As you know, here at Raising Arizona Preschool we thrive on play based learning. While we do believe that play based learning is the way to go, we also use what is called an emergent curriculum.
Emergent curriculum can be understood by breaking down and defining the two words. Emergent means coming from the experiences and daily lives of young children. By thinking on the definition it helps teachers remember the natural ability for children to learn and play. Ideas for developing curriculum become obvious when children have the freedom to follow their desires while playing.
A teachers role in an emergent curriculum is to listen to children while they play, determine their interests, then offer them a plan for learning. In an Emergent curriculum the actual curriculum (tools, ideas, materials) that a teacher brings helps them scaffold their learning.
A teacher who uses an emergent curriculum will set up an environment full of opportunities for their children to touch, listen, see, experiment, discuss and role play the many aspects of an idea.
For example, if a teacher noticed her students were interested in fish, she could bring in a fish bowl for her classroom. Through this experience the students can learn what is in the water, how evaporation works, how to read fish food labels, and then of course just learning about the actual fish. If the children are studying butterflies, the teacher may bring in a cocoon and let her students see the metamorphosis process first hand. A lesson on fire trucks may turn into a visit to a real fire station.
With some curriculums teachers feel “tied down” and unable to stray from a lesson plan. Emergent curriculum is not that rigid. It is flexible, and open ended. It allows children to grow, and gives teachers the opportunity to explore, expand and bring meaning to the questions of a child.
For more information about emergent curriculum read this article from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.