According to the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), “curriculum is what happens in an educational environment.” At The Nursery School, the children in attendance determine what happens in their educational environment. This self-directed approach gives children ownership of their learning, in turn making it a more meaningful experience for them. For the teachers at The Nursery School, this means being prepared for any learning opportunity that may arise. Our emergent curriculum focuses on the process of learning and evolves based on what the children discover and what they identify as interesting and/or personally meaningful to them.
The natural environment is our classroom, the learning materials are what is found outside, and lessons are guided by the children’s curiosity and the interactions with their environment, materials, and peers. Reggio Emilia’s Carlina Rinaldi states: “We as teachers are asked by children to see them as scientist or philosophers searching to understand something, to draw out a meaning, to grasp a “piece of life,” and to respect this search as a quality central to all human life.” (Rinaldi, 2006. p. 21). This is the role that our staff takes. There is much to discover in this world and we learn from the experiences and our interactions with it, while attempting to make meaning from those interactions.
Flow of the Day
We will meet our families at the fire pit of Bluff Lake Nature Center. On our way down to retrieve our utility wagon with all of our tools and materials, each child gives his or her preference on where they would like to go for class. We have special permission from Bluff Lake to access multiple off-trail locations, each offering its own learning opportunities. Once a consensus has been reach by the children, we make our way to that location. It may be the Big House, the Bird Blind, the Forest, or many other sites that only we can access.
Once at our site, a blanket will be put down on the ground and a tarp shelter may be put up depending on the weather. The children bring a backpack with them containing their own food and drink. Our children eat when they are hungry and drink when they are thirsty. We focus on developing self-help skills and self-awareness. Our wagon has milk crates full of tools and other learning materials, along with an emergency toilet and hand washing station. Everything that we need for the day is on the wagon. The children determining what they would like to do each day based on their own interests. The entire class is directed by the children.
Three hours goes by rather quickly when the children are engaged and having fun. At the end of class, we pack up all of our belongings and load up the wagon. We stop to put the wagon in the closet and head up to meet our moms and dads by the fire pit, the same place we started class. We always build in some time to recap the day and get each child’s take on their experience during that class. At pickup, parents get filled in on the highlights of class and receive a more in depth email later that evening.
We explore Bluff Lake every day and learn about and from the plants and animals that surround us. A variety of tools support our children in their learning. We use ropes, pulleys, tape measures, binoculars, magnifying glasses and so much more to better understand ourselves, each other and the environment we live in.
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