Laiti Marikaisa, Kaarina Määttä


The Sámi is the only indigenous people in the EU. The Sámi live in the Arctic region in Finland, Norway Sweden, and Russia. Nature and natural lifestyles, respect for the nature and sustainability make an important part of the Sámi culture. Today’s rapid environmental, economic, and political developments pose a threat to the continuity of traditional values. Early childhood education (ECE) has a strong supportive role in the maintenance, transmitting, and strengthening of the Sámi cultures and languages. This research describes the implementation of Sámi ECE by the narratives of Sámi early childhood educators. Special focus is on the pedagogy educators use to strengthen children’s connectedness to nature, respecting nature and living in nature. The theoretical foundation is the eco-cultural theory. The Sámi Parliament has composed a core curriculum and a guide for the daily practices of the Sámi ECE. The research participants (N=23) represent various educational professions. The data comprised personal interviews. The data was analysed with qualitative content analysis. The significance of the nature appeared at many levels of ECE. The research provided grounds for early education which is culturally sustainable as it leans on the cultural tradition and the strong relationship with the nature.


Article visualizations:

Hit counter


indigenous people, Sámi people, early childhood education, ecocultural theory

Full Text:



Aikio A, 2010. Olmmošhan gal birge. Áššit mat ovddidit birgema [People will manage. Matters that promote management]. Kárásjohka: ČálliidLágádus.

Alcock S, Ritchie J, 2018. Early childhood education in the outdoors in Aotearoa New Zealand. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 21(1), 77–88.

Balto A, 1997. Sámi mánáidbajásgeassin nuppástuvvá [The education of Sámi children is transforming]. Oslo: ad Notam Gyldendal.

Balto A, 2008. Sámi oahpaheaddjit sirdet árbevirolaš kultuvrra boahttevaš buolvvaide. Dekoloniserema akšuvdnadutkamuš Ruoŧa beale Sámis. [Sámi teachers transmit the traditional culture to the next generations. Action research of the decolonization in the Sámi land]. Diedut 4. Kautokeino: Sámi allaskuvla.

Banks J, 2015. Cultural diversity and education: Foundations, curriculum, and teaching. New York: Routledge.

Bernheimer L, Gallimore R, Weisner T, 1990. Ecocultural theory as a context for the individual family service plan. Journal of Early Intervention, 14(3), 219-233. doi: 10.1177/105381519001400304.

Boine E, Saus M, 2012. Saamelaisten isien kasvastusstregioita. [Parenting strategies of Sámi fathers] In A. Lauriala (Ed.) Koulu ja pohjoisen pojat. [School and the Boys of the North]. Rovaniemi: University of Lapland, pp 69–85.

Byrd C, 2016. Does culturally relevant teaching work? An examination from student perspectives. Sage Open, 6 (3), 1-10. doi: 10.1177/2158244016660744

Gallimore R, Goldberg C, Weisner T, 1993. Social construction and subjective reality of activity settings: implications for community psychology. American Journal of Community Psychology, 21(4), 537-559. doi: 10.1007/BF00942159

Gallimore R, Lopez E, 2002. Everyday routines, human agency and ecocultural context: construction and maintaining individual habits. The Occupational Therapy Journal of Research, 22 (1), 70-77. doi: 10.1177/15394492020220S109

Gallimore R, Weisner T, Kaufman S, Bernheimer LP, 1989. The social construction of ecocultural niches: Family accommodation of developmentally delayed children. American Journal on Mental Retardation 94 (3), 216-230.

Grace R, Bowes J, 2011. Using an ecocultural approach to explore young children’s experiences of prior‐to‐school care settings. Early Child Development and Care, 181(1), 13-25. doi: 10.1080/03004430903205010

Graneheim U, Lundman B, 2004. Qualitative content analysis in nursing research: concepts, procedures and measures to achieve trustworthiness. Nurse education today, 24 (2), 105-112, doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2003.10.001

Helander E, 2000. Saamelainen maailmankuva ja luontosuhde. [The Sámi worldview and relationship to nature.] In I. Seurujärvi-Kari (Ed.) Beaivvi mánát. Saamelaisten juuret ja nykyaika. [The roots of the Sámi and the contemporary world]. Helsinki: SKS, pp 171-182.

Hsieh HF, Shannon SE, 2005. Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative health research, 15(9), 1277-1288. doi: 10.1177/1049732305276687.

