“Our children know what research is. They know the word, and they know they can go to the library and look things up.”
- Susan Stacey is talking about four-year-olds at Halifax Grammar School. The school’s Junior Primary is a leading program in emergent curriculum, in which student inquiry drives learning.
What is Emergent Curriculum?
The term emergent curriculum originated about 30 years ago, inspired by the practices of schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. This approach to early childhood education is rooted in a belief that young children learn best when they choose subjects to investigate through their questions, ideas, and theories. In this way, they become more deeply engaged in the topic.
“Children are trying to learn how the world works, and they have a theory about everything. So we facilitate their learning about subjects of their own choosing, in projects they help design. The adult input comes in when it’s the optimal time to nudge them along to deeper understanding. ‘Where does the water go when it goes down the drain, how is water made clean before it goes back into the ocean?’ for example” she explains.
How it's Integrated Into Learning
During the school year, some of their projects include investigating how chocolate is made (from cocoa bean to chocolate bar!), a study of the African Savannah, learning about owls and their habitats, and working with art media – seen as another ‘language’ within this approach to learning.
“Teaching children facts today will not be enough in 15 years when they’ve graduated,” Susan points out. “Our goal is for them to learn how to learn.”