The emergent curriculum at All-Together Learning Center is driven by the setup of the classroom environment. Once the guide has prepared the environment, it is relinquished to the students. The students then participate in self-directed learning. A self-directed curriculum allows children to take ownership of learning. While the children explore, concentrate, and discover, the guide becomes a careful observer and a patient listener. The guide is observing and documenting children’s interests, strengths, areas in need of growth, and strategies they utilize to become critical thinkers. The guide is listening for opportunities to extend and expand a child’s thoughts and learning experience. Most importantly the guide is gathering data to help know when and what materials to add, change, or rotate to the prepared environment, to maintain an optimal level of learning. The guide may even discover an opportunity to encourage project based learning from listening to a child’s dialogue with a friend. Besides preparing the environment, ATLC invites specialists in a variety of domains into the classroom to not only offer their skills, but to create real apprenticeships. Children are not only motivated to learn because these projects are based on their interests, but also due to the authenticity of the learning. Apprenticeships instill learning for a lifetime, versus temporary results, due to children being actively engaged throughout the process. Teamwork and social skills cannot be avoided during project based learning. Part of ATLC’s mission is to grow as a family. What better way to grow, then to ask family members, teachers, and community members to offer their expertise.
To help create an enriched environment and lasting memories, we want to offer children an array of materials. More importantly, we want to offer our students open-ended everyday materials that promote creative thinking and keep them connected with the world around them. By providing open ended materials, we invite children to become divergent thinkers. We encourage them to look at materials from various view points, and utilize the materials in different ways. Some may see an empty tissue box as trash, but a child may view it as a missing piece to their sculpture.
The materials instantly exercise student senses in the learning process. Stimulating the senses helps abstract ideas become concrete. A child will build the foundation of writing by manipulating rocks, sticks, or possibly beans to write their name. Not only are they learning correct letter formation but they are developing pre-writing skills by strengthening their fingers while maneuvering small items. Why stop there! Let’s expand this learning moment by encouraging children to count how many pebbles it took to write their name, and then collaborate with a friend to create a graph and discover patterns as a team!
The materials we provide are errorless, meaning children can engage with materials without requiring help from the guide. Avoiding adult help decreases dependency and increases independence and team work between peers. Not only do children learn independence, but they develop an intrinsic drive without the need of outside reinforcement. Intrinsic motivation is a required skill to attain personal and career goals. We acknowledge that we are not only developing critical thinkers at an early age, but teaching the skills that play a role and effect children’s future and their next step in life.