Jannok NY, Kuoljok K. 2014. En eldstad, flera berättelser: Unga skapar relationer till tidigare generationers samiska platser. [One fireplace, many stories: The young creating connections to the Sámi locations of the previous generations]. Jokkmokk: Ájtte, svenskt fjäll- och samemuseum.

Jannok NY, Joks S, 2018. En barnehages praktiske engasjement skaper stedets karakter. [A kindergarten's practical commitment creates the character of the place] In A. Myrstad, T. Sverdrup & M. B. Helgesen (Eds.). Barn skapar sted - Sted skapar barn. [Children create the place – place creates the children]. Bergen, NO: Fagbokforlaget, pp 189-201.

Joks S, 2007. Boazodoalu máhtut áiggis áigái. Etniid doaibma árbevirolaš oahpaheamis boazodoalus/Reindeer herding knowledge through the ages. The mothers’ role in the transmission of traditional knowledge within reindeer herding. Dieđut nr 3/2007. The Nordic Sámi Institute/The Sámi University of Applied Sciences.

Joks S, Østmo L, Law J, 2020. Verbing meahcci: Living Sámi lands. The Sociological Review 68(2):305-321. doi:10.1177/0038026120905473

Keskitalo P, Lehtola VP, Paksuniemi M, 2014. Saamelaisten kansanopetuksen ja koulunkäynnin historia Suomessa. [A history of Sámi education and schooling in Finland] Turku: Siirtolaisuusinstituutti.

Keskitalo P, Määttä K, 2011. The basics of Sámi Pedagogy. Rovaniemi: Lapland University Press.

Keskitalo P, Määttä K, Uusiautti S, 2011. Toward the practical framework of Sámi education. Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science, 1 (2) 84-106.

Keskitalo P, Määttä K, Uusiautti S, 2012a. Sámi education in Finland. Early Child Development and Care, 182(3-4), 329-343. doi:10.1080/03004430.2011.646723

Keskitalo P, Määttä K, Uusiautti S, 2012b. Ethical perspectives on Sámi school research. International Journal of Education, 4(4). 4(4), 267-283. doi: /10.5296/ije.v4i4.2908

Keskitalo P, Määttä K, Uusiautti S, 2013. Sámi education. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Keskitalo P, Uusiautti S, Määttä K, 2012. How to make the small indigenous cultures bloom? Special traits of Sami education in Finland. Current Issues in Comparative Education, 15(1), 52-63.

Kuokkanen R, 2007. Saamelaiset ja kolonialismin vaikutukset nykypäivänä. [The Sámi and the effects of colonialism in the present world] In J. Kuortti & M. Lehtonen & O. Löytty (Eds.) Kolonialismin jäljet: keskustat, periferiat ja Suomi. [The stain of the Colonialism: centres, peripheries, and Finland] Helsinki: Gaudeamus, pp 142-155.

Kyrönlampi-Kylmänen T, Määttä K, 2012. What do the children really think about a day-care centre–the 5–7-year-old Finnish children speak out. Early Child Development and Care, 182(5), 505-520. doi: 10.1080/03004430.2011.557861

Köngäs M, 2018. "Eihän lapsil ees oo hermoja". Etnografinen tutkimus lasten tunnealystä päiväkotiarjessa. [The children don’t even have nerves. An ethnographic study on children’s emotional intelligence in daily routines at the daycare.] Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis 368. Rovaniemi: Lapland University Press.

Laine M, 2016. Culture in sustainability – Defining cultural sustainability in education. Discourse and communication for sustainable education 7(2), 52–67. doi:

Laiti M, 2018. Saamelaisen varhaiskasvatuksen toteutus Suomessa. [Implementation of Sami early childhood education in Finland.] Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis 376. Rovaniemi: Lapland University Press.

Lee-Hammond L, 2017. Belonging in nature: Spirituality, indigenous cultures and biophilia. In The SAGE Handbook of Outdoor Play and Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, pp 319-332.

Lehtola R, 2015. Saamelainen kulttuurisensitiivinen täydennyskoulutushanke saamenkielisessä varhaiskasvatuksessa toimiville työntekijöille/varhaiskasvattajille. [Culturally sensitive Sámi additional training project for employees and educators of Sámi early childhood education]. Giellagas-institute of the University of Oulu, the education centre of the Sámi Homeland and the pedagogical faculty of the University of Oulu. Inari: Samediggi.

