Emergent Curriculum Continued

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Emergent curriculum is one of my favorite topics to discuss because there are endless areas of learning stemming from this approach to education.  My last blog focused more on the way I perceive emergent curriculum in response to children’s play and dialogue.  This blog post is more of a focus on other ways in which I draw upon children’s thoughts to design and implement curriculum.

A child enters preschool with a lot of early life experience and knowledge.  In order for me to tap into that knowledge I pay close attention to what a child says to me.  The center of every child’s universe is his/ her family.  So of course each child will have unique experiences pertaining to the time spent at home with family, extended family, such as cousins, and friends/ neighbors.  Sometimes children will burst open about all they do when they are away from school.  Other times a child may be more of an introvert and need a little bit of coaxing to open up.  Specific questions like, “Who did you play with at home?”  “Did you go anywhere with your family yesterday?”  Sometimes when I ask questions I get more information about a child’s likes, dislikes and information that helps me create and set up learning experiences based off of not only a child’s interests, but what their personality would be drawn to.

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The more times I am able to engage in conversation with a child or listen to his/ her conversation with others, I am able to form questions and ideas to extend learning and challenge each child.  The life experiences children choose to share can help me draw out the “story-teller” in each child.  I enjoy helping children recognize imaginary from real as they develop not only their oral story-telling abilities, but their artistic representations of those same experiences.  Sometimes when a child is first trying to tell stories, the stories are a mixture of both imaginary and fact.  As I write a child’s words, I can ask more questions or make statements that guide the child to telling me what really happened or what they imagined happened.  The more times we revisit these concepts, the more competent the child will become in his/ her ability to differentiate between imaginary and real.  Listening to what young children say is so vital for understanding what my role is in helping this child achieve each of his/her learning goals for the year.

101_3105  Emergent curriculum is a process containing elements of listening, watching, interacting and documenting.  Following this process is gathering materials, resources, and implementation of the curriculum designed with all the information the child has given me.  I am always learning from children and my teaching environment is a “third teacher” in the sense that it supports every aspect of early learning.  The classroom is a space that changes as children grow and learn.  Every child will impart some aspect of his/ her personality into the classroom and enable learning to continue and be challenged at every level. Learning is a life long process.  Emergent curriculum keeps teaching and learning fresh for all of us.  That is how I view emergent curriculum.

101_3113 If you too are an Early Learning Teacher and have any experiences with emergent curriculum please share!  I would love to read all about it!  Please share this post and lets keep the conversation going!

 

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT

The Marigold School of Early Learning

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Emergent Curriculum

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What is emergent curriculum?  This is a question I don’t get that often, yet sometimes a parent coming for a tour will ask this question.  There is no one shoe fits all answer to this.  Whether you are familiar with educational theories or not, emergent curriculum will look, sound and appear very different from school to school.  The reasons for this stem from the fact that not only does each school contain teachers and students unique to those communities, but each also follows slightly different theories, programs and philosophies within their schools.

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You may be thinking, “wow, she has yet to answer this simple question”.  I wish there was a simple answer that would give you a complete and wonderful picture of what “emergent” means in relation to an early learning program, however my answer will not be the same as another teachers.  The best I can do is tell you what it means to me and hope that you will have more questions, real experiences to relate to, and a desire to put your child in a program that supports emergent curriculum because you value early learning as much as me.

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Emergent curriculum has always meant to me, observing children at play.  I listen, watch,wait, ask questions, make comments, and document children’s conversations with each other.  Now the last part I added in later years when the Reggio Emilia philosophy became more prominent in my teaching.  Prior to documenting the dialogue of young children at play with each other, I would document what the children were doing and saying with only enough detail to help me plan an “emergent curriculum”, a curriculum that supported each child’s interests, or so I thought.  

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After I became much more aware of the Reggio Emilia philosophy and how much I loved the challenges it came with, I realized that to really design a curriculum following an emergent approach, that meant I needed to really use my observational techniques to the fullest and in detail document what the children were saying during play.  After documenting for a day, week or month, I would then know quite a lot more about each student and what their interests were.  I also was happy to have the belief that young children do have longer attention spans, reinforced through the Reggio Emilia philosophy.

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I love teaching using an emergent curriculum because that enables me to constantly practice my teaching skills, strengthen my ability to self reflect, and for years now has really tuned me in to my students true interests and abilities no matter where they are on the developmental continuum.  When I take the time to watch, listen and document dialogue, I can support my students learning far better than by following a scripted, boxed program, or by just writing down a tiny amount of information and going with my own ideas.  The children come first in my program, so following an educational theory and a way to create and implement curriculum that really does fill the educational needs of young children is vital to my on going journey as an early childhood educator.

