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At the Piper Center for Family Studies and Child Development, we know that the first principle is how children learn. It is only through the active, meaningful engagement and experimentation with objects and people that children can begin to construct their knowledge, logical reasoning and develop social relationships. This happens most easily through children's play and socialization experiences.
Many of the curriculum activities grow from our objectives for individual and groups of children and our classroom environment. For example, the dramatic play area affords much opportunity for socialization and language development. Blocks are wonderful for exploration of relative size and shape (geometric relationships), as well as fine motor manipulation. Music and movement offer opportunities for socialization, bodily-kinesthetics, pitch and rhythm awareness, and appreciation of cultures. Activities like painting, working with playdough, develop interest, fine motor skills, socialization, sensitivity to color, media, form, shape, etc.
As you will see our curriculum areas are integrating and overlapping. Each classroom emphasizes creative expression and problem-solving, while maintaining a balance of teacher-planned activities, and those that emerge from the children's and teacher's interests, abilities, goals and objectives. As children move into the early elementary groups there is increasingly more focus on the acquisition of academic skills, which are needed in order to succeed in any school program.
The second principle at Piper relates to the role of the teacher. At Piper, each teacher creates an intellectually vital, emotionally safe, and supportive setting in which to encourage every child's overall development. To do so, all the teachers have a solid knowledge of child development as a foundation for understanding and assessing children's growth. In addition, the teachers appreciate the developmental trajectory of the many areas of the curriculum and include simple to increasingly more complex activities in each of the domains.
In both cases, the principles that guide our curriculum planning and implementation of it have their roots in what is called emergent curriculum.
Emergent Curriculum is sensible but not predictable. It requires of its practitioners trust in the power of play trust in spontaneous choice making, among possibilities. Good programs for young children encourage children to become competent players. Children's programs that are also good for teacher growth encourage teachers as well to become competent players, choosing among possibilities and thus constructing their own hands-on understanding of the teaching-learning process.
Emergent curriculum describes the kind of curriculum that develops when exploring what is "socially relevant, intellectually engaging, and personally meaningful to children." The basic idea is that organic, whole learning evolves from the interaction of the classroom participants, both children adults. "As caring adults, we make choices for children that reflect our values; at the same time we need to keep our plans open-ended and responsive to children" (Jones and Nimmo, 1994, p.3). In emergent curriculum, both adults and children have initiative and make decisions. This power to impact curriculum decisions and directions means that sometimes curriculum is also negotiated, between what interests children and what adults know is necessary for children's education and development. Ideas for curriculum emerge from responding to the interests, questions, and concerns generated within a particular environment, by a particular group of people, at a particular time (Cassady, 1993). Emergent curriculum is never built on children's interests alone; teachers and parents also have interests worth bringing in to the curriculum. The values and concerns of all the adults involved help the classroom culture evolve. The curriculum is called emergent because it evolves, diverging along new paths as choice and connections are made, and it is always open to new possibilities that were not thought of during the initial planning process (Jones and Reynolds, 1992).
Emergent curriculum arises naturally from adult-child interactions and situations that allow for "teachable moments". It connects learning with experience and prior learning. It includes all interests of children and responds to their interests rather than focusing on a narrow, individual, or calendar driven topic. It is process rather than product diver. The curriculum is typically implemented after an idea or interest area emerges from the group of children.

Piper Child Development Center
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