Mayring P, 2004. Qualitative content analysis. In Uwe Flick & Ernst von Kardoff & Ines Steinke (Eds.) A Companion to Qualitative Research. London: SAGE, pp 159-176.

Markkula I, Helander-Renvall E, 2014. Ekologisen perinnetiedon käsikirja [Handbook of ecological traditional knowledge]. Announcements of the Arctic Centre 59. Rovaniemi: Arctic Centre.

Nsamenang AB, 2015. Ecocultural theories of development. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 6, 838-844.

National Board of Education 2018. National core curriculum for ECEC. Regulations and Guidelines 2018:3a. Helsinki: National Board of Education.

Ministry of Education and Culture 2012. Toimenpideohjelma saamenkielen elvyttämiseksi [An actionable program for the revitalisation of the Sámi language]. Helsinki: Ministry of Education and Culture.

Ministry of Education and Culture 2021. Saamen kielten ja saamenkielisen opetuksen kehittämistyöryhmän raportti [Development group report on Sámi languages and education in Sámi languages] 25. Helsinki: Ministry of Education and Culture.

Rowan MC, 2017. Relating with land/engaging with elders: Accessing indigenous knowledges in early childhood education through outdoor encounters. In T. Waller, E. Ärlemalm-Hagsér, E.B. H. Sandseter, L. Lee-Hammond, K.S. Lekies & S. Wyver (Eds). The SAGE Handbook of Outdoor Play and Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, pp 395- 412.

Rowan MC, 2015. Thinking with land, water, ice and snow: A proposal for Inuit Nunangat pedagogy in the Canadian Arctic. In V. Pacini-Ketchabaw & A.Taylor (Eds.) Unsettling the colonialist places and spaces of early childhood education. New York: Routledge, pp 198-218.

Rubin H, Rubin IS, 2011. Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Sámi Parliament 2009. Saamelainen varhaiskasvatussuunnitelma [Act on Sami Early Childhood Education]. Inari: Samediggi.

Sámi Parliament 2013. Saamelaisen varhaiskasvatuksen arjen käytäntöjen opas [A Guide to the Daily Practices]. Inari: Samediggi.

Saus M, 2006. Cultural competence and children in the North. In E.-L. Kronqvist & P. Hyvönen (Eds.) Insights and Outlouds: Chilhood Research in the North. Acta Universitatis Ouluensis, E 107. Oulu: University of Oulu, pp 43-60.

Stephenson A, 2002. Opening up the outdoors: Exploring the relationship between the indoor and outdoor environments of a centre. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 10(1), 29–38. doi:10.1080/13502930285208821

Tonyan HA, 2015. Everyday routines: A window into the cultural organization of family childcare. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 13(3), 311–327. doi: 10.1177/1476718X14523748

Tudge J, 2008. The Everyday Lives of Young Children. New York: Cambridge.

Weisner TS, 1989. Cultural and universal aspects of social support for children: Evidence from the Abaluyia of Kenia. In D. Belle (Ed.) Children’s Social Networks and Social Supports New York: Wiley & Sons, pp 70-90.

Weisner TS, 2002. Ecocultural understanding of children’s cultural pathways. Human Development 45(4), 275-281. doi: 10.1159/000064989

Weisner TS, Matheson C, Coots J, Bernheimer LP, 2005. Sustainability of daily routines as a family outcome. In E. Ashley & M.I. Martini (Eds.) Learning in Cultural Context: Family, Peers, and School. New York, NY: Springer, pp 41-73.

Äärelä R, 2016. ”Dat ii leat dušše dat giella”- ”Se ei ole vain se kieli" Tapaustutkimus saamenkielisestä kielipesästä saamelaisessa varhaiskasvatuksessa. [“It is not just the language” A case study of a Sámi language nest in Sámi early childhood education]. Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis 335. Rovaniemi: Lapland University Press.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2022 Laiti Marikaisa, Kaarina Määttä

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright © 2015-2023. European Journal of Education Studies (ISSN 2501 - 1111) is a registered trademark of Open Access Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

This journal is a serial publication uniquely identified by an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) serial number certificate issued by Romanian National Library (Biblioteca Nationala a Romaniei). All the research works are uniquely identified by a CrossRef DOI digital object identifier supplied by indexing and repository platforms. All authors who send their manuscripts to this journal and whose articles are published on this journal retain full copyright of their articles. All the research works published on this journal are meeting the Open Access Publishing requirements and can be freely accessed, shared, modified, distributed and used in educational, commercial and non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).