Emergent Curriculum


One afternoon last spring, Room 10’s children asked if they could build a train track in the hallway. They started building and immediately decided they needed more track. We borrowed from two other classrooms and they built an amazing track over blue oceans and brown lava fields. Those who didn’t want to build trains made books and played with the iPads. Ryan decided that he wanted to measure the tracks and started adding measuring tools along side the tracks. Lilah got into that and started adding other things that might be good at measuring including a Rubik’s Cube (it has numbers). Ryan counted to a thousand one million – that’s how long the track was. I added a video of real trains of all different kinds and heard the children start to ask and answer questions about trains among themselves. When Room 12 came in, some of them wanted to come over and play, too.

This activity today is an example of Emergent Curriculum. An emergent curriculum is one that builds upon the interests of children, is driven by the interests of the children. It is often spontaneous and responsive to the immediate interests of a group of children. Topics are driven by the ideas, excitement, information and questions from the children themselves.

Ideas can be supported and extended by providing equipment, books, craft supplies, and experiences through which the children can learn more about their natural interests and curiosities. Teachers co-­explore alongside the children and observe and encourage their discoveries. They add to the learning by offering resources and answering questions. They pull from their teachers’ bags of tricks and expertise to encourage developmentally appropriate learning.

Emergent Curriculum allows children to make plans and execute them. It strengthens executive skills and empowers children by proving to them that their ideas are important. We are proud of our child driven curriculum at The Cooperative School.

Author: Gail Ader

Early childhood education is my passion and I have worked in this field since 1998, first as a teacher and then as an administrator. Child centered learning in a supportive and developmentally appropriate setting is the key to high quality programs. As the Executive Director at the Cooperative Learning Community my focus is on supporting my team so that they can focus on their children and families.