Emergent Curriculum At Home

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If I watch closely, I am seeing little embers of interests that have the potential to transform into threads of curriculum experiences for Greysen. Emergent curriculum is the idea that children learn best when their learning is self-directed. That is, their learning opportunities are based on their interests and ideas. This idea, coupled with my understanding that children also learn best through play and hands-on experiences, is how I plan play provocations for the girls.


Adults may simply need to ask a verbal child what they are interested in or listen to their peer conversations to get a sense of their passions. The process is the same for infants and toddlers, even though they may appear to generally be less articulate than older children. However, watching their play closely will most likely reveal their questions about the world that surrounds them.


Offering Greysen play experiences based on her interests is sometimes challenging because there are so many irresistible ideas out there. I try to balance other great ideas with ideas that are directly responsive to the interests and questions Greysen has, and when I take a close look, she has many.


1. Noting an Interest


Children have any number of ideas and interests from moment to moment and day to day. I try to focus on the ideas that she repeatedly tests out or tries.


In this instance, painting over things – her hands, or marks on the paper.




2. Seek the Child’s Ideas and Input


As a toddler, Greysen is primarily in the exploratory stage.  Her art experiences are largely sensory, and she prefers them to be kept simple. She has not yet generated ideas outside of her previous experiences, so I sought her input by offering her some choices.


3. Offer an Extension of the Child’s Interest


Given Greysen’s consistent interest in transformation (i.e., face-painting) and increasing sense of self-awareness, there were a couple of directions I thought I could take this.


Greysen paints and paints, focusing on the tiniest details. She seeks out little marks, previously painted spots, or bits of tape and completely covers them with paint. My idea to extend on this was to give her a chance to paint over something – images. I set out dark paint so that she could really cover or black out as much of the images as she wanted to without having to apply too many coats. For these images, I tore out a couple of black and white portraits from a magazine and taped them to a board.


This was the first time I have set up something to paint on that wasn’t blank or previously marked up by her own doing.


4. Allow Time to Explore the Materials


Children typically need time to explore and play with the materials, often in unintended ways, before they engage in the opportunity presented to them.


This was definitely the case this time, as Greysen took right to painting her trademark cat nose,  and on her forehead  a single stroke. Without prompting, she moved on to paint over the portraits.



She spent most of her time painting over the people’s features. She narrated her actions as she painted, saying, “eyes, nose.” etc.




5. Reflect on the Experience


Taking time to review video or photographs at some later point helps me see what were the most interesting aspects about the project to Greysen.


The purpose of this experience was to give Greysen a chance to see what happens to an images when she paints over it. Her comments lead me to think that she is still interested in facial features and how she looks with paint on her face.


6. Plan the Next Experience Based on the Child’s Interest/Question/Theory

And so the cycle continues.  My next steps? Plan an art experience that is connected to her interest in faces, possibly expressions. Any ideas?

One Comment

  1. kimmy says:

    i like this! i’ve been trying to go with caleb’s interests in our learning time together. this is a great reminder for me to slow down and watch him more-and allow him to discover as i step back rather than lead. thank you ;)

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