Early years enquiry research hub

Early years education research

The Early Years Enquiry Research Hub (EYE) aims to promote enquiry that expands opportunities for children in their early years to reach their full potential. Such enquiry is founded on respect for the rights, dignity, worth, and views of children.  The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a foundation document for the activities of the group. EYE is an interdisciplinary forum for enquiry into children's issues in the early years.

Members of the EYE research hub are involved in collaborative writing, research, supporting early years education in the Canterbury region, and hosting regular events for professionals interested in early years education.

Members of the group are from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Canterbury Westland Kindergarten Association (Kidsfirst), Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa/New Zealand Childcare Association, New Zealand College of Early Childhood Education, CORE and the Ministry of Education.

Each year the EYE hub hosts THE GATHERING, a one-day event for teachers to talk together about investigating teaching and learning in the early years. 


With great sadness we wish to inform you of Professor Judith Duncan's passing.


  • Judith Duncan PhD, BA, PGDA
    Professor of Education, University of Canterbury

The Gathering 2018 

Seeds of Citizenship

The Gathering aims to promote enquiry that expands opportunities for children in their early years to reach their full potential. Such enquiry is founded on respect for the rights, dignity, worth, and views of children. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a foundation document for the activities of the group.

Saturday 9th June 2018

Presenter:  Associate Professor Bronwyn Hayward

Bronwyn works at the University of Canterbury and is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations as well as Director of The Sustainable Citizenship and Civic Imagination Research group. Her research focuses on the intersection of sustainable development, youth politics and democracy.  She is recognised internationally and has published widely.   One of her recent publications of relevance to teachers is ‘Children, Citizenship and Environment’ (Routledge, 2012).

Keynote:  How can Early Childhood teachers support new generations for a more just and sustainable future?

Children born today are will experience a very different world from their parents and grandparents.  We talk often of technological change but the environmental, social and democratic changes that face a new generation are significant and far reaching. We cannot know what the world these children will experience but we can anticipate some changes now. We know for example that increased disruptive weather events associated with climate change are likely to directly affect children’s lives, interrupting their home and education and future work; they are also more likely to grow up in diverse ethnic communities that offer both new exciting opportunities and difficult challenges including how to maintain values of social inclusion and democracy in a world of growing inequality. Educators have a powerful role to help our youngest citizens to develop the SEEDS of knowledge that can support values, relationships and skills they will need for a more sustainable and just future.

There will be interactive activities via a workshop format to help make “Seeds of Citizenship” an embodied experience.

For registration enquiries contact stedadmin@canterbury.ac.nz


$40.00 per person or $20.00 per student (with ID): includes all sessions, morning tea and lunch. Attendance certificates are available after the event. Please include payment with registration. Registration closes 5.00 pm 1 June 2018.  Catering numbers are needed by this date). Numbers are limited.

For content enquiries contact

Benita Rarere-Briggs at benita.rarere-briggs@canterbury.ac.nz


8.30 am

Registration - Whekī building, College of Education, Dovedale Ave

9.00 am

Mihi whakatau and morning tea

9.30  am

Keynote Speaker: Bronwyn Hayward
How can Early Childhood teachers support new generations for a more just and sustainable future?

10.35 am

Parallel Session 1:
Choose from one of the sessions outlined below

11.35 am

Parallel Session 2:
Choose from one of the sessions outlined below 

12.25 pm


1.00   pm

Keynote Workshop – Bronwyn Hayward
SEEDS of Citizenship in Action
How can we support children’s early experiences – encouraging them to move beyond FEARS and SMART models of citizenship to nurture SEEDS of a more just and inclusive approach to citizenship in a rapidly changing world? Small group discussion and activities explore ways that children and adults can think differently about their world and relationships with others. 

2.35   pm

Closing address 

Parallel sessions:

These sessions about research and investigation by teachers for teachers will be delivered using a range of formats.

