At Step Ahead we believe that play is the child’s “work.”
Children come to Kindergarten full of ideas of what they would like to do or how they are going to “work”. As teachers, we set the environment up as an invitation for the children and we are aware the ‘set-up’ may change as the children’s ideas and plans emerge.
The definition of Emergent is: “In the process of coming into being or becoming prominent” (Oxford Dictionary 2018). At Step Ahead it is defined as noticing children’s ideas, or their thinking becoming visible. In a Waldorf inspired Kindergarten children are believed to come to this world already full of their own aspirations. Our highest endeavour must be to develop free human beings, who are able of themselves to impact purpose and direction in their lives (Oldfeild 2001).
At Step Ahead, we recently had a wonderful example of the Emergent Curriculum in action. One of our children had been creating and drawing wedding cakes. From talks with her mother about her creations, we discovered she herself was a cake decorator. As an extension of this wedding cake interest, we offered all the children to make and decorate their own real ‘wedding’ cakes. A few days later, the same child then drew and designed a wedding dress for Sophie’s pending wedding. Through discussions and the sharing of ideas, she went on to create a magnificent wedding dress from paper. As we provide open ended materials and resources for our children, the child knew what she had on hand to use in her creations and how she wanted to use them. This entire ‘wedding’ project was not something we, as teachers, could plan for. We set up the environment with flowers, ribbon, bride and groom cake toppers, that we knew the children would enjoy and some how incorporate into their work, but what evolved and emerged was entirely up to the child. We documented and displayed the project which also tells the child how we respected and valued her work and it also allows for revisiting.
In the Emerging Curriculum example above, the child had the opportunity to explore all areas of the curriculum; mathematics (counting, measuring and geometry), social science (reasons why we have weddings, social expectations) and Arts (costuming and designing). As teachers, we know that children move in and out of these curriculum areas as they work though these schemes or projects and we believe that the Emergent Curriculum supports and encourages this.
“In Early Childhood education, curriculum isn’t the focus, children are…. But curriculum is what just happens in an educational environment- not what’s rationally planned to happen, but what actually takes place” (Jones and Nimmo 1995, p.12)
Jones and Nimmo 1995, p.12 as cited in Fraser & Gestwicki (2000) Authentic Childhood, Exploring Reggio Emilia in the Classroom. Thomson Learning, Canada.
Oxford Dictionary. (2018). [online] Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition [Accessed 26 Mar. 2018].
Oldfield, L. (2001). Free to Learn: Introducing Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Education Stroud: Hawthorn Press