I also made use of probing and clarifying questions where necessary. For example, the first interview question was composed as follows:

1. Can you describe for me an experience of your own, or something you have witnessed, or read, that you consider 'spiritual'?

Semi-structured interviews are typically in-depth, taking usually an hour and therefore providing opportunity for the participant to become engaged with the topic (Smith, 2008). Interviews with the nine lead educators in each of the rooms, at each of the three centres, occurred after the collection of observational data and lasted approximately one hour each.

Data analysis

IPA was the chosen tool for analysis of both the interview data and observational data. Using IPA for the analysis of the interview and observational data consisted of a process of thematic coding, as suggested by Smith (2008). Whilst each data set was analysed independently from the other, the process involved was the same. Transcripts and observational frameworks were read and re-read to flag initial codes emerging from the data as suggested by Bednall (2006). When analysing the observational data, I allowed codes to emerge from the data. To determine spiritual practices, the codes were checked against existing literature and research. A key feature of IPA is the use of bracketing during the data collection and analysis phases of the research. Bracketing was adopted as a tool to assist objectivity and consisted of a note-taking journal. Smith et al. (2009, p. 13) contribute to the understanding of bracketing by suggesting that 'we need to "bracket", or put to one side, the taken for granted world in order to concentrate on our perception of that world'. The bracketed information in the researcher journal was revisited in the final stages of analysis to ascertain any influence it may have had on the way initial codes and subsequent super-ordinate themes emerged. These codes were then grouped to form the emergent super-ordinate and subordinate themes, as suggested in Bednall's (2006) steps in IPA. As the process of analysis pertaining to each interview question and also to the observational data unfolded, numerous super-ordinate and sub-ordinate themes emerged from the findings of the broader investigation. The findings in this paper present those super-ordinate themes specifically related to the connection between spirituality and nature.

Understandings of, and practices in, spirituality

Findings are discussed in this section as they aligned with each data set. Findings from the interview data regarding educators' understandings of spirituality are discussed initially, followed by the findings from the observational data of educators' practices to promote children's spirituality. A discussion then follows on how children's connection with and contribution to their world, as stated in Learning Outcome 2 (DEEWR, 2009), relates to children's I-World experiences and expressions of spirituality.

The I-World relational nature of children's spirituality: Educators' interview understandings

Findings revealed that educators placed more emphasis on the 'I-World' relationship, as opposed to the 'I-Self or 'I-Other' relationship, when they responded to questions that related to their own personal spirituality. The interview questions pertaining to educators' personal understandings of spirituality included: Can you recall a spiritual experience or moment? and What do you understand by the term spirituality? For example, Educator I : Centre B responded about her own sense of spirituality with the following statement:
I find nature really spiritual. The times in my life where things have
been quite hard--Grandma has been very sick and things like that,
particularly the pelican, I've sort of clung to that. So my Grandma
had an aneurism and wasn't going to make it, and the day we found out
she was okay, there were pelicans all the way to the trip to the
hospital, and then it was really really bizarre, but my cousin's baby
actually passed away when it was born... and we went to the funeral
just the other week and there was a pelican flying in the sky...

Similarly, another participant commented on spirituality as being connected to her feeling at peace and these moments were associated with natural environments. Educator 5: Centre A explained, 'For me, being anywhere near water is a time when I feel very much at peace'.

Fewer responses made mention of the 1-World connection when asked about educators' knowledge of children's spirituality. The notion that children express spirituality through their connections with people and the natural environment was stated by four of the nine educators. Overall, the interview data revealed that the educators had some understanding that young children's spirituality encompassed a sense of relationality with the natural world. Educator 5: Centre A, for example, relayed the following observation in an attempt to describe her knowledge of the way children express spirituality:
Children express it in many different ways. Something that we do often,
actually, is go out into the senior school playground and we've got
these beautiful big trees there and the children call the one tree the
Grandpa Tree and they go out and hug it and feel the rough bark and
will lie down under his branches and look up. And I probably refer to
the tree as a 'he' as well so that the children have evolved from that
their idea of the Grandpa Tree. They really love it and it's very
special to them to be able to go out to it. So I think that's one way
that children show their spirituality.

The examples provided illustrate the lived experience of the participants as it pertained to their own knowledge of the 'I-World' aspect of relationality as a characteristic of spirituality. The sense of connection between an individual and the natural environment is acknowledged in existing literature that asserts sensitivity to nature as central to spirituality (Bone, 2008; Louv, 2012). In regards to children's spirituality, Harris (2016, p. 91) identifies that the provision of 'enriching outdoor space that offers opportunities to experience nature' is a means of nurturing children's spiritual awareness. Children are drawn to the sensory experience that the natural environment offers (Harris, 2016). Educator 5: Centre A's response indicated an understanding of the need to provide time for children to be engaged with, and to develop, a personal relationship with nature as a practice for promoting spirituality.

The I-World relational nature of children's spirituality: Observed educators' practices

Opportunities for outdoor play were made available at each of the centres. Children at Centre B were observed choosing to create an imaginative scenario whilst playing in the vegetable garden. Educator I : Centre B was observed adding to the children's imaginative scenario by suggesting materials to assist their storyline:
Four children are playing in the veggie garden. The veggie garden is
large and circular so children are able to walk around it and through
it. The children are pretending they are shopping from the herb garden.
They are pretending to be 'mums' and they talk with each other about
the food they will cook for their children. The educator is watching
and approaches the children: 'I think you might need a shopping
basket'. The children pause and look around. 'How about one of the
buckets from the sandpit' suggests the educator and the children run
off to grab a bucket each.

