By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. The end of the year is a time to think back and reflect. Rather than considering just 2018 I decided to go way back to a time when I discovered emergent curriculum. It was twenty years ago that my quest for an alternative to themes lead to the discovery of a curriculum that emerges. At the time, I was not working directly with children. I was teaching early childhood education to adults in a college classroom. I had found the curriculum approach that had eluded my practice with preschoolers, and I was eager to share it with colleagues and students. While the students supported and encouraged an active and reciprocal teaching and learning environment, colleagues showed resistance. They were on the most part, resistant to teaching in an emergent way and were opposed to the constructivist theories that underpin the curriculum. I was increasingly frustrated with this instructivist rather than constructivist attitude. I felt it was important to model an emergent curriculum in the college classroom. I decided to be a constructivist. I decided constructivism would be my rock.
I am grateful to Lillian Katz, whose article in 1999 on constructivist and instructivist paradigms helped to solidify my pedagogy. I am also grateful to Elizabeth Jones whose book Teaching Adults: An Active Learning Approach, changed my life. Jones (1986) explained the dilemma of content delivery or “covering” the content:
The notion of covering, incidentally, has nothing to do with learning. It means only that I have salved my conscience by exposing students to all those important things, through lectures or reading assignments. That is no guarantee that they have learned them. (p. 17)
I will never forget the time when I was fixated on providing my students with a hands-on experience that would lead to an understanding of an inquiry-based curriculum that emerges. What I was looking for was an invitation that would lead to a provocation. As a child I cherished our family trips to rock quarries where I would hunt for specimens to add to my collection. I settled on rocks as I believed that this was an invitation that would provoke interest. I asked my mother if she still had my rocks and was not surprised that she did, as she rarely throws anything out.
I have expanded my childhood collection and added many, many more rocks. Some I have received as gifts, some I have purchased, and others I have collected from my favourite summertime beach destination, near my cottage in Grand Bend, Ontario. Rocks are one of my favourite loose parts.
I now have so many valued loose parts that I bring to workshops. Buttons, tree cookies and rocks as these are a few of my favourite things! What I love about rocks in particular, is that they have metaphorical qualities. Early childhood education is the rock or the foundation of lifelong learning. Early childhood educators rock! Over the years, I have also collected and shared many children’s books that rock! Here are just a few.
I have learned so much from rocks. Thinking metaphorically, a rock serves as my anchor, a stable centre that keeps me from drifting away and straying from my core beliefs. I have a purpose in life and will not get distracted. As an early childhood educator, I am rock solid. Thinking of yourself and your professional practice, what keeps you anchored to your core values? What is your rock?