Legacies of childhood learning for climate change adaptation

Rowan Jackson, Andrew Dugmore, Felix Riede

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Using archaeological, historical, and ethnographic analysis of Norse and Inuit toys and miniatures, this paper argues that legacies of childhood learning can create limits to climatic change adaptation and provide lessons from the past relevant today. In Medieval Greenland, Norse children played with objects that would have familiarised them with the expected norms and behaviours of farming, household activities, sailing and conflict, but not with hunting, which was a key omission given the fundamental importance of wild resources to successful climatic adaptation in Greenland after the climate shocks of the mid-13th century. The restricted range of toys combined with an instructional form of learning suggests a high degree of path dependence that limited adaptation to climatic change, and we know the Norse settlement ended with the conjunctures of the 15th century that included climatic change. Inuit children, by contrast, learnt highly adapted behaviours and technologies through objects that taught locally tuned hunting skills. Inuit approaches that prioritised unstructured learning time aided the development of creative skills and problem-solving capabilities, and the Inuit successfully navigated the climatic changes of the Little Ice Age in Greenland. This insight from the past has implications for our approaches to childhood learning in the 21st century and the unfolding climate crisis. Innovative approaches to childhood teaching and learning in the context of climate change adaptation could provide effective solutions, on a timescale commensurate with that of projected climate impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102878
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2024


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