The challenges facing the children of Christchurch have much to teach others around the world about how to better support young citizens to flourish, according to a University of Canterbury (UC) researcher.
UC political scientist Bronwyn Hayward will give a free lecture for the community at the university on Wednesday August 16 on the subject of 'what if we really listened to children'.
Dr Hayward said as a result of listening to the experiences of children in Christchurch, her research became a major exercise in rethinking how to teach citizenship and environmental education.
Her recently published book Children, Citizenship and Environment has a powerful message that has received critical acclaim in the United Kingdom and Europe and has its findings surprised researchers and many readers.
She said people had been astonished to learn that life for children in New Zealand was not as great for all children as Kiwis once thought. While some children had never had it so good, others were struggling.
Among some of the surprises in the research is the wide range of play time activities experienced by children in Christchurch. Some children, particularly those from wealthier neighbourhoods, often reported having surprisingly little time for independent play, while other children roamed more freely but struggled to find quality play spaces.
Research into the book was seed funded by the Electoral Commission and supported by a University of Canterbury College of Arts grant and the University's summer scholarships programme. Half the royalties from the book will go to projects to address child poverty in Christchurch after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
As a base for the research, a team of nine graduate students returned to their home primary schools to listen to children aged 8-12 to talk about their early experiences of their communities and politics.
Dr Hayward said many children were flourishing in New Zealand but there were also some disturbing problems confronting an increasing number of children.
``In Christchurch, the changing environment caused by the earthquakes has highlighted the underlying long-term social and economic vulnerabilities in our society but these vulnerabilities are not isolated to Christchurch. They are a national issue," Dr Hayward said today.
Her book has been selected as the feature for the world children's literacy festival in Frankfurt in October and will also feature Dr Hayward as one of three researchers leading a study funded by the Norwegian government to study the challenges facing Norwegian children growing up in a changing climate.
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