Because it involves the teacher observing to find out what the children are already curious about, emergent curriculum flips on it’s head some of what we hold to be evident about how to run and to "manage" a classroom. In this post I will write about two classroom scenarios, the first is from a real classroom that I have (sadly) worked in, and is based on a more traditional (albeit “play-based” classroom). The second is more in line with an emergent curriculum approach, and is how I believe a classroom could look, if we were willing to alter our approach, and to let go of a small amount of control.
Since the children’s work is on-going, the teacher has noticed that Sam has come to block area every day this week, and that he doesn’t often choose to join projects that require writing implements. She brings over a jar of pencils and a clipboard with a piece of paper. She says to Sam, Sam, did you know that designers use these tools to help them remember the work they have done, and to work on creating a plan? I can see how hard you are working to design your transformer. Before you continue your work will you draw a picture of your transformer? (this invitation is designed to meet the same goal as replicating the shapes you see in classroom scenario number 1) Sam takes the pencil (loosely) and makes marks on the paper. He begins to cry, I can’t do it! he says. The teacher says, I have an idea. Why don’t you take a block and trace the shape, to help you practice getting it the way you want it to be? Sam decides that is a good idea and chooses the blocks he wants to trace. The teacher looks at his work and says, Oh! And don't forget to write your name on it, so we know who made that transformer.
The article about curiosity was a reminder to me about my own learning, and growth as a teacher, and has helped me remember why I am so committed to the emergent curriculum philosophy, model and practice. I hope soon to be able to return to the joyful and exciting part of what it can mean to be a teacher, and I hope that other teachers can find the places in their own work for curiosity and growth.
Side note: I am currently looking for work. If this post resonates with you, and you work at an infant/toddler or preschool center (in the Boston area) where this approach is happening and you are hiring (or looking for someone to come in and consult/ offer feedback on your teaching based off of observations) please contact me.