In my last Emergent Curriculum post, I promised to share a story about the difference exploring a child’s interest can make to the learning potential of the child.
This is the story of 2 1/2 year old Henry. Henry wasn’t one of those children who stood out from the crowd. He wasn’t loud or overly talkative. He didn’t have behavioural challenges. He wasn’t one of those overtly bright children who ask lots of questions or who always want to give the answers. In fact, Henry was a wanderer. During free play or activity time Henry would wander from activity to activity, engaging for mere moments with the activity or the other children.
In our general discussions about her class, Henry’s educator flagged this as a concern. When I asked her what Henry liked to do, what he was passionate about, what he was drawn to, what he talked enthusiastically about, there was very little we could identify for Henry, certainly not enough to create a curriculum from. We knew we needed to engage Henry in the program but our observations were not providing us with very much to go upon. What were we to do?
I have previously talked about the importance of educator-parent relationships and the benefit for the educator of tapping into the wealth of knowledge parents possess about their child (read more here and here), so the logical thing for us to do was to speak to Henry’s parents about his interests and passions. His mother told us that at home he was currently obsessed with the Disney movie, Dumbo.
(Sorry this photo isn’t the best ever but it should give you a bit of an idea of where we started)
Well, from day one of this new interest, Henry was a different child. He was more animated with the educators and with the other children, he spent a lot of time in this little area exploring the resources and learning with his educators and peers, and Henry quickly came to see himself as the ‘expert’ of this interest which was incredibly beneficial to his self esteem and to his view of himself as a learner. I have a photo (which I wish I could share) of Henry enthusiastically jumping for joy as the ringmaster of the circus, surrounded by other children each playing their role in what appears a beautiful pantomime.
The investigation of this interest continued to develop over time and drew in more and more children. It included parent initiated and led ‘juggling’ demonstrations, learning all sorts of acrobatics skills (balancing, ball and hoop skills), lots of role play, many hours of reading together, opportunities for creative representations, and lots, lots more.
The purpose of this story however was to talk about Henry and his learning and I can tell you that he became a completely different child in the centre. The skills he developed and demonstrated were maintained and built upon well after the circus investigation was discontinued. This experience positively impacted Henry as a learner in many ways, most unmeasurable but all inherently valuable.
Read more of the Understanding Emergent Curriculum series;