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Opening my own preschool has been a dream of mine for many years now, and to finally have it up and running is beyond my wildest dreams!  I could not teach and be a good teacher if I was not implementing an emergent curriculum.  I know, I’ve been teaching for a long time.  The Reggio Emilia philosophy has been around for about 50 years now, and it is a theory that tests my knowledge, my endurance in this profession and makes me continue learning.  Designing a program for children ages three, four and five years means so much to me because there is a huge amount of cognitive  and physical development in this three year age range.  These young years are ones in which I want to really help each child follow his/ her own curiosities, wonders, discoveries and provide them with the means to create what they desire.  All the while these young minds will learn and gain a strong knowledge base for all learning that is to come.  Learning is not boxed, but rather fluid and all around us.  Learning cannot be contained.  Children are human beings and that means each has an innate and insatiable desire to understand the world we live in.  Why not use an educational approach and philosophy that supports that hunger in each young child?

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So in my long winded (I could go on) way I hope I have answered the question to someone’s liking.  Even if only one person finds my answer to be one in which they can follow, that is great! There is a lot more on this topic, but I will save that for another time. 🙂

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Please share this post and share your views on this topic.  I would love to read them! 🙂

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT         The Marigold School of Early Learning   cropped-cropped-100_8035.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring shapes and Salt Dough!

101_2010 101_2018  Spring is in full bloom!  We decided to try out salt dough! We made the dough and the spring shapes one day and then I baked them so they would be ready to paint the next class session. I recommend having more than one thing to bake the day you bake the salt dough.  It does take quite a long time in the oven at a low temp.  I think I made cookies and roasted some vegetables too! 🙂

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 We chose some fun bright spring like colors to paint the shapes and I must say they dried a bit faster than I expected.  If you choose to you can poke a hole in the shape so it can be hung later.  I found that the holes did close up a bit, so I used a sewing needle on one of them and that worked great.  

101_2223 I personally am not the biggest fan of projects in which young children use cookie cutters.  I like for children to use their hands and tools to create unique interpretations of their own, however this project was one I just couldn’t pass up.

The dangers with using preformed shapes is that many times young minds will be influenced in a negative way by using them.  Their perceptions of what they are capable of doing artistic wise becomes less confident because they compare everything they create to the perfect preformed shapes.  I’ve observed this happening subtly through the years.  It may not be obvious right away, but little by little children will start to compare their skill level to something that is artificial and perfect.  Due to that reason, I rarely use preformed shapes and prefer to support fine motor development and pure creativity through a child’s abilities wherever they are on the developmental continuum. I like to support children’s growing abilities and interests with artistic tools and “found objects” from the Loose Parts and Intelligent Play Things theory.  We use craft sticks, dominoes, buttons and scissors quite a bit.  We have even used shells. 

101_2311 There was some salt dough left over that I did not bake, so we were able to try a sensory experiment comparing play dough to the salt dough.  We found that the salt dough was really soft, pliable, gooey and when held in the air would slowly ooze down to the table.  At times the dough would hold an impression like finger prints and so forth and as it warmed up the impressions would stay for shorter periods of time.  Our play dough may be soft but it is not shiny and the salt dough was really shiny in comparison. 🙂 

101_2444  This child interpreted one of the times the salt dough oozed towards the table, as tights!  They do look like tights! 🙂  I love the spontaneous and pure interpretations young children express freely and openly!

If you have tried using salt dough please let us know what things you made from it and how the dough turned out.  We would love to know! 🙂

 

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Heidi Scott, BA & MIT  

The Marigold School of Early learning! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning from Nature!

101_1957  Nature is full of learning opportunities both indoors and outdoors! 🙂  We read some plant books to become familiar with seeds to sprouts to plants.  I then set up some provocations to see if further interest would emerge.  Using a familiar flower as a plant example is a great base of knowledge to work off of and build onto.  We planted sweet peas indoors, so I was happy our book showed a picture of how they look when they bloom.  

With provocations the purpose is not for the child to do exactly what I want them to do.  The purpose is for the child to be curious enough to explore, question and create based on what inspires them.  The inspiration could come from the provocation in front of them or the provocation could spark a memory of an idea or experience.  So I do not interfere with the creative process young children’s minds need before they begin a project either small, large or long.  As they move through the project I can step in to support their inquiries and need for further explanations or materials.

