What is an Emergent Curriculum?

This is an approach to education used on kids early in life, whereby learning is uniquely directed towards the interests of a group of kids or a particular child. The interests, needs, and skills of the kid or group of kids also influence the plans for further learning.

Emergent curriculum is based on the principle that kids are most successful at learning when courses and programs align with their interests, requirements, strengths, and lived realities. Teachers committed to this philosophy observe children throughout their day and use the resultant notes for constructing individualized and thoughtful curriculum content. This is followed by offering meaningful learning opportunities to support the vital developmental skills relevant to kids of a particular age group.

When ongoing opportunities for practice cause skill mastery, teachers react by augmenting the learning experience by planning and implementing progressively challenging tasks. As kids repeatedly tackle and master these “attainable challenges,” they start considering themselves as proficient learners. Additionally, the alignment of course content with social realities and individual interests authenticates all types of diversities and inspires an enduring passion for learning.

Both kids and adults have initiatives and make decisions in an emergent curriculum. This power to affect curriculum directions and decisions means that course content is sometimes negotiated between what kids find interesting and what adults recognize to be essential for their education and development. Course ideas typically materialize from responding to the questions, interests, and concerns produced within a specific environment, by a particular set of people, at a definite time. Therefore, an emergent curriculum isn’t based on the kids’ interests alone. Instead, teachers and parents have interests worth bringing into the course. By incorporating the concerns and values of all the adults involved, such a curriculum helps the classroom culture to evolve.

Teachers play a crucial role in an emergent curriculum. In the beginning, they utilize their knowledge of child development theory and pursue the kids’ lead by providing materials for them to actively explore as a mode of inspiring in-depth understanding of a specific topic of interest. Once kids achieve mastery, the teachers enrich their learning interests by adding new materials that support or suggest new ideas. At this phase, the teacher scaffolds the kids’ learning to bring them to a new level of understanding.

An emergent curriculum also needs teachers to document learning experiences. Such documentation helps teachers realize where the curriculum stands and gives them ideas about where it could go next. It helps kids understand their own learning process and lets their parents get solid representations of their developmental growth.

Project work is another vital component of programs practicing the emergent curriculum. Using projects, which can involve the entire class or a small group, kids can get in-depth knowledge of a topic over days or weeks. In a classroom that practices emergent curriculum successfully, projects often focus on answering kids’ questions like “Why do different things have different colors?” or “What happens to the water after it’s used to water the plants?” or “What types of homes do animals live in?” After noting kids’ questions, teachers can create projects that help answer those questions.

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