Kindergarten space and autonomy in construction – Explorations during team ethnography in a Finnish kindergarten

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Abstract

Children’s autonomy is a cultural ideal in Finnish early childhood education and care (ECEC). In this article we examine autonomy in spatial terms. The theoretical background is developed by applying spatial sociology. Our starting point is that space is relationally produced, thus, we understand space as continuously negotiated, reconstructed and reorganized phenomena. In this article, we investigate the production of space by different actors in ECEC and seek to show how autonomy is also continuously produced and re-produced in the negotiation of space. For this investigation we use data collected as part of a team ethnographic project in a Finnish kindergarten. The project included conducting observations and interviews with parents and educators. Our research shows that autonomy is developed in multiple ways in kindergarten spaces. Educators as well as children and parents continuously produce and reproduce the kindergarten space within which children’s autonomy variously unfolds as linked to independence, freedom and responsibility in the cultural and ideological setting of a Finnish kindergarten.

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