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Image: Karin Sporre

Children, sustainability and hope

Research project Questions about sustainability ecologically, economically and socially are of utmost importance for our future. Therefore, such questions need to be addressed in education. A global sustainable future raises many questions while knowledge is needed about how they can be handled in preschool and school.

In this project the research interest is directed towards children’s reflections on sustainability and hope. Professor Karin Sporre at the Department of Applied Educational Science carries out the project.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2016-01-01 2023-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Applied Educational Science Research, Faculty of Social Sciences

Research area

Educational sciences

Project description

A global sustainable development raises many questions and knowledge is needed as to how they can be addressed in preschool and school.

For this knowledge to be adequate it is necessary to know also how children themselves view the matters. Therefore, children’s reflections, understood as existential concerns, are at the centre of this study.

In the research project 20 South African and 20 Swedish children, aged 10 to 11 years are interviewed. To choose to study two different countries and children from various schools within these countries, means that children’s various ways to look at the issues become noticeable. In addition, in both South Africa and Sweden, situations of climate effects have been experienced, not least dry summers with lack of water while the conditions to some extent have been the same.

 The purpose of this study is to provide knowledge on children’s views on sustainability and hope.

The research questions are:

 What existential concerns do children express when openly asked?

 What are their concerns when asked for their views on sustainability?

 What makes them hopeful?

 How do the issues above form part of children’s personal worldviews enlightened also by earlier research?

 And, what differences are there between South African and Swedish children related to the questions above?

In earlier research, methods have been developed for the carrying out of open interviews with children where they can express their points of view. Pictures can be shown, and the responses can take the form of drawings, be narrated or written down, this to allow for different ways to express one’s reflections, to in this way open up a space for children’s reflections and making these reflections part of the available knowledge.



Foto: Maja Bonta

To facilitate how schools can go about in encountering and educating children, is a crucial pedagogical question. To express their own views can also be regarded as a right of children in relation to the future they as citizens are to encounter and assume responsibility for, professor Karin Sporre says.

Through several projects related to research and education Karin Sporre has since 2001 been in cooperation with South African colleagues at different universities. This gives a valuable background to the present research project.

In 2021 an international research seminar activity begins. Researchers from Rhodes University, South Africa, University of Oslo, Norway, and University of Gothenburg and Umeå University in Sweden contributes in this collegial exchange. The group shares an interest in children and youth, their ethical and existential concerns, and environmental and sustainability education, as well as an active involvement in teacher education. Karin Sporre coordinates the group together with professors Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Jon-Magne Vestøl and Christina Osbeck.


Latest update: 2022-10-06