At the Child and Family Development Center, we use Emergent Curriculum. Both words in the phrase are important. Emergent stresses that planning needs to be based on the daily life and interests of children and adults in the program, and reminds us that spontaneity is important in early childhood settings. Curriculum conveys the message that teacher planning also exists in an early childhood setting. Both spontaneity and planning come together in Emergent Curriculum.
How does Emergent Curriculum work?
Everyone working or studying in the CFDC is a careful observer of young children. We understand developmentally appropriate practice and use this knowledge to create goals for each classroom. We take anecdotal notes and reflect together upon what we have seen and what it means in terms of children’s interests and learning. From our goals and observations we are able to document children’s growth and development, explore their interests in depth, enhance play centers to support children’s interest, expand on children’s developing ideas, and scaffold their prior knowledge or misunderstandings that exist on a particular topic. This information enables us to brainstorm directions for curriculum and plan specific activities. This type of planning is responsive to what children are interested in and to what they are exploring during play. Teachers use this information and their observations to build upon and develop plans that are rich in opportunities for children to further construct knowledge through exploration, field trips, visits from outside resource people, and hands-on experiences.
What does Emergent Curriculum look like?
Once a topic has been decided upon, the classroom environment will change – both physically and in terms of activities – to support that topic. Activities will be designed that will cover areas of language, literacy, science and discovery, math, and fine and gross motor development. Some activities will occur during play and will be one of many choices for the child. Others will be introduced through small and/or large group activities. The exploration of a particular topic may take place over a few days, weeks, or in the case of a long-term project, months. The time frame depends upon the directions and tangents that the children and the curriculum take. For instance, an exploration may begin with “underwater” and progress to sea creatures, treasure, and maps before it is completed.
Children use their play to act out real life events. We provide opportunities for children to pretend in many areas. They may imitate what they see and care for baby dolls which teaches them to be caring and nurturing individuals. We provide the children with the role models that are necessary to reenact life experiences in a positive, safe environment.
For infants and toddlers, there may be a period of sensory exploration of certain textures, emptying, filling, carrying materials, and exploring new skills and movements, or objects in their world.
The formation of relationships with others is a key element to our curriculum for all groups. These relationships are the foundation to which children build their knowledge of social expectations, respect for individuals, and how to trust others in an effort to successfully explore their environment.
*For classroom specific goals, please click on each individual classroom link at left.