Research Methodology
& Design

Methodology, Design and Outputs

The overarching methodology of this project is cartography; an educational research methodology of creating visual maps from observations, ideas and pedagogies for exploring children’s encounters of the environment during nature play.

We draw upon Latour’s (2013) model of cartography, which is focused on the relations between people, places and objects (Cutcher, Rousell, & Cutter-Mackenzie, 2015, Malone 2018). Latour (2013) positions the cartographic network as domains of knowledge.

In the context of the proposed project, a cartography or mapping of scientific concepts promotes visual, symbolic and geometric thinking (Knight, 2016) and this will enable the researchers to substantially access participant concepts and advance empirical and theoretical research in nature play and how it can best support children’s learning of scientific concepts.

Examples of scientific concepts central to early learning in STEM include: systems, models, constancy and change, scale, patterns and relationships, cause and effect, structure and function, variations and diversity (Wilson, 1992).


A cartographic research design (Cutcher & Rousell, 2014; Knight, 2016; Lasczik, Cutcher & Irwin, 2017) is devised around early childhood educators’ planning and implementing three nature play experiences.

The research methodology involves four phases:

  • Phase 1: Recruitment, Sites and Cartographic Nature Play Profiles;
  • Phase 2: Mapping Children’s Existing Nature Play Conceptions and Scientific Concepts;
  • Phase 3: Professional Learning Workshop & Design of Nature Play; and
  • Phase 4: Implementation, Documentation and Mapping of Early Childhood Educators’ Nature Play.

While each phase is qualitative, data will be analysed applying rigorous qualitative and quantitative methods.


The outputs of the project include:

  • Nature Play Practice Framework
  • Research in Practice Book
  • Professional Learning Tools
  • Online Nature Play Research Networks – see Nature Play Collective and Childhoodnature collective on Facebook, and @natureplayproject on Instagram
  • Final Report

Cutcher A. & Rousell, D. (2014). Collaborative visual mapping as performance: Visual Arts pre-service teachers’ reflections on practicum. International Journal of Education through Art, 10(2), 247-254.

Cutcher, A., Rousell, D. & Cutter-Mackenzie, A. (2015). Findings, windings and entwinings: cartographies of collaborative walking and encounter. International Journal of Education through Art 11(3), 449-458

Knight, L. (2016). Playgrounds as sites of radical encounters: a mapping of material, affective, spatial, and pedagogical collisions. In N. Snaza, D. Sonu, S. E. Truman, & Z. Zaliwska (Eds.), Pedagogical Matters: New materialisms and curriculum studies (Counterpoints Series), Berlin: Peter Lang.

Lasczik Cutcher, A. & Irwin, R. L. (2017). Walkings-through paint: a c/a/r/tography of slow scholarship. Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy (14)2. DOI:10.1080/15505170.2017.1310680

Latour, B.  (2018). An inquiry into modes of existence: an anthropology of the moderns. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Malone, K. (2018). Children in the Anthropocene: rethinking sustainability and child friendliness in cities. London: Palgrave Macmillan Publishers. 

Wilson, E. O. (1992). The diversity of life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.