An inside peek at emergent curriculum
By: Holly Beckert
July 7, 2020
I was so very excited to work my first day at GWW. As I was getting to know the children, a small bug flew by. "What was that?" asked one of the children. Another one said "It was a bug!" I asked them what kind of bug they thought it might be. "A lady bug!" "No, a mosquito!" "No, it's a spider" "No it can't be because spiders can't fly". In that moment, and in that conversation, a spark was lit. The children became invested in figuring out what sort of bug could have flown by inside of our school. They offered ideas, predictions, they argued their reasoning for why it could or couldn't be a certain type of bug. I wondered where this might take us...
A short while later I sat at the art table. I set out some markers, pencils, paper, scissors, and small pie tins. I asked two year old V if she would be interested in sketching some bugs with me. I said, "Hmm...I wonder what kind of bug I could draw. I wonder if I know how to draw a bug..." 4 year old Q's interest was piqued. He said "I know! I'll go look in the library to see if I can find any books about bugs!" He and 4 year old B went searching. At this point 2 year old V had been drawing up a storm. "LOOK! Ladybug! Lady BUG!" she announced excitedly while pointing at her work. I asked her if it would be okay for me to write the label "lady bug" on her drawing as well as write her name. She nodded and beamed with pride as I labeled her work. Her big brother L came walking over. He asked what we were doing. The children at the table all explained. "We are drawing about bugs". At this point, I had begun to cut out some pictures of bugs I found in an old magazine. I asked the children what they thought about creating our own GWW Bug Museum! This way we could document what we learned and hang it up in our classroom for other children to see. They were so excited as they brainstormed other bugs our museum would need. "We need grasshoppers!" "We need flies!" The ideas kept coming. I supported the children by scaffolding as needed. Some of them needed help with cutting out their bugs, others wanted me to label for them. Some wanted to write their own words (more on emergent writing later).
It was one of those small moments that I live for as an educator. When a tiny spark-like a little bug flying by-can ignite a fire in our bellies. A yearning to learn something new, to investigate, to come together as a small community of multi-aged children (and adults). The teamwork that was built between the children as they looked for books together; as they listened to each others ideas and offered their own. These are the moments that we learn and grow together, children and teachers. Through my observation I was able to learn a lot about where these children are at developmentally. I was taking note in my mind of who might need what in the future. I was thinking of all the new ways I could support them and also stretch them to learn and develop new skills. From the perspective of the children, they thoroughly enjoyed learning through hands-on, investigative play. I didn't walk in with a lesson plan that morning.
They wondered. I wondered. We wondered together. And that is the magic of emergent curriculum.
By: Dawn Irwin
As I sit here sipping my coffee on a beautiful Saturday morning, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of contentment and satisfaction. I haven't been this relaxed mentally and emotionally for longer than I can remember. The corners of my mouth can't help but turn towards the sky and I am trying to get comfortable with a lightness that feels foreign to me.
I've gotten so used to carrying around uncertainty and fear that my brain doesn't know what to do with the sudden extra bandwidth.
For the past 13 months, every single day was littered with complications, impossible hurdles, infuriating roadblocks, and unexpected heartbreaks. For the first time in over a year, that negative cloud has dissipated.
This past Wednesday, July 1st, was our first official day of school. I barely slept a wink the night before. But, not for the reasons I've lost so much sleep since last June. This time it was because of an excited, nervous giddiness that kept my mind humming along all night. If felt a lot like those sleepless Christmas Eve nights when I was a kid - laying awake in bed anxiously awaiting the time I could finally creep down the stairs and see what was waiting for me under the tree.
And, Wednesday turned out to be everything I hoped it would be. My amazing teachers arrived looking just as excited and nervous as I was. The kiddos came next, saying their goodbyes to their grownups. The school was filled with the wonderful, joyful chaos I've been missing for so long.
There was laughter, singing, reading, snuggling, negotiations, dancing, construction, mud cookies, a rock cake, painting, and even a few tears. New relationships were formed and familiar ones were rekindled.
At the end of the day, I was emotionally depleted and achingly exhausted, but I was whole. I had finally found the missing piece of the puzzle I had been searching for.
The outpouring of love we have received has also been an emotional roller coaster. It's incredible to physically feel the support of our community enveloping our little school. I know with every fiber of my being this dream would have never happened if it weren't for them. The countless shoulders I cried on, the many words of advice given, the financial support, the ones that saw a path forward when I couldn't, the endless dedication to the vision, the warriors that fought tooth and nail, the believers. I am eternally grateful for every single one of you. I would not be where I am today and the school would not have become what it is without you.
So, as I sit here reflecting back on the past thirteen months, basking in the lightness of this moment, I can't help but chuckle a little. As insane as it has been and almost impossible as it was to get to the place we are now, it's important to remember we have only just reached the starting line. We've taken just the first few steps of the marathon. The road will never end and I never want it to.
I'm ready. Let's do this.
Holly Beckert and Dawn Irwin are moms, early childhood educators, and advocates. Please enjoy reading all about our adventures inside and outside of our classroom!