Sustainability, the Arts and Big Numbers: Young Children Responding to the Work of Chris Jordan

Sustainability, the Arts and Big Numbers

Early Childhood Education for Sustainability (ECEfS) is a growing international field. Increased recognition is being given to the importance of encouraging young children’s agency and advocacy for sustainability. New ways of seeing and expressing ideas about sustainability are emerging beyond the traditional fields of the sciences and geography. The arts provide multiple languages through which ideas about sustainability can be understood and expressed. American artist Chris Jordan uses images to communicate powerful messages about mass consumption, ecological decline and unsustainable practices. Jordan’s images, typically depicting tens of thousands of objects such as plastic cups, garbage and threatened species are confronting; yet they provide an access point for helping viewers to come to terms with unsustainable practices. This study explores how children’s capacities for dealing with large numbers and the environmental effects of pollution might shape their responses to Jordan’s images. The study involves approximately 10 children between the ages of 5 and 12. The children’s responses to Jordan’s artworks are being analysed in light of their understandings of visual imagery, large numbers and sustainability