101_2798 Our sweet peas finally grew!  Having a real life example to go with any pictures we have is always a great way to reach young concrete minds and build understanding.  When children are allowed to plant and take care of the growing seeds that sprout they learn so much more than what we tell them or read to them about.  Making sure to plan experiences to go along with any type of curriculum support is the most effective way for young minds to form understanding and continue to build onto the knowledge they’ve gained.  It doesn’t matter what amount or level of learning has taken place because the more experiences provided and allowed to happen will enable all children to learn things they did not know before.

101_2614 We collected some plant materials to create pictures on paper!  You never know what picture will emerge from the various plant materials found all around us.  These are not forever creations, so I like to take pictures so they can become a forever picture.  Sometimes if the quality of the picture is good enough the pictures can be printed and used for future provocations in different content areas.  Math, science, art and literacy can all be brought to light through natural pictures.  Give it a try and see what happens!  And don’t forget the dialogue either you hear between the children or you engage in with them is a huge part of the learning process.  Questioning, discussing, thinking out loud are all ways to communicate with young minds and for them to do the same.  Through conversation we learn so much of what children understand and what we as adults can do to support the learning journey. As a Teacher I have always opened my eyes and ears to learning from my students.  The give and take process of education keeps all of our minds active and ready for new knowledge.

101_2722 Learning is fluid and a part of being human.  Learning is not contained in a box.  Life is learning, so grasp each day and take the time to watch, listen and respect the young children in your life.  Children are like flowers in the sense that they grow and change.  Let’s work together to make sure their early years are full of learning opportunities that emerge and are planned through play! 🙂

 

101_2799    Heidi Scott, BA & MIT

The Marigold School of Early Learning 

 

 

 

Things to consider when looking for a preschool

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For your child the early years are packed with multiple learning experiences that together form a strong foundation for all future learning journeys.  It is the first school experiences your child will have.  It is understandable that you would want the preschool your child attends to be one in which you have looked for, done research on, and asked others about.  Sometimes you can go a bit further by taking some time to research on your own some of the educational theories driving preschools in the area you live in or near.  Being well informed sometimes starts with your own interests in early education and can lead you to finding a preschool just right for your child and that will put your mind at ease.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I’ve been giving tours lately.  One piece of information I would like to offer you, is to think about any questions or topics for discussion you want to engage in with the teacher.  When questions and discussion topics come from your heart, they tend to be more open, transparent and lead to a more insightful visit or tour at any preschool your interested in placing your child.

The internet is full of wonderful and not so wonderful information.  I would caution using web sites that push you to ask a specific set of questions, or encourage you to feign ignorance on educational topics that you may be quite knowledgeable on. I also would caution using questions as a test for the preschool you are touring.  For instance, if you ask a question based on a list from a web site, and the teacher answers the question, but not the way the web site tells you it should be answered, ask yourself what answer you are looking for with that question.  Ask questions you want to know the answers to.  Start a discussion with information you know and want to share in order to learn more from the preschools you visit.  Being open and honest each time you visit a preschool for your child will lead you to the right place from the start.  

When questions or discussions are genuine and open you gain mutual respect and trust for the teachers you meet and the preschools you visit.  As a teacher I want to learn what is important to you about your child’s educational needs, so I can best support those goals we set together.  When I meet people that are obviously feigning ignorance on an educational theory they know well, I loose respect for them and want to understand why they are visiting my school.  My time is as important as yours so please come to my school with an open mind and a willingness to learn and share what you know.  Education is a broad topic and there are countless things we can discuss, so please come to my school and know that it is perfectly fine to simply ask questions, look around or engage in a conversation.  Remember the goal is for you to be able to find a preschool that fits the needs of your child and is a place you are comfortable becoming a part of through your child’s experiences.

The most important part of finding the right preschool for your child really comes down to how your child engages in each environment you visit.  Does the space appear to be one in which your child will be happy, curious, inquisitive, and learn in multiple ways?  Take that first step with your child.  Take him/ her with you on your visits, so you can gain insight from not only the preschools you visit, but how your child engages in those environments.  Even when young children are shy, or both introverted and shy, he/ she will warm up enough to interact with any environment they are truly curious about.

If you have any experiences you wold like to share with me please do!  I would love to read all about them! 🙂

Thank you for visiting  Heidi Scott, BA & MIT and The Marigold School of Early Learning! 🙂

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