Project-Based Learning

Emergent Curriculum, Documentation, and Projects


Facilitating learning in young children is a creative process. To be child-centered and directed, and to respect the child's point of view, educators cannot follow too strict a course of study. At the same time, teachers cannot simply react to what happens each day, without any goals or plans in mind. To that end, Reggio-inspired educators follow an emergent curriculum involving the use of listening, observing, analyzing, and refining in order to organize learning experiences for children based on both children's learning interests and teachers' learning investments. 

In turn, teachers use documentation to show children's ownership of their work, illustrate the learning process and communication, and help to make meaning of an experience. Documentation does not simply refer to the beautiful classroom artwork commonly found throughout early childhood classrooms; rather, it is a fundamental way of building connections. Flowcharts, as a type of documentation, allow us to capture the reflective process that is inherent to our culture. A flowchart records the step-by-step process of how connections are made; they tell the past, what is being discussed now, and what may emerge in the future. The purpose of a flowchart is to help the teachers organize, analyze, and keep in mind the nature and purpose of the curriculum. There is an excitement about this process because teachers will see themselves as researchers and look for solutions!

Just as documentation goes hand in hand with an emergent curriculum, so too do long-term projects develop out of documenting the learning experience. Analysis and discussion of documentation allows for choices about a project's direction. Long-term engrossing projects are the evolution of learning that results from processes of observation, interpretation, and documentation of the experiences of children, teachers, and parents together. The topic of a project provides a vehicle for achieving a much larger intent. Projects involve encouraging children to develop theories as well as strategies to test their theories in collaboration with others. This is usually in small groups who, in turn, share with the larger group to learn from the other.