Developmental goals, the curriculum and environment are inseparable – together, they are the foundation of a more personal approach to education. We place a high value on the knowledge children bring to school. Their existing skills and interests are used as a starting point to expand their academic, physical and social/emotional autonomy. The curriculum considers the guidelines established by the Common Core Education Standards with an emphasis on the cumulative results rather than year by year timelines. . Our environment is constantly evolving to inspire joy of learning, nurture relationships and embrace learning through exploration, play and nature.
The indoor and outdoor classroom is structured in a way to encourage cooperation and exploratory learning. There are community tables for collaborative learning and group projects. There are also spaces available for children to work individually at their own pace. The classroom is arranged to allow for ease of movement and comfort.
One of the best parts or our day is Personal Project time – when students integrate academic skills with real world projects of their own choosing. We encourage personal goal-setting and group collaboration while carefully observing the students in order to enhance our curriculum with their interests.
In order to achieve a delicate balance of project-based learning, emergent curriculum and guided/direct instruction, we employ multi-week learning units that emphasize:
• Differentiation, Personal learning trajectory
• Assessment, creating specific goals
• Respect for developmental readiness
• Forward progress though incremental steps
Followed by time that is safeguarded for:
• Emergent curriculum
• Big picture content
• Foundational skills practice
• Community/Co-operative learning
Students experience respect for the larger environment and appreciation for the Earth’s natural resources. In response to the nature deficit facing children today, we make a curricular intention to have school in nature one day a week – rain or shine. We strive to minimize our ecological footprint. School-wide practices include: trash free snacks and lunches, composting, use of recycled materials for activities and projects, our own food garden, use of natural ingredients for cleaning, recycling of aluminum, plastics, paper, and glass, and school-wide service projects for the purpose of creating a sustainable future. Our curriculum fosters capacity building through teaching on topics such as organic farming, water conservation, recycling/upcycling everyday items, and more.
Brain based research has shown that the development of emotional intelligence is a significant factor in personal success and happiness. Important to the Knowing Garden is a curriculum that incorporates: effective problem solving skills, relationship with self and others, recognizing emotions and learning how to manage feelings, successful collaboration and facing situations in a constructive and mindful fashion.
TKG encourages children to organize their own play, solve their problems, and work both independently and in cooperation with others. We believe that conflict is a natural and real part of our everyday world and when it happens, it is viewed as an opportunity to engage in our social emotional curriculum. We do not offer rewards or inflict punishments such as time outs in order to obtain a desired behavioral outcome. We strive to treat difficult situations with respect and concern and learn from them.
Our goal is to nurture a distraction free environment. We also strive to involve the whole class in decisions about Holiday project or events. Our preference is to omit costumes, commercial Holiday items and leave holiday decisions to the discretion of teachers and students.
What is Emergent Curriculum?
The goal of emergent curriculum is to respond to every child’s interests. Its practice is open-ended and self-directed. It depends on teacher initiative and intrinsic motivation, and it lends itself to a play-based environment. Emergent curriculum emerges from the children, but not only from the children.
Curriculum emerges from the play of children and the play of teachers. It is co-constructed by the children and the adults and the environment itself. To develop curriculum in depth, adults must notice children’s questions and invent ways to extend them, document what happens, and invent more questions. The process is naturally individualized.
In contrast, standardized curriculum comes from unknown experts outside the classroom. It relies on generalization rather than on an individual teacher’s creativity and attentiveness to individual learners. Indeed, standard curriculum may squelch teacher thinking. What it permits is linear planning and assessment that is responsive to bureaucratic needs in a large nation with large educational systems. In this approach, responsive teaching is sacrificed to efficiency, and only outcomes are measured.
Sources of Emergent Curriculum
• Children’s interests
• Teachers’ interests
• Developmental tasks
• Things in the physical environment
• People in the social environment
• Curriculum resource materials
• Serendipity—unexpected events
• Living together: conflict resolution, caregiving, and routines
• Values held in the school and community, family, and culture
(Adapted from Jones & Nimmo 1994, 127.)
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What is the Difference between a “traditional” classroom and a constructivist classroom? Learn more, here…