A Reflection on our Curriculum

In the weeks before school started this fall, the teachers brainstormed together.  We envisioned a school that deeply values the power of play, and growing through inquiry, expression, action, and passion. vision was one of heart- a place fostering cooperation and community connections, while valuing autonomy and individuality.

Our curriculum is a play based, hands on, integrated curriculum.  It is an emergent curriculum, which is curiosity driven, and through which projects can unfold as children show us their interests.  We believe children learn best by doing, by experiencing the world first hand, and through constant experimentation. Much of these explorations are centered on the natural world, the changes of the seasons, and the natural environment surrounding our school. 

Our curriculum in an eclectic program, pulling from many philosophies to best support our learners.  During the school day, we have open play times, group work & discussions,  project based work, and also their ditty bags (the name of which refers to a nautical style drawstring sack).  Their ditty bags are an individual work bag, self decorated with paint and the first letter of their names, with a variety of activities customized for each child based on their age and needs. For example, the rest time journals are in these bags for kids who rest, and some of the older children have school books in their bags for more directed independent work.  These work books are not the core of what we do, and are not compulsory, but rather used as an informal introduction for older children to these forms of work, as a helpful bridge for those who go to the public school at the end of our program.  We also see these bags housing ongoing handwork (sewing, finger knitting, felting), and as a resource for children when they have finished group work.

We began our school year with our play area including a kitchen, a dress up area, a post office, and a baby area.  And we observed the children, their patterns in play, the choices they made with the materials available.  And the children were really into the post office in the beginning- creating letter for each other, wanting to write the names on the mail to be delivered, making phone calls when needing ‘more workers‘ for the post office to fun.  They became very interested in serving meals and baking cakes in the kitchen, and especially taking care of the babies.

And as the weeks went on, post office play waned, and the children focused more and more on the dress up area, putting on the outfits to put on a show, using the rug as a performance space.  They would gather other children to be their audience, and would sing and dance and tell stories.  The teachers did not push this, but rather helped support these impromptu events, and began to think of ways to expand this play.  The children were also showing a big interest in the finger puppets we set out in the studio, and wanted create more opportunities for this type of play. 

In response to the children interests, we re-arranged the play room, moved the baby space into the loft so that children could continue this play, and have more quiet space that this type of play was needing, and created a theater underneath the loft- adding puppets and more imaginative costumes to the classroom.  Dramatic play supports the cognitive mind.  It supports the deeper understandings of stories and concepts in the world around them.  When children pretend, their play frame allows them to see things from a different perspective, allowing them to better understand, and prepares them for more complex ideas on that idea.

As teachers, we know that this is essential for children.  It allows them to become scientists, discovering the tools they have to study the world.  It allows them to become artists, find more languages to tell their story and share their ideas.  It gives them space to create the world they envision, and to feel passionately connected to the world around them.  We see school as a place where children learn to love to learn, creating people who are life long learners.

At home, what parts of school does your child talk about most? Share in the comments below, we’d love to begin a conversation together among the teachers and parents on this!