Emergent Curriculum


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.


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.


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.  


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.


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?


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. 🙂


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










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