Many early childhood teachers are choosing to use emergent curriculum (including our teachers at Heights Cooperative Preschool!) to engage children in age-appropriate learning. What is emergent curriculum and how does it work?
The Emergent Curriculum in Early Childhood Education
An emergent curriculum is a type of learning curriculum that allows children to explore and learn on their own, rather than following a set path or instruction. This type of curriculum is designed to allow students to explore new concepts and skills on their own, in their own time and in their own way.
This type of curriculum can be used in early childhood settings, such as daycare centers, pre-kindergarten classrooms (like Heights!), and playgroups. By allowing children to explore on their own, emergent curriculums are seen as more engaging and effective learning tools. This type of curriculum is best suited for children who are learning to develop their own skills and knowledge, rather than following a set curriculum. Emergent curricula are often used in early childhood education programs, as they allow children to explore different areas of learning on their own terms. This allows them to learn more easily and quickly, which is important for developing critical thinking skills.
The concept of Emergent Curriculum was developed by Elizabeth Jones, who first began working with children in a university lab preschool where she and other adults observed children's play in a designated and designed space. She said, "These two focuses - creating the physical environment and studying the child - characterized the development of early childhood education in the first half of the twentieth century."
She also described the way "Curriculum emerges from the play of children and the play of teachers. It is co-constructed by the children and the adults and the environment itself...The process is naturally individualized."
How Does the Emergent Curriculum Work?
By allowing children to explore on their own, emergent curriculums are seen as more engaging and effective learning tools. Compared to standardized education we've become familiar with, how does emergent curriculum teach children and encourage mastery and retention of new information?
First, The teacher provides a general overview of what they would like the child to learn about, but leaves more room for children to explore on their own. Children are given a variety of materials and tools to help them learn the material at their own pace. At Heights Cooperative Preschool, we offer students multiple designated spaces, each encouraging a different kind of play.
Emergent Curriculum isn't hands-off! The teachers monitor the children's progress but also allow them space to figure things out for themselves.
Benefits of Using an Emergent Curriculum
Emergent curriculum in early childhood education allows children to be involved in the learning process, and thus more engaged. This type of curriculum allows for more independence and creativity in the children, which encourages children to explore on their own. Additionally, this type of curriculum is seen as more engaging because it allows for more creative play. Finally, emergent curriculums are often more cost-effective than traditional curriculums because they do not require as many hours of instruction per week.
Some additional benefits of using an emergent curriculum include:
More active learning: With no set instruction or routine, children learn actively, by choice. This type of learning is seen as more engaging for the child, who is able to focus on the material being taught instead of being stuck within a classroom setting. Emergent curriculum eliminates boredom and offers students a sense of control in their learning environment.
Better problem-solving skills: Emergent curriculums require children to think on their feet and solve problems they encounter throughout the course of the lesson. This type of thinking is seen as key for success later on in life, both academically and professionally.
Increased creativity: By allowing students to explore without limits, emergent curriculums foster creativity and innovation. Children are able to come up with new ideas on their own, rather than following a set pattern or model.
Challenges with Implementing an Emergent Curriculum
Though the benefits of using an emergent curriculum are numerous, there are also a few challenges that need to be considered when implementing this type of instruction. For example, some families may find it difficult to adjust to a classroom environment without a set schedule or routine. Additionally, some teachers may not be familiar with how to implement an emergent curriculum, leading to confusion and frustration among students. However, by taking the time to research and understand the advantages and disadvantages of emergent learning, any obstacles can be overcome.
Our staff is dedicated to Emergent Curriculum, and we encourage our students' guardians to become familiar with Emergent Curriculum and play-based learning by participating in school activities and reviewing our resource page!
Examples of Emergent Curriculum in Early Childhood Education
There are many styles of Emergent Curriculum that you may have heard of. They each bring their own merits and benefits for students!
1. Creative Curriculum
The Creative Curriculum is a flexible and adaptable educational framework that allows for children to explore and learn on their own. This curriculum is based on the belief that children are natural explorers who want to learn at their own pace, which is why it emphasizes hands-on learning experiences and creative activities.
Some examples of activities that can be included in the Creative Curriculum include: making art, playing games, creating stories, and experimenting with new materials.
2. The We Love Learning! Method
The We Love Learning! Method is a creative classroom framework that emphasizes play-based learning. This approach was developed by John Stevens in the 1970s, and it has since been widely adopted by teachers around the world. The We Love Learning! Method focuses on providing children with opportunities to explore their world through play, social interaction, and problem-solving skills.
Some examples of activities that can be included in the We Love Learning! Method include: playing tag or hopscotch together, painting with watercolors or crayons, making pizzas from scratch, and building towers out of LEGO bricks.
3. The Montessori Method
The Montessori Method is a traditional educational approach that was developed by Maria Montessori in the early 1900s. This method focuses on teaching children through individualized instruction in a calm and distraction-free environment. Montessori students learn by observing and manipulating objects around them, which helps them develop critical thinking skills and an understanding of abstract concepts.
Some examples of activities that can be included in the Montessori Method include: sorting different types of rocks into groups according to shape or color, folding origami paper into complicated designs, measuring distances using sandcastles or measuring cups, playing catch using soft balls instead of baseballs, and baking cakes from scratch using simple ingredients like sugar or flour.
At Heights Cooperative Preschool, you can trust that your students are learning and having fun every day, thanks to our amazing team of educators and the framework of the Emergent Curriculum. Visit our resources page to learn more!