Similarly, in a separate observation:
There are four children playing outside in the sandpit by the water.
The educator is present and observing the children play. The children
are digging and building and making use of the water pump. The
children are speaking with each other about their task: 'I'm going to
build a tunnel for the truck' and another child adds, 'Then I'll put a
bridge over here for the truck'. Occasionally a child will take an
object from another child and the educator interjects: 'Remember we ask
our friends first... use your manners... why don't you share the
shovel'. The children listen to the educator and take on her advice
(Educator I : Centre B).

Observational data illustrated that despite educators providing responses to interview questions that indicated an understanding of the I-World characteristic of spirituality, this occurred rarely in practice. Through the interrogative process of IPA, it was evident that the facilitation of relationships, by the educator, was the main way in which children's spirituality was promoted, whether undertaken intentionally or incidentally by the educator. The observational data highlighted the central role of relationships within the educators' day. As illustrated in the observations taken of Educator 1 : Centre B, educators' practices focused on the creation and facilitation of relationships with others. Educators provided the context for engagement with the natural world, but were not observed facilitating or value-adding to children's experiences with more than human nature. In essence, observation findings indicated that educators emphasised relational experiences with human others rather than relational opportunities for children with the natural world.

Connecting young children's relationality with nature to Learning Outcome 2

The EYLF outlines that it is through children's earliest development and learning that identities, relationships and understandings of the world are constructed (DEEWR, 2009, p. 7). The EYLF (DEEWR, 2009) Learning Outcome 2 acknowledges the centrality of relationships to children's lives and learning and recognises that the development of a sense of connection with their world facilitates children's ability to be active contributors. Although Learning Outcome 2 describes children's 'world' as being both the indoors and outdoors, it also clearly articulates that this includes natural elements.

Likewise, spirituality is described in the literature as a relational capacity (Hay with Nye, 1998). Relational spirituality is described by Giesenberg (2007, p. 270) as 'an awareness or consciousness of the surrounding world, a sense of compassion and love towards this world and anything in it shown through wonder and through activities and relationships with peers and significant adults in the child's life'. Children's awareness, responsibility and care for their world is a necessary sense of connectedness for children to experience if they are to work towards the EYLF (DEEWR, 2009) Learning Outcome 2 and assists children to both connect with, and contribute to, their world. In employing IPA in this investigation, as the researcher I was able to gain deep insight into how educators interpreted their experiences and made sense of their world as it related to young children's spirituality. As a result of the inductive, interrogative process of IPA, findings from this investigation indicated that educators were knowledgeable about the importance of possessing an 'I-World' relationship, but required support to pedagogically action this knowledge in relation to children, particularly in attending to the EYLF (DEEWR, 2009) Learning Outcome 2.


The recommendations arising from this investigation are of importance to educators, children, policy and future research. In raising recommendations it is necessary to restate that findings presented in this paper emanated from a broader study and, as such, only those findings pertinent to the scope of this paper have been reported. Firstly, it is to be acknowledged that educators are faced with many challenges, such as the early childhood centre's physical environment that they inherit and the requirements placed on them by their centre management. Aside from the challenges present, a clear recommendation arising from the findings here is that educators require support to build their pedagogical practices and increase their knowledge to better understand children's spirituality and the ways in which children's spirituality could be promoted through engagement with nature. This support could be offered in the form of professional development. Doing so may result in positive outcomes for young children including opportunities to both experience and express their spirituality as a part of their 'whole' self. Recommendations for policy pertain to the need for DEEWR (or an appropriate body) to develop guidelines on how educators can address and attend to young children's spirituality that align with each of the Learning Outcomes of the EYLF (DEEWR, 2009). These guidelines could comprise practical strategies for educators to employ in their centres to facilitate children's spirituality. In particular, it is recommended that these guidelines address the link between children's relationality with nature as a component of their spirituality with the EYLF (DEEWR, 2009), specifically Learning Outcome 2: children are connected with, and contribute to, their world.

Although there is some literature on children's relationality with nature as a component of young children's spirituality, much more can be achieved in this area. Observational data in this research was collected over two days and this is only the beginning of understanding the practices of educators. Future research that includes more in-depth observation of educators' practices is needed. Specifically, research that determines ways in which educators in centres may be able to promote children's spirituality through engagement with nature would also further strengthen the development of policy.


Literature asserts that spirituality is a human capacity residing alongside the social, emotional, physical and cognitive capacities (De Souza, 2016b) and that, like these other capacities, must be nurtured if it is to develop (Bradford, 1999). Educators require what Adams (2009) terms a 'spiritual sensitivity' so that they are able to recognise and attend to children's spirituality. The EYLF (DEEWR, 2009) framework in Australia outlines the need for educators to attend to children's spiritual capacity as a component of their holistic development. In addition, the EYLF (DEEWR, 2009) guides educators with providing opportunities for children's connectedness with and contribution to the world; yet, there is limited connection between attending to children's spirituality and the promotion of this Learning Outcome. In addition, no clear practices are provided within the EYLF to assist educators in this task. Findings presented in this paper emanate from a broader investigation into educators' understandings of, and practices in, promoting children's spirituality. Findings clearly indicate that educators need support with pedagogical strategies to promote children's relationality with nature as a component of their spirituality. Educators were able to articulate the 'I-World' relationship within their own recollections and understandings of spirituality, but require assistance in the form of professional development and guidelines that support them in the task of recognising, and attending to, children's spirituality in nature.

Declaration of conflicting interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Christine Robinson

University of Notre Dame, Australia

Corresponding author:

Christine Robinson, School of Education, University of Notre Dame, 19 Mouat Street, Fremantle, Western Australia, 6160, Australia.


DOI: 10.1177/1836939119870907
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Title Annotation:Article
Author:Robinson, Christine
Publication:Australasian Journal of Early Childhood
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 1, 2019
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