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Where Does Curriculum Come From?

October 14, 2020 | Kristen Jordan

Where Does Curriculum Come From?

Well, sometimes it just emerges from the natural interests and enthusiasm of the children.  (Hence the name Emergent Curriculum, a term that you may have heard). Read on to see examples of how some activities have come to fruition lately in the Trees Classroom! 

We wondered if not being able to go to the playground would be a bit disappointing this school year.  It has been anything but!  We have been going to the play yard, the gym, and to many different parts of the park.  If there are other children or too many dogs in one place, we head to a different location!  It has proven to be a great time of exploration for us.  This group of children is remarkably flexible and they seem happy to go anywhere on any given day.  

And, new places often allow for new discoveries.

When we took a different route to the park one day (because we were heading to a different field), Michaela stopped in her tracks and proclaimed, “The moon!”  We all halted excitedly to look at the moon in the clear blue sky, above the church steeples; the moon that so many children had been reporting seeing during the daytime since we heard about it in the creation worship. 

It offered everyone a moment of awe and excitement, and then led to a great conversation about our favorite parts of God’s creations: the moon, grass, dirt (digging in it), animals–kitties, dogs, bunnies.

There are so many of God’s creations to enjoy!

Once at the park, there were plenty more discoveries to be wondered over.

The beautiful leaves were one of them, and children began collecting many leaves. They were really drawn to the Ginkgo leaves. They twisted and turned them, used them as fans, and brought many back to the classroom.

Back in our room, there was so much excitement around the leaves that children had brought in, that the timing seemed perfect for a spontaneous addition to our activity time: Doing observational drawings of Ginkgo leaves!  

This required introducing Flair pens (thin black line markers that allow for drawing with great detail).

It also meant that we had to consider the question: “What is an observational drawing?”  It is a drawing that requires you to look carefully and try to draw what you see (not from your imagination).  

Many children did more than one draft of the Ginkgo leaves because they were so excited about them and children have continued to work on drawing leaves.  Their work is detailed and beautiful. You can see evidence of how carefully they are looking and working. 

The next day, we went to another part of the park, found many other types of leaves and the children have continued to collect them with excitement.  

We have been discussing autumn, saying poems and rhymes about leaves, and some of the children even made up their own poems!

In addition to leaves, the dirt and rocks and sticks that are outside provide for so much collaborative work and play as children work together to build homes for “whatever animal”…  

Or to build a castle…

Or to create music…

Check here for footage of children working together in their “Nature Band”.

Working together requires so much sharing of ideas, negotiating, and being flexible.

Back inside…so many rocks, sticks and leaves have been brought in from the park that we have also added areas for discovery during activity time for children to explore these pieces of nature in the classroom. 

Magnifying glasses have been added to the light table. 

Children have piled and pushed, looked and sorted. They have noticed the beauty of all the colors of the leaves and built animals with the rocks, leaves and sticks.  

There is so much happening in our classroom right now that is simply a result of children observing, getting excited, and sharing that enthusiasm. 

So we circle back to the initial question, Where does curriculum come from?  Well, sometimes it emerges naturally from what is around you, and then it pushes its way delightfully into the classroom. 

Even if you live in the city!

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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