Futures in primary science education – connecting students to place and ecojustice

  • Kathryn Paige School of Education, University of South Australia, Australia
  • David Lloyd School of Education, University of South Australia, Australia
  • David Caldwell School of Education, University of South Australia, Australia
  • Barbara Comber School of Education, University of South Australia, Australia
  • Lisa O'Keeffe School of Education, University of South Australia, Australia
  • Samuel Osborne School of Education, University of South Australia, Australia
  • Philip Roetman School of Natural, Built Environments, University of South Australia, Australia


After providing a background to futures thinking in science, and exploring the literature around transdisciplinary approaches to curriculum, we present a futures pedagogy. We detail case studies from a year-long professional learning action research project during which primary school teachers developed curriculum for the Anthropocene, focusing on the topic of fresh water. Why fresh water? Living in South Australia—the driest state in the driest continent—water is a scarce and precious resource, and our main water supply, the River Murray, is in trouble. Water is an integral part of Earth’s ecosystem and plays a vital role in our survival (Flannery, 2010; Laszlo, 2014). Water literacy therefore has a genuine and important place in the school curriculum.

Working with teachers and their students, the Water Literacies Project provided an ideal opportunity to explore a range of pedagogical approaches and practices which connect students to their everyday world, both now and in their possible futures, through place-based learning. We describe the use of futures scenario writing in an issues-based transdisciplinary curriculum unit on the theme of Water, driven by Year 5 teachers and their students from three primary schools: two located on the River Murray and one near metropolitan Adelaide. All three schools focused on a local wetland. The research was informed by teacher interviews, student and teacher journals, student work samples, and teacher presentations at workshops and conferences. We report on two aspects of the project: (1) the implementation of futures pedagogy, including the challenges it presented to the teachers and their students and (2) an emerging analysis of students’ views of the future and implications for further work around the futures pedagogical framework. Personal stories in relation to water, prior knowledge on the nature of water, experiential excursions to learn about water ecology and stories that examine the cultural significance of water—locally and not so locally—are featured (Lloyd, 2011; Paige & Lloyd, 2016). The outcome of our project is the development of comprehensive adventurous transdisciplinary units of work around water and connection to local place.


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