In Stepping Stones we are advocates that children should learn through play but also that children should learn at their own pace and within the parameters of their own interests and age and stage of development. It has long been documented that children learn best when they are interested in the topic at hand. I’m sure many adults reading this can think back to their own school days and remember topics that interested them and ones that bored them to tears! Which information do you recall best? I’m guessing the one you were interested in?? But did you ever consider that maths might have been more fun if you were outdoors and learning about addition and subtraction by calculating how much sand you needed to add to the bucket to make a decent sand castle? Would science have been more memorable if you learned about Force and Newton’s Laws of Motion by pushing your friends on a swing? Would you have enjoyed learning how to form letters and numbers by making them in shaving foam, gloop, sand and playdough before you had to sit quietly at a table and write them with pencil and paper? Do you see where I am going with this?

emergent curriculum

The emergent curriculum is how we address the needs and interests of the children at a certain point in time while also addressing their learning and development needs. It is a way of planning around the children’s interests as opposed to those of the teacher. Children thrive and learn best when their interests are captured. Learning occurs naturally. Planning emergent curriculum requires observation, documentation, creative brainstorming, flexibility and patience on the part of the pre school teacher. Rather than starting with the lesson plan which is repeated every year regardless of the age, developmental level or interests of the children, emergent curriculum starts with the children’s interest. In short, it is a child-directed and teacher facilitated approach to planning the curriculum. IN Stepping Stones, teachers hold planning meetings daily and weekly. These aim to discuss the interests observed and documented on a daily basis and how to extend these interests. For example – last September our opening theme was All About Me to facilitate the children to get to know each other and learn more about each others families. During a discussion about what each child likes, someone mentioned they loved Humpty Dumpty. This captured the imagination of the group and very quickly our focus became Humpty Dumpty, who he/she was, what he/she was, why he/she fell, why he/she couldn’t be put back together. This very simple nursery rhyme provided opportunities for the children to develop new language, question their beliefs (who ever said Humpty Dumpty was an egg??) and investigate ways to put him back together again. This discussion promoted the children’s creative activities along with extending their social skills as they learned the rules about group debate and discussion.

The emergent curriculum brings its own challenges with it however as it summons a lot of creativity and flexibility on the part of the teachers. There is no knowing where the learning will end up but this openness makes the curriculum more exciting for both us and children.

Ensuring Success

Teachers brainstorm many possibilities for study sparked from the emerging interest of the children. Rather than a lesson plan, the teacher ends up with a “road map”. Webbing all the activities together gives the teacher a road map full of possible journeys with no end in sight. The end comes when the children have moved their interest to another topic and a new “emerging” interest has again been identified.

An in depth knowledge of child development is essential for the emergent curriculum to be effective and successful. It is crucial that teachers are familiar with developmental milestones and age appropriate learning to enable them to encourage children to challenge themselves and facilitate the creation of play episodes that are meaningful and rich in learning.