Be Ready for an Emergent Curriculum

Children are curious about the world around them. Whether it’s a scientific phenomenon like rain falling from the sky or a social oddity like another child having their feelings hurt, children really are learning something new every day! But children don’t learn the same new things or have the same questions or the same experiences as each other, at the same time. Issues and wonderments arise at unique times for everyone and so do learning opportunities.

For example, a child at home sees a bird flying with a twig in his mouth and wonders what’s going on there. The adult, when questioned, may ask opened ended questions like “what do you think he’s doing?” and maybe suggest that they watch where the bird goes next. When they spot the bird landing on a tree branch next to a little mound of twigs, the child can be encouraged to ask herself what the bird is making. The adult can provide the child with materials to further the child’s curiosity/wonder like a pile of twigs on the ground (to make her own nest) or cardboard tubes (to make some binoculars for bird-watching). This is emergent learning, as the child’s learning has stemmed from and naturally emerged from her own questions and interests. For a child to learn new concepts or build on concepts they are currently learning, having a keen interest in the subject makes for a deeper understanding.

So, how can we cater for this emergent learning in a group of several children all at once? We can’t, unless we are ready!

In a group of children coming through your door in the morning, maybe 2 are interested in rebuilding a city scene with shops, offices and roads. Another child has just come back from visiting his grandparents who live in a cluster of beautiful cottages in the west of Ireland and wants to recreate this scene in his play. In your building centre, you provide little plactic buildings which are decorated to look like townhouses with wonderfully detailed windows and colourful front doors and a cute cat painted onto the front of some houses. Pretty little play things but not what these guys are looking for this morning. That’s where their plans (and play) end!

Imagine the difference in their playtime if you were to provide plain blocks of various sizes, without pictures painted onto them. They could be stacked as high or as wide as the children wanted to make their cityscape and arranged differently to recreate the cottage scene. The children’s play wold allow for imaginations to flourish, concepts like maths and architecture to form and for discussions to develop about their interests and their own stories.

What we need, to be ready for our children’s emergent learning to occur is open-ended materials like:

  • Building blocks of various sizes and textures
  • Loose parts e.g. bottle tops, pebbles, twigs, shells, straws, buttons ……
  • Paper and fabric of various sizes and textures
  • Craft materials e.g. glue, tape, scissors
  • Access to the outdoors which contains a number of natural materials e.g. grass, trees/shrubs, flowers, rocks/pepples, water
  • Avoid dolls and small world figures that are based on TV characters

How we need to be, for emergent learning to happen is:

  • Flexible, in our planning and our approach as a facilitator
  • Curious and interested in our world and surroundings
  • See each child as a capable and competent learner
  • Continue to be in awe of the children’s minds and their little(big) worlds
  • An open-door policy and a decent relationship with parents will allow for the children’s interests to be known

As we continue our journey with our group of children this year, let’s have fun with all that emerges by way of learning and discovery. The unplanned, emergent curriculum really is the fun and productive way to go.

More flow and less stress. That’s a win-win in my book!

It’s nice to feel ready for the upcoming year as well as allowing for an emergent curriculum, so check out our Curriculum Packs. Themes include interests that will inevitably come up during the year e.g. the 4 seasons, Families, Spiders, Farms, Good Citizens, Space …..

The best thing is that all the activities are conveniently linked to the Aistear Learning Goals (Irish Early Years Curriculum Guidelines) so there’s less research and paperwork for you! Get them here!

It’s also nice to be ready for the day-to-day like observations, inspections, policy writing etc. Get access to these and many more FREE DOCUMENTS HERE!

Wishing you a wonderful year,

Olga x

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