In the middle of a stormy Wednesday morning (and in search of some creative inspiration!), I decided to pop over to the preschool classrooms and see what the children and teachers were engaged in. I returned to my office feeling refueled and inspired. I am excited to share these findings with you.
At TCM, we believe in letting the natural world lead our investigations with the children. Why are the trees turning colors? Do you think those Robins perched in our bird feeder are hungry? What is inside of a pumpkin?
The teachers greatly respect these questions. Led by the children's interests and discussions, they purposefully set up materials and experiences that enable the preschoolers to discover the answers for themselves, and moreover, create new questions in the process!
In the sensory table, children were using scoops, funnels, spoons and sifters to explore bird seed. I observed one child say to another "It is getting stuck because those pieces are too big to fit through the tiny holes. Here, try this one instead!"
Right in that moment, we're touching on teamwork, scientific inquiry, cause & effect, and sensory processing.
I turned around and saw two children working intently on decorating a shoe box with markers, fabric, tape, little bits of paper, feathers, and string. I watched them for a few minutes and upon inquiring about their project, learned that they were collaborating to make a house for two small stuffed animals. The house had a roof, "fancy decoration," and a bed (among other things) and had been under construction for more than an hour.
When children collaborate creatively like this, especially on a self-guided study or investigation using open-ended materials, the learning capabilities are remarkable. They were so excited to share their completed house with me and gleefully displayed their purple hands in pride.
I turned another corner and encountered a small group of children participating in what looked to be a birthday party. A comfy seating area had been constructed from a large cardboard box filled with pillows, and baby dolls were enjoying pieces of "cake" off of birthday plates. When I asked whose party they were celebrating, they told me "it's a birthday party for everyone because birthdays are SO FUN!" (Agreed).
Before leaving the space, I stopped and looked at a display on the wall by the classroom door. I saw a variety of seemingly random materials (stickers, pompoms, paper clips) lined up in a row on sticky paper. When I read the documentation posted, I learned that the children had measured the circumference of a large pumpkin with several materials and then displayed their findings visually. Instead of the teachers trying to explain the concept of circumference to the children, they enabled the children to formulate their own understanding as participants and investigators.
All of this is but a tiny glimpse into the fascinating emergent curriculum happening daily at The Children's Meetinghouse. Come discover it for yourself!
One thing we can promise you is this: No day ever looks the same.