Emergent Curriculum and the Olympics

There’s still a lot of confusion around emergent curriculum. What exactly is it? I’ll start with what it’s not. Emergent curriculum is not chaos or letting children do whatever they want. It is not the elimination of plans. Emergent curriculum starts with a spark- an interest from the child. And it requires adults who know the curriculum expectations of each learning area inside and out (mathematics, language, science and technology, arts and personal social development). These adults, who also know where each child is on their learning journey, encourage the spark. They provide children with materials to inquire, to investigate and to discover.  And they infuse the curriculum expectations into that discovery. Finally, they document when children demonstrate this learning.

But the first step to encouraging that spark is helping children identify what they already know. And so, with the excitement of the Olympics, our class has started with what we know, and I’m going to do whatever I can to encourage this Olympic spark!

We started with the rings. On the day of the opening ceremonies many children came to class with an Olympic spark.

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I pulled up some cool pictures of Olympians posing on the rings, which the children found very interesting.

http://www.businessinsider.com/athletes-sochi-photos-olympic-rings-2014-2

I asked them to help me figure out how many rings and which colours we’d need to make our own Olympic symbols. We did a search around the room to find an object just the right size and shape for our prints, reviewing what we already knew about shapes, counting and colour. The results were some pretty terrific pieces of art, accompanied by some great writing.

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(*I was told that the ‘exclamation heart’ depicts the child’s love and excitement for the Olympics)

The sports

I asked a child, “What sports do they play in the winter games?” He started a list of sports, and shared it with the class. This is what we know now. As we watch the games I am confident the children’s knowledge of these games will expand and they will add to this list. Creating a list is a language component in the FDK program.

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I plan to introduce the story Snowy Sports, Ready Set Play by Per-Henrik Gurth to the children.

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http://www.kidscanpress.com/canada/Snowy-Sports-P5898.aspx

 

The opening ceremonies

Technology really came in handy as we set up a smart board and watched the CBC Sports live stream of the opening ceremonies. The children were free to choose a different activity but most were engrossed by the event. They were fascinated to learn that the games were so far away that it was nighttime when it started. They were fascinated with our discussion of a ‘live feed’ and that the events were happening as they watched. And they were fascinated with the flags! Some children were thrilled and proud to point out countries they were born in or had visited. And we all cheered as the Canadian athletes paraded in. It definitely started a ‘spark’ about countries around the world.

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We’ve started mapping

After the opening ceremonies, I put up a large map of the world and invited children to come help me find countries. “What do we know about countries?” I asked.

“We live in Canada!” So we added a bright sticky label over Canada.

We also labeled Spain and Italy, as two children excitedly told me that was where they were born.

“I’ve been to Florida!”

“And Florida is a state in the United States of America, let’s label that country,” I said.

“Where is are the Olympics taking place?”

“Sochi Russia!” We added a bright sticky over the spot over Sochi, and another sticky over Burlington, Ontario so we could see the distance.

This is what the children know now. As we continue observing and inquiring about these flags and these countries taking part in the games, I’m sure we will add to this knowledge (and cover many math, science and language expectations while we’re at it!)

I’ve ordered a copy of P is for Passport: A World Alphabet by Devin Scillian and hope it arrives before the closing ceremonies!! https://sleepingbearpress.com/shop/show/11292

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 The medal count- I’m anticipating that at least some children will arrive Monday morning excited about the medals. And we’re holding on to the smart board and the CBC Sports live stream and I plan to show highlights of the races, the medal ceremonies and the medal count. My plan is to ask the children what they know about the medal count, invite them to investigate with me what has occurred over the weekend and co-construct with me a chart listing countries and the medal count. I will be armed with gold, silver and bronze stickers and am so excited to get this started! This chart will cover many areas of the math and language curriculum.

 I’ve also covered our visual arts board with white paper as some children showed an interest in making a winter games collage. I will re-introduce this interest on Monday morning, and make sure the markers are set to go!

 It’s Sunday morning, and although I do not have a scheduled lesson plan written out with specific tasks for children to do, I’ve got my spark, I’ve got my learning goals in mind and I’ve got a plan.