Yesterday I posted the wonderful Hundred Languages of Children and today I would like to share a very small portion of a learning journey story involving a group of 3 year olds and a strawberry that I hope will help to illuminate what I love about an Emergent Curriculum approach to early learning.
The children in this 3 year old class had been growing fruit and vegetables, including strawberries. Alongside the actual growing, the educator had been sharing a number of related stories including ‘The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear‘ by Don Wood. In this book, a little mouse takes all manner of measures in an attempt to hide and disguise his red, ripe strawberry from the big hungry bear he hears coming.
The children were very familiar with the story after repeated readings and opportunities to role play the story with a variety of dramatic play props (during free play time, not as a structured experience).
One morning the children arrived to find that on the table was a plate with a half eaten strawberry on it. The first few children took little notice but then M. arrived and on seeing the strawberry exclaimed loudly, “The big hungry bear was here!” A group of children gathered round and an enthusiastic discussion ensued (which included their educator) about whether or not the big hungry bear had in fact visited the centre – the evidence for the claim being the half eaten strawberry apparently left by the bear.
The educator suggested the group go outside to ensure that the rest of the strawberries growing in their garden were still safe. They were relieved to find that the strawberries in the garden were fine but the children decided that they needed to take measures to protect the strawberries from potential future bear visits. They discussed potential ways to protect their fruit and decided one way would be to make a sign to warn the bear to stay away.
They headed back inside and three children volunteered to each draw a mock up of what the sign should look like. They drew their designs with marker pen on A4 paper, in consultation with the educator about what their design might need in order to act as an effective deterrent to the bear. The three children then each presented their design back to the larger group, with the help of the educator describing each of their signs to the group. The group were told that they needed to vote for which design they thought would work the best to keep away the bear. Each child placed a vote with a token and told the group why they chose that design.
The winning design was redrawn onto a large sheet of paper with text scribed by the educator as told to her by the child.
Notice the very effective cross across the bear part of the poster!
So why have I shared this story? Yesterday my post talked about the importance of an image of the child as a capable, competent, curious and creative learner. I believe this example perfectly illustrates young children engaged in learning that effectively activates each of these four competencies.
This is what learning in an Emergent Curriculum program looks like.
Read more of the Understanding Emergent Curriculum series;