Autism, storytelling and forest gardens

Three newly appointed associate professors have highlighted three important research areas in separate lectures at Jönköping University - the importance of forest gardens in education, transmedia journalism, and the journey into adulthood for people with autism.

From left: Marita Falkmer, new associate professor in Disability, Renira Gambarato, new associate professor in Media and Communication and Ellen Almers, new associate professor in Didactics with focus on Natural Science and Sustainable Development. (photo: Patrik Svedberg/privat/Maria Jacobsson)

Transmedia storytelling, where content is distributed across multiple media platforms, aims to give recipients a more meaningful experience of the story they are being told. Renira Gambarato is carrying out research in this fast-growing field at the School of Education and Communication.

“My research contributes to the increased need for media projects that are tailored to the new multi-screen and multi-platform style. This are has great potential for development,” she explains.

During her lecture ‘Transmedia Journalism’, Renira Gambarato talked about how the journalistic narrative expands into integrated media platforms and how recipients engage in adding and sharing content via digital environments.

“My research contributes new insights through an analysis model that clarifies the basics of transmedia journalism. It’s not about publishing the same content on different platforms, but about the experience that the audience has by getting involved in news that expands through different channels,” explains Renira Gambarato. “I really feel that this research focus has been appreciated at the School of Education and Communication and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be involved and to take it further as an associate professor.”

Autism and the pathway into adulthood

Marita Falkmer has carried out research in the field of autism with a focus on younger children for a long time. She is now focusing on young adults with autism who are taking the next step in life.

“Problems often arise when these young adults are trying to find their place in society,” explains Marita Falkmer. “When I talk to students, teachers and parents, they are all interested in finding solutions to help with planning for what happens after school.”

In her lecture ‘Paving the way into post school participation’, Marita Falkmer talks about a new program that has been developed to help plan and prioritise for various post school goals, for example, going to high school. Other elements from her research that were highlighted in the lecture were a mentoring program for young adults wishing to pursue university studies and a project which will give support and advice to companies who employ people with autism.

“Whilst researching here at Jönköping University, I have been part of the research group CHILD. Our projects have taught us that we need to include people who have real experience of what we are researching about. They shouldn’t just be participants who contribute to data, they should also contribute to the actual focus of the research.”

The untapped potential of forest gardens

Increased sustainability, recreation and opportunities for play, movement and learning are just some of the benefits of a forest garden. However, the potential for this is almost untapped in teaching, argues Ellen Almers. In her lecture ‘Forest gardens in teaching. What, how and why?’ she talked about how teaching in a forest garden is defined and motivated by educators, but also how elementary school students can define the learning in a forest garden project.

“The topic is important because forest gardens have a largely untapped potential for contributing ways to increase sustainability, not just pedagogically and didactically. It’s also important to highlight children’s learning within ecological literacy,” says Ellen Almers. “In addition to learning and well-being, forest gardens can also provide protection against UV radiation, improve air quality, regulate water levels, increase biodiversity and contribute to carbon sequestration (a way of capturing carbon to counteract the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere). The forest gardens also provide fresh fruit, berries and edible leaves."

Part of Ellen Almer’s research has been a collaborative project, together with Jönköping County’s Public Health Department and ten preschools in Jönköping County, where one of the ideas have been to stimulate establishment of mini-forest gardens in preschools.

“Development of this research work has been ongoing, and since we are not divided into subject institutions here at the School of Education and Communication, it’s easier to find people from other disciplines to work with."

"Through the JU Sustainable network, I have been able to collaborate with researchers at the School of Health and Welfare, Jönköping International Business School and the School of Engineering, and this has facilitated interdisciplinary projects.”