Emergent Curriculum

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Emergent Curriculum

Children between the ages of one and five do not learn because they are taught. They learn as a result of their own doing…through Loris Malaguzzi actions, relationships, inquiries, opportunities, Founder of the Reggio Emilia Schools, Italy and repetition. This knowledge is the foundation of SFLC’s emergent curriculum. Our teachers become research partners with children, seeking answers to questions and supporting investigation. Our school is their laboratory, offering the materials and tools to inspire each child. Young children develop an astonishing number of brain cell tendrils called ‘dendrites’ during these years. ‘Dendrites’ grow when learning occurs, connecting one cell to another in very important and lasting ways. Without these connections, brain cells die. Children learn (and therefore develop brain cell connections or dendrites) when they: run socialize paint throw question rhyme jump read catch climb scream create dress up listen kick observe pull shape speak sing hit swing push and more…

“Once children are helped to perceive themselves as authors or inventors, once they are helped to discover the pleasure of inquiry, their motivation and interest explode.”

When children experience delight and a sense of success during these activities, their brain cells establish permanent ‘connections’ between the activity and the feelings of delight and success it inspires. If activities at school (and at home) result in negative feedback, boredom, memorization or lack of stimulation and motion, the child’s brain cells establish permanent negative associations with school and ‘learning’.1 Therefore, our first and most important goal with emergent curriculum is to inspire delight, curiosity, and inquiry in the classroom. Doing so has been proven to build intrinsic motivation (coming from within the child) and a long-term love of learning. These are the greatest gifts our teachers can give a child in preparation for their primary school experience.

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Dr. Elaine, Johnson, Ph.D, “The Way the Brain Learns Best”, 2006

Historically, preschools and childcare centers in America (including ours) have followed a classroom model in which the teacher chose what information and activities the children would ‘receive’ and when. In this model, the teacher presented only those activities which were “age-appropriate”, based upon published developmental stages. S/he created lesson plans and weekly themes, often for an entire year before the year begins. One’s teaching success was measured by the ability to get children to take interest in the chosen lesson and stay focused. The child’s success was measured by how well they could cut a straight line, form a letter or a letter sound, arrange shapes by color, and of course, behave. The downsides, however, was multifold. This approach lumps students into projects based on age rather than individual capabilities, interests and learning styles, in spite of the fact that we know children differ dramatically at this age.2 Also, a dynamic emerges in which the natural curiosity of each child is being constantly redirected toward the subject matter chosen by the teacher. The length of the inquiry is arbitrary (ie: Monday-Friday), which means it ends whether the children have finished their wondering or not. Often the themes were scripted for the whole year in advance. According to new research, young children withheld from directing their own learning at this age experience disappointment and boredom, creating permanent negative associations with school. It only takes a slight shift from this traditional model to embrace an emergent curriculum approach. • First, we transform the image of the child from that of an empty vessel being filled by the knowledge of the teacher. Instead, the child is seen as having “preparedness, potential, curiosity and interest in constructing their own learning…and in negotiating with everything the environment brings to them.”3 • Next,...
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