EMERGENT CURRICULUM APPROACH
At Alexandra Park Children´s Learning Community we trust that a child’s expressed interests and manner of engagement with the environment is directly related to the child’s current developmental needs and natural drive to learn, and we work from that basis to support each child’s journey through their education. The curriculum is not a curriculum to be delivered, consisting of a list of skills, knowledge, experiences and outcomes planned in advance,
Alexandra Park Children´s Learning Community educational approach is to present an environment (physical, social, emotional) within which children, individually and in groups, can develop an evolving, emergent, personalised and largely experiential curriculum. It is developed - ‘co- constructed’ - with staff and pupils in mixed age social groups.
This approach supports each child's unique development through play, projects, activities and experiences within engaging and varied environments and by developing respectful, facilitative relationships with others in the group and the wider community.
In this context, each child’s character, interests and needs are the impetus for a journey of exploration and personal development best described as an emergent curriculum (inspired by Reggio Emilia in Italy, an emergent curriculum approach has already been adopted in many early years settings in the UK; We believe there are enormous benefits to extending this approach to older groups of children).
Rather than starting with a lesson plan which requires a “hook” to get the children interested, an emergent curriculum starts from the children’s interests. This is not to say that the teacher has no input; rather staff engage and intervene to ensure that these experiences encompass a range of skills and knowledge over time.
An idea for a curriculum activity, plan or project may be sparked by anything or come from anywhere. For instance, a teacher may overhear a pair of children having a discussion about characters in a book, that leads to the whole group sitting down and discussing all the possibilities for finding out and experiencing more. Thus the child’s experience through the school is of voluntary engagement with stimulating and interesting activities of varying kinds, over the course of which many kinds of skills, knowledge and development are encountered, accompanied by a growing understanding and appreciation of learning as an activity in itself.
The emergent Curriculum approach in practice at Alexandra Park Children´s Learning Community uses real-life activities as vehicles for learning. Children feel that what they are doing is worth doing for itself. Direct, practical experience of all sorts of activities is valued. For example, each group of older children take it in turns to cook the community´s meals, this includes shopping for the food, thinking how much they need to feed everybody, what they are going to cook and how long the cooking time will be etc. This task as a very important bi-product, will develop children´s negotiation, communication, numeracy and team work skills.
Alexandra Park Children´s Learning Community offers a holistic and integrated curriculum, addressing development of ability, knowledge and judgement across all 'subject' areas and life skills.
Alexandra Park Children´s Learning Community empowers children to take the initiative and self-direct much of their learning, to have authentic control over decisions relevant to their learning and gives access to a full range of available and appropriate resources. Children learn most effectively and deeply through engagement in activities that interest them, and when adult support is appropriate and well judged. In this context, it is expected that they will learn more purposefully, more effectively and with greater motivation, and develop an appreciation of learning that will be valuable throughout their life.
Learning is a social process through which meaning and understanding are created through interaction with others. For young children and pre-readers especially, access to others who are able to converse at length about matters of interest to the child is essential for acquiring knowledge and developing understanding. The free flowing nature of conversation in all classrooms in our learning community fosters assimilation of vocabulary and language development.
Alexandra Park Children´s Learning Community understands that playing is a serious activity for children, through which they explore their world, their society, and stretch their mental and physical abilities.
Alexandra Park Children´s Learning Community advocates the use of project based learning rather than subject based learning because projects are more inherently interdisciplinary and student centred. They enable students to learn to organise their work and manage their time or, during group projects, to collaborate.
By direct immersion in a wide range of experiences, children can develop at their own pace and in their own style and can discover all kinds of ways of predicting and controlling their world directly. By practising, they develop and amplify their learning competencies.
By learning how to learn, we learn for life. We aim to enable children at our learning community to develop skills of resilience, resourcefulness, relevance, imagination, language, communication, reflection and responsibility which will be useful for the rest of their lives. Children develop a deep love of learning coupled with a mature ability to manage their own learning so that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned.
We foster these skills by providing a safe and supportive environment where people are free to discover who they are, to explore their preferences and dispositions and how best they learn, by giving them the space to discover ways to manage feelings effectively and handle stressful situations, by supporting and facilitating their ongoing learning in immersive and stimulating ways through interactive relationships and, importantly, by empowering them with a greater and greater responsibility for the initiation, direction, control and evaluation of their own learning.