Climate Child: Educational responses to a changing earth

Posted in: Internationalisation and Globalisation

This blog is from Charlotte Hankin, PhD Student in Education

Three people stood together smiling.
Charlotte, Elisabeth and Enzo (left to right) at the International Gathering of Climate Child and Youth Research Commission.

From 29 January – 2 February 2024, I travelled to Queensland, Australia, to participate in the International Gathering of Climate Child and Youth Research Commission with supervisor and Head of the Department of Education, Elisabeth Barratt Hacking, and post-doctoral colleague, Enzo Rainiero Ferrari Lagos.

This event brought together approximately 30 researchers working in/across the fields of climate change, environmental education, Indigenous knowledges, eco/climate justice, creativity, philosophy, disaster education, cultural geographies, media, and childhood studies. Under the vast Australian sky, the objectives of this invitational international gathering were to:

  • Activate transformative research spaces and networks for climate, children, community, and education researchers; and,
  • Consolidate climate, children, community, and education research into one collection, an international research handbook, which will be published by Springer in about 4 years’ time.

The commission was a predominantly in-place gathering on the Gold Coast, an on ‘Country’ experiential, creative, and writing gathering at Binna Burra National Park. This was followed by a public dialogue and conference at Southern Cross University’s Gold Coast Campus. Here, researchers collaborated in teams with children and young people through arts-based experiences to explore their thoughts, opinions, experiences, relationship/s with climate change.

Professor Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education at Southern Cross University, convened this commission, grounding us all in the research generated by the first collection, Research Handbook on Childhoodnature. With anticipation, we listened to stories of how this collection came into being, as authors responded to ‘childhoodnature’, a concept coined by editors, Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, Malone, and Barratt Hacking (2015) to critique and decentre the dominant anthropocentric articulations of nature and humans. The Research Handbook on Childhoodnature created a space to share cutting-edge research, drawing on cross-cultural and international research data across 81 chapters, authored by world-class researchers. This time, the commission brought us all together with the promise and provocation of ‘climate child.’

A view of a valley with a small bird in the foreground sat on a rail.

Surrounded by huge, charred trees that stand proud with their bushfire scars, our questions started to emerge: Who is the climate child? Whose climate are we responding with? How is climate change experienced differently? What might more-than-human experiences with climate change teach us? We explored by listening, singing, string figuring, crafting, sketching, reading, walking, photographing, sharing. We heard stories from Indigenous scholars and their relationships with Country. We wondered what the birdsong could be telling us (warning us?) about an ever-changing landscape. We envisaged the climate child in front of our eyes, considering their ages, how they live, their fears, hopes, traumas, and their disappointments for how governments continuously refuse to take bolder action for their precarious futures. We ate tasty, vegetarian food, joined in with night-walks, formed friendships, and basked in the wonderous encounters with Australian wildlife.

Despite thinking deeply and slowly, we were also poised with a sense of urgency as notions of hope, trust, reciprocity, anger, guilt erupted within and amongst our gathering. With thick fog in the air, a python curling up in the cleaning cupboard next door, lizards bathing on warmer road surfaces, rain droplets resting on branches, jet lag enveloping some weary travellers, we began to sketch out ‘the bones’ of our new handbook. Each researcher contributed theory, building on what came before, to form a splattering of ideas on post it notes. I placed myself firmly in the multispecies chapter, contributing my research that explores animal-child relationships in international school contact zones. Post-its were moved, challenges were made, imaginaries nurtured, ideas fleshed out. And so, with celebration, the second handbook came into fruition!

Sticky notes arranged on a surface.

Similarly with the previous handbook, there will be an entire part co-edited with, and authored by, children and young people (the UN’s definitions for these age periods as ranging from 0-25 years old can be found here: child, adolescence and youth). There will also be dedicated spaces for voices that might otherwise go unheard including issues of gender, digital technology, non-human animals, less abled, global majority south and Indigenous scholarship.

Since we have all now returned to our home countries with renewed fervour and buoyant spirits, the writing process begins. We invite others to join, dream, collaborate, write into and shape our ideas so far. Follow the unfolding story on SEAE Social Media Links and help shape our collective response.

I close here with the wisdom of an anonymous child whose writing on a piece of paper was ‘snowballed’ across the room when we attended the public dialogue and conference at Southern Cross University. This response moved me and solidified my/our efforts as worthwhile, meaningful and timely to help create a more hope-full (Haraway, 2016) climate and future for all:

When asked, “Who is the climate child?”

This child wrote, “Everyone is the climate child."

This research visit was generously funded by PGR Development Fund.


Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, A., Malone, K. and Hacking, E.B., 2020. Research handbook on childhoodnature: Assemblages of childhood and nature research. Springer International Publishing.

Haraway, D.J., 2016. Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press.

Posted in: Internationalisation and Globalisation


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response