Spiritual Experiences in Early Childhood Education: Four Kindergarteners, One Classroom, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Spiritual Experiences in Early Childhood Education

Four Kindergarteners, One Classroom, 1st Edition

By Jennifer Mata


160 pages

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Paperback: 9781138287044
pub: 2016-11-18
Hardback: 9780415834704
pub: 2014-06-25
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Spirituality is frequently avoided in the public school classroom in an attempt to prevent controversy. However, by ignoring, preventing, or discounting spirituality, educators can also inhibit children’s spiritual development. Based on qualitative research and interactions with both children and adults, Jennifer Mata argues that educators should be responsible for addressing children’s spirituality in the classroom and for re-introducing these topics into early childhood education.

By surveying the existing literature on spirituality, Mata offers a working definition of spirituality as an essential characteristic of humanness, which helps connect individuals to themselves, others, and to the transcendent. The book portrays stories and descriptions of four kindergarten children in their classroom setting, exploring their different modes of expressing and experiencing spirituality. Finally, Spiritual Experiences in Early Childhood Education offers a review of pedagogical strategies to nurture spirituality, for both teachers to implement in the classroom and teacher educators to facilitate in teacher preparation programs.


"Mata (DePaul Univ.) … is precise in describing the methodology of her study, which is one of the strengths of the book. … The work raises many questions, which is in itself valuable. Since much of what she presents is unfamiliar to most practitioners, it may require several readings. The issues, however, are worth consideration. … Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate and research collections."

-- S. Sugarman, Vermont State Colleges, in CHOICE, January 2015

"Jennifer Mata’s book is an important addition to the literature on spirituality in early childhood education. It strongly blends research literature with her own observations of four young children. These observations help the reader see how children’s spirituality expresses itself in the daily life of the classroom and also how it can be nourished by the teacher."

-- Jack Miller, Professor of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto

"With her rich descriptions of young children's spiritual experiences, Jennifer Mata takes us into the ordinary of their lives. Her carefully crafted research methodology provides a lens for others wanting to explore a dimension of development often overlooked or feared by those seeking insight into the whole child. The author invites us to open eyes, ears, hearts and minds to the lived experiences of young children wherever we meet them."

--Barbara Kimes Myers, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois

"Mata’s book seems to be a solid contribution to our understanding of how young children grow in, and express, their spirituality."

--John Surr, NAEYC Young Children’s Spirituality Interest Forum, International Journal of Children's Spirituality

Table of Contents


Part I: Making the Case for Spirituality

Chapter One: Why Spirituality?

Chapter Two: What is Spirituality?

Chapter Three: Spirituality – How can it be nourished?

Part II: Through the Spiritual Experiences of Children

Chapter Four: Studying Children’s Spirituality

Chapter Five: Ellen: “I can spell your name!”

Chapter Six: Anna: “You can’t do that! Can I help?”

Chapter Seven: Mark: “Uhm, uhm, uhm, dance to the music.”

Chapter Eight: Matt: “I don’t know.”

Chapter Nine: Looking for Commonalities and Differences in Children’s Spirituality

Part III: What does this mean for Early Childhood Education?

Chapter Ten: Answering Guiding Questions and tying it back to Theory and Research

Chapter Eleven: What needs to be done by Teachers and Early Childhood Education Programs?


Appendix A Semi-Structured Individual Activity Protocol

Appendix B Photographs Presented in the Individual Activity

Appendix C Semi-Structured Group Activity Protocol

Appendix D Questions Guiding Informal Conversations

About the Author

Jennifer Mata, Ed.D., is Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at the College of Education, DePaul University, USA. She received a doctorate in early childhood education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and has worked in the field of early childhood education since 1995. Dr. Mata has been an infant and toddler, preschool, and kindergarten teacher in both monolingual and bilingual settings in the U.S. and abroad, and was formerly Associate Professor at Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas, Venezuela. Her research interests stem from children’s spirituality and teacher preparation to moral development and bilingual and bicultural education.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Curricula