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.
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!