Projects

Mobility, informal learning and citizenship in mobile preschools

Urban childhoods and mobility are changing and meanwhile spaces for children are decreasing in Swedish cities. Children’s active participation in the spaces of the city is however crucial not only for children being physically active, but also in order to claim rights to the city, gain spatial competence in navigating the city and learn how to handle people and places. This is especially crucial since increased urban and school segregation have led to divided cities where children from different backgrounds seldom meet. Local school markets today also include preschools and a new phenomenon and an additional choice of preschools has emerged, the mobile preschool. As yet, not much is known about children’s sense of citizenship in relation to preschool age mobility. Mobile preschools are located in buses that on a daily basis travel to different locations in and around the city to provide children with new learning environments. In order to understand children’s mobility in public space, learning and citizenship, the aim of the project is to map the phenomenon of the mobile preschool and critically investigate the ways in which mobile preschools allow children to navigate, participate in and learn from, different spaces of the city. With theories of mobility, learning and citizenship we will conduct an ethnographic study with multiple methods, including participatory observation, video, gps-tracking,  informal and formal interviews with children, pedagogues and parents as well as a national mapping of mobile preschools.

The following research questions will drive the study:

  • What are the affordances and constraints for children’s learning and active citizenship within mobile preschools?
  • What kinds of spaces in the city do mobile preschools visit and how do children and pedagogues navigate and participate in these spaces?
  • How do different municipalities in Sweden organize the mobile preschools and what are the social and cultural reasons for and implications of this?

The research team has well documented expertise in the field of children’s geographies and education. Members of the research team are Danielle van der Burgt (project leader), Katarina Gustafson, Helen Melander, Ann-Carita Evaldsson, Anne Harju, Jutta Balldin, Carina Berkhuizen, Tanja Joelsson, Maria Ojala and Jonas Risberg. Members of the international advisory board are Lia Karsten, Pia Christensen, Sarah Mills, Susan Danby, Ann-Carita Evaldsson and Karin Aronsson.

A citywide classroom: time-space aspects of a mobile preschool pedagogy, 2016-2019

In contemporary Sweden, children increasingly grow up in urban environments. Simultaneously, spaces for children in the city – including (pre)school yard spaces – are decreasing which in children spending more time indoors. Children’s active participation in urban spaces is crucial for their sense of belonging in the society. This is especially important in today’s divided cities where children from different backgrounds seldom meet. An additional choice of preschool has emerged in local school markets today; the mobile preschool. This is a preschool practice in a bus that on daily basis travels to different locations within and around the city. The mobile preschool is regarded as desirable for children’s development and learning due to its scope for outdoor learning, especially in green areas and nature. Findings from a pilot study show that navigating the city and nearby places by bus, seems to give the mobile preschool children a feeling that they know the city, and the mobile preschool can be said to ‘bring children to the city’ as well as ‘bring the city to the children’. Research on the mobile preschool’s implications for children’s mobility and learning in the city is however lacking.

The overall aim of the project is to examine how Swedish mobile preschools use the city as an educational space for children. To answer this overall aim, we pose the following research questions: 

  • What kinds of spaces in the city do mobile preschools visit and how do children and teachers navigate and participate in these spaces?
  • What are the affordances and constraints for children’s learning and interaction in educational activities and daily routines within different locations in mobile preschools?
  • What does it mean to be a ‘mobile preschool child’ in terms of transitions in and out in a mobile preschool?  
  • How do different municipalities in Sweden organize the mobile preschools and what are the social and cultural reasons for and implications of this?

The project is designed as a longitudinal ethnographic research combining theories of time-spatial organization, mobility and learning. We start with a national quantitative survey in order to create a general understanding of the phenomenon as well as to collect information as about existing mobile preschools in Sweden in general; regarding geographical spread, organization, time-spatial organization, choice of destinations etc. as well as how different spaces in the city are used for learning and interaction. The mapping will also lead to selection of two mobile preschools for the longitudinal qualitative part. The selection will be on based on buses that navigate the city differently and have a variety regarding children’s socio-economic and ethnical backgrounds. Fieldwork will be running over one and a half year, during the preparatory training when a group of children join the mobile preschool, participate during an academic year and transfer to the preschool class. Methods used are participant observations, video recordings, formal interviews and informal talk as well as GPS-tracking of the bus and the children.

The project will bring new knowledge about a growing but not yet researched phenomenon - the mobile preschool – as well as how preschool age children navigate, participate and learn in the city. The project will also contribute to the field of research be combining theoretical perspectives in a fruitful and innovative way.