Children’s Imaginative Play Environments and Ecological Narrative Inquiry

Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


The methodological inquiry developed here about the natural environments in which children play extends the theory and practices of narrative inquiry in educational research, in particular, Clandinin and Connelly’s extensive scholarly work in that field. This ecological approach hinges on the inclusion of young children and uses multimodal methods (such as mapping, drawings, and memory boxes) to prompt in children a self-questioning of the stories they told and retold about playing in different environments, the incorporation of a historical/temporal and comparative intergenerational sensibility that demonstrates the complexity of the children’s telling of stories, and, subsequently, an extension of Clandinin and Connelly’s (Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco, CA: Joseey-Bass, 2000) three-dimensional narrative analysis model via the analysis of contextualized re-stories and mind mapping. Of central importance to this ecology of inquiry was a revealing of the ontologically temporal (and spatial) nature of how the children’s stories shifted and deepened over the course of four iterative conversational interviews as the participant-researcher relationship developed. Notably, this temporal process was enabled spatially and geographically through the children’s preferences for playing outside in “naturally” perceived places such as a tree, a clump of bushes, or a creek and being reinterviewed in that ecologically imagined and “played” space. This ecology helped children engage in deepening their ongoing conversations with the researcher in relation to the affordances in nature they preferred to use for their self-constructed imaginative play places. Children’s rich, sensory experiences with these aspects of nature were observed ethnographically during the conversations, which added further depth and meaning to their stories and what that might mean for childhoodnature ecological, pedagogical, and research development.


Narrative inquiry with young children Researcher reflexivity Ecological narrative inquiry Temporality, spatiality, and affect in nature Storytelling Imaginative play places 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and EducationSchool of Education, Deakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Paul Hart
    • 1
  • Phillip Payne
    • 2
  1. 1.Science EducationUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada
  2. 2.Monash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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