Parallel Session 1: Attention: A just and loving gaze  -  Andrea de Laune

Working with children in ecologically unstable times is a critical challenge. It is challenging to maintain sustainable practices in a consumer-driven society which promotes individualistic interests, yet it is critical that we do so. Our pedagogical practices need to be reflective of the insistent demands to attend to the environmental urgency which surrounds us, yet resist the overwhelming anxiety which can pervade such attendance. It is not a time for speeding up, but rather a time for contemplation, connection, and submission. Iris Murdoch theorises a space where (when applied to education for sustainability) the teacher can seek to redress the demands of the consumer society and seek selflessness. In this session, we will discuss Murdoch’s concept of attention, and consider ways in which attentiveness can redirect selfish desires, and see the world through a ‘just a loving gaze’.

Parallel Session 2:  Education for Sustainability: The role of the teacher – Anita Croft

The benefits of beginning education for sustainability (EfS) in early childhood education have been widely documented. Raising awareness and engaging with sustainability practices in early childhood education will help to ensure that the planet is secure for future generations.  This presentation will discuss findings from my Master of Education study into preservice early childhood teachers’ preparedness to teach education for sustainability when they begin their teaching careers. It will discuss the role of the teacher in supporting children to engage with sustainability practices. It will then outline some of the supports and limiters for four beginning teachers, four months into their teaching careers, to engage with EfS in their daily teaching practice. Finally, it will provide recommendations for how centres can include EfS in their curriculum.

Parallel Session 3:  What does it really mean to share a life/place with our animal companions? learning to live more connected and ethical with non-human others in ECE  - Shil Bae

This presentation investigates how child-animal relations are presented in the popular ECE activities, and examines our humancentric assumptions underneath this pedagogy, and their ethical implications. The presenter also explores the alternative way of connecting and engaging with our animal others: how to live a shared life that enables us to "become with" our companion species.


The Gathering 2017

Teachers Being Bold: Stories of Journeys’ with Māori and Pasifika

Our keynote speaker, Le’autuli’ilagi Taotua Malaeta Sauvao, spoke on Collaborative relationships with the Pacific and what that means in theory and in practice, asking the question: How bold do we have to be to implement these relationships? Parallel sessions included:

  • Weaving Pasifika cultures in a English-medium Kindergarten - a workshop showing how Pasifika cultures are woven throughout the programme at Kisfirst Kindergarten Hornby
  • Donna McPherson from Tī Kōuka describing how she weaves this kaupapa through her diverse roles including being an Early Childhood Kaiako at an All-day Kindergarten, founder of Haere Mai Ki Waho a nature playgroup and providing support for Kaiako in other Centres in session using the kaupapa of Haere Mai Ki Waho.
  • Kidsfirst Redwood's exhibit titled "The Time is Now" which illustrated a journey toward culturally responsive pedagogy, demonstrating their team’s commitment as partners to te Tiriti. Their trip to Waitangi provoked us to reflect upon inclusion, equity, and authentic biculturalism, and how practitioners can empower ourselves and each other to challenge current beliefs and understandings.

The Gathering 2016

Early Years Enquiry. Thinking Responsively: Doing Differently

The key note presenters were Keryn Davis, Ruta McKenzie and Munira Sugarwala, titled; Coconuts and cultural competence: Children’s working theories about identity, language and culture. Their keynote addressed their work emerging from a Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) project called Nurturing and encouraging young children’s identity, language and culture in the early years. The project explores children’s working theories about their own identity, language and culture and those of others, and builds on a previous Canterbury based TLRI project about working theories undertaken in 2009-10. The project utilises an innovative, collaborative ‘sister centre’ research partnership and is sited in two early childhood centres in east Christchurch: one Samoan Immersion (Mapusaga Aoga Amata) and one English-medium (North Beach Community Childcare Centre).

This address included some of the working theories of children (and the project team) from case studies and mini-projects that have developed over the first 18-months of this two year project. The session included examples of children’s growing cultural competence over time; what the team is learning from children’s working theories about identity, language and culture in action (including important lessons about opening coconuts); and working cross-culturally. 

Feedback from the day:

  • “The need to find ways to include Pasifika culture in our centre. Unpack the Education Plan with team at the centre”
  • “I really enjoy exploring other cultures. E.g. Samoan…”
  • “Pasifika plan and being culturally responsive, meeting new teachers and discussing the dynamics of teaching”
  • “Inspirational”
  • “It was very informative and provoking and challenging to hear the journeys that people have taken to gain understandings”
  • “Collegial discussion/catch-up wallowing is good, uncertainty is good”

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