At Fayerweather we often talk about using emergent curriculum, especially with younger children, but what exactly is it and how does it translate to learning? When educators talk about emergent curriculum they are referring to a way of planning lessons that are based on children’s interests and passions at a certain point in time. Children thrive and learn best when their interests are captured so learning occurs more naturally.
For this year’s Kindergarten class that meant... monsters. The idea began early in the year when one child came to school with an already robust interest in monsters. As October rolled around and Halloween neared, more and more children became interested in the topic.
As a means to discuss some Halloween-based fears, the teachers introduced a variety of books such as There’s an Alligator Under My Bed, Harry and the Terrible Whatzit, and Go Away Big Green Monster. In each of these stories, the child characters are empowered around sometimes scary monsters.
The interest in monsters continued to grow. The teachers moved on to Hey, That's MY Monster! and I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll and Howard McWilliam. These wonderfully illustrated books - about the importance of having just the right monster under one’s bed - sparked rich conversations about what kind of monster would be perfect for each kindergartner. The teachers saw an opportunity to tap into the children’s natural curiosity and excitement and created a project that engaged the children’s interest on this topic and allowed them to practice particular skills that were current learning objectives such as
Thinking and planning before starting
Numeral recognition and writing
Counting with 1 to 1 correspondence
Developing scissor skills
Extending drawing skills and increasing their repertoire of lines, shapes, color use and form
Children brainstormed about what their monsters would look like, decided how many of each monster part - heads, eyes, mouths, fur, ooze, drool - they would include, and recorded the numbers they had chosen on planning sheets. The sheet also left space for adding additional parts and ideas, like fire and wings, further nurturing their creativity and independence.
Then the monsters slowly began emerging, and the results were as wonderful and as individual as the creators themselves!