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EDST108 Science Inquiry and Sustainability

Unit rationale, description and aim

The importance of sustainability of our local environment as well as our globe has become increasingly apparent within early years education and care settings as well as within national curriculum documents. Scientific knowledge and inquiry-based approaches to understanding the complexities of local, national and global issues will assist pre-service teachers to develop skills and make informed decisions in their environments and in their teaching practices.

This unit explores science and sustainability from content and pedagogical perspectives with a focus on early childhood education and care . In this unit the focus is on sustainability including the science of climate change and other global sustainability issues and the various socially constructed meanings of sustainability. The current local and global implications of sustainability will be identified which provide a foundation for exploring the key role of transformative teaching and learning approaches to addressing sustainability.

The aim of this unit is for pre-service teachers to develop scientific principles relevant to education for sustainability in early educational settings, specifically including scientific inquiry, experiential learning, collaboration and, problem-based and participatory approaches.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Elaborate socio-scientific concepts relevant to understanding key environmental issues and sustainability (APST 2.1; ACECQA B3, B6)GC1, GC2, GC3, GC4, GC5, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12
LO2Recognise the critical importance of global sustainability and reflect on how this impacts locally on their lifestyles (APST 2.1; ACECQA B3, B6)GC1, GC2, GC3, GC4, GC5, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC11
LO3Demonstrate understandings of the principles and pedagogies of transformative approaches to education for sustainability as relevant to early years’ settings including scientific inquiry-based and experiential learning (APST1.2; ACECQA B3, B6, C1, C4, C7)GC1, GC2, GC3, GC4, GC5, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC11, GC12
LO4Articulate an informed view about the critical role of early childhood teachers in the education for sustainability in early educational settings (APST 2.1; ACECQA B3, B6, C1, C4, C7)GC1, GC2, GC3, GC4, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10, GC11
LO5Demonstrate emerging skills to appropriately implement education for sustainability in early educational settings (APST 1.2, 3.3; ACECQA B3, B6, C1, C4, C7).GC1, GC2, GC3, GC4, GC5, GC6, GC7, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12


On successful completion of this unit, pre-service teachers should be able to:

1.2    Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of research into how students learn and the implications for teaching.

2.1 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the concepts, substance and structure of the content and teaching strategies of the teaching area.

3.3 Include a range of teaching strategies.


On successful completion of this unit, pre-service teachers should have developed the following specific knowledge:

B.     Education and curriculum studies 

B3.  Numeracy, science and technology

B6.  Social and environmental education

C.     Teaching pedagogies

C1.  Alternative pedagogies and curriculum approaches

C4.  Teaching methods and strategies

C7.  Contemporary society and pedagogy


Topics will include:

  • Scientific concepts relevant to understanding key environmental issues including climate change, the green-house effect, resource conservation, food security and biodiversity.
  • Meanings of sustainability and potential impacts both locally and globally
  • Education for sustainability as a transformative approach to teaching and learning
  • Principles and pedagogies of education for sustainability
  • Implementation of sustainability practices in early years’ programs
  • Relevant curricula and resources to support implementation skills 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

In line with social constructivist principles, this unit is premised on the belief that teaching and learning activities should build on prior knowledge and connect with the learner’s needs and interests in their own lives, and encourage active participation. Tutorials will be active, collaborative and experiential, with a focus on the application of science understandings and inquiry skills. Through active participation in lectures and tutorials, pre-service teachers will develop a deep understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry along with the ability to use a range of scientific inquiry methods including questioning, planning and conducting experiments and investigations. First-hand experience with an inquiry-based approach to science teaching and learning will ensure that pre-service teachers are able to transfer their knowledge and skills effectively to early childhood contexts.

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support students’ learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video, and hands on inquiry-based approaches. 

Technology Enhanced Learning

The unit will include a Canvas site with resources and online links, announcements, and a discussion board to post questions and reflections that promote critical engagement. It may include:

  • Recorded lectures and lecture notes; tutorial notes / guides
  • Webinars, podcasts, videos
  • Reviews, guided explorations, quizzes
  • Discussion board to exchange ideas and refine learning.
  • Focused readings addressing a wide spectrum of Arts education and practices. 

Minimum Achievement Standards

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome.

In order to pass this unit, students are required to submit all assessment tasks, meet the learning outcomes of the unit and achieve a minimum overall passing grade of 50%.

Electronic Submission, Marking and Return

Assessment tasks are to be submitted to Turnitin. Assessments will be marked and returned via Turnitin in accordance with University assessment policy. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The first major assessment task for the unit is intended to provide pre-service teachers with the opportunity to research, plan, implement and evaluate a practical science investigation that would be appropriate to reconstruct with children in early childhood settings. The task is sufficiently open-ended to allow pre-service teachers to follow their own line of interest. The second assessment is intended to allow pre-service teachers to showcase their developed knowledge and understandings related to science and sustainability through incorporating elements of inquiry based and experiential learning approaches. The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome. To pass this unit, students are required to submit, participate in, and pass assessment 1 and assessment 2. No one piece of assessment will be worth more than 50 per cent of the total mark.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment Task 1 – Eco Challenge

Develop an individual action priority plan for personal change towards sustainability in pre-service teachers own lives. The action priority will be researched planned then implemented during the teaching semester.


LO1, LO2

Assessment Task 2 – Action Priority Reflective Journal

Using the action plan developed in task 1, implement the plan during the semester. Journal your actions, additional research undertaken and reflections in completing identified priorities. Evaluate your overall achievement and develop a multimedia presentation or report suitable for peers, family and the community.


LO1, LO2

Assessment Task 3 – Early Years Learning Activity and Report

An individual report outlining a rationale for the inclusion of education for sustainability in early years’ curricula and programs with reference to relevant principles and pedagogies including scientific inquiry-based and experiential learning.


LO3, LO4, LO5

Representative texts and references

Birinci, C. M. (2018). Teacher in Reggio Emilia approach: Educational needs and views. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 14(1), 279-290.

Campbell, C., Jobling, W.M., Howitt, C., & Finkel, A. (Eds). (2018). Science in early childhood (3rd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Davis, J. (Ed.). (2015). Young children and the environment: Early education for sustainability (2nd ed.). Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge Press.

Elliot, S., Edwards, S., Davis, J., & Cutter-Mackenzie, A. (2013). Early childhood Australia’s best of sustainability. Research, practice and theory. Deakin West, ACT: Early Childhood Australia

Miller, G., & Spoolman, S. (2018). Living in the environment. Boston, MA: Cengage.

Pollock, K., Warren, J., & Anderson, P. (2017). Inspiring environmentally responsible preschool children through the implementation of the National Quality Framework: Uncovering what lies beneath theory and practice. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 42(2) 12-19.

Ravanis, K. (2017). Early childhood science education: State of the art and perspectives. Journal of Baltic Science Education, 16(3), 284-288.

Sneddon, S., & Petit, A. (2016). Sustainability in action in early childhood settings. Blairgowrie, Vic: Teaching Solutions

Teo, T. (2017). Editorial on focus issue: Play in early childhood science education. Pedagogies: An International Journal: Play in Early Childhood. Science Education,12(4), 321-324.

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