Your child’s teacher is a master at her trade. She has learned about your child specifically. She knows just how to welcome every child in the morning, she knows their favorite toys, what time they get hungry, who they like to play with. She knows how long your daughter can sit in one spot, how your son holds a pencil and which books are their favorites. She watches all of them playing, all day.
With all of this information she has developed a system of planning that unfolds daily, weekly and monthly. This is called Emergent Curriculum. Emergent thematic curriculum happens when great teachers witness amazing children, who at any given moment may be fascinated by trains, pirates, bugs, babies or rainbows. Your child’s teacher then builds activities based around the themes and fascinations that have emerged naturally in her classroom, creating a curriculum built around your children’s interest. Children excitedly participate and engage in learning because they feel a part of the planning.
Yes, we also introduce curriculum we think children should have exposure to, such as culture, art and science, but it is done by tailoring the specifics to them individually, which pulls each child in and makes learning engaging, fun, and interesting. Although it can sometimes look like chaos—as if 10,000 things are happening at the same time—it’s quite the contrary. What’s actually happening is that each child is engaged in his or her own learning, at his or her own pace and in his or her own bright spot.
Next time you are in the school, please take a careful look at the curriculum walls and bulletin boards. It’s not just about class calendars and newsletters, although those are equally important. It’s also a graphic representation of how the teachers’ beautiful plans have evolved into your child’s reality. And then, since it is impossible to put on paper everything that happens each day, take it a step further. Imagine all that unfolds at snack time, free play and at the park! Oh so many teachable moments!
This is what a thriving preschool classroom looks like. It truly is learning by design!