An Emergent Curriculum based on the Reggio Emilia approach and the International Early Years Curriculum (IEYC) are two seeming polar opposites. An Emergent Curriculum is centered around planning based on children’s interests, no pre-planned routing of units throughout the year, and no themes. And contrary to it is the IEYC, which is based on themes and requires schools to route units ahead of time – or so it would appear. But here is the kicker, the IEYC merely suggests routing and themes, but if we open our minds, it can be used differently, simply as a base – a teacher bank of resources and ideas if you will. This realization came to me during my time at the Netherlands Inter-community School (NIS) while facing the issue of working with an Early Years Coordinator who despised the IEYC/IPC and who was refusing to link her program to the Primary Years, who were following the International Primary Curriculum (IPC), because it would take away from the teaching philosophy she wholeheartedly believed in – Reggio Emilia. And it was this revelation that led me to develop the planner below – a way of combining the two seamlessly and effortlessly, allowing the Early Years to provide information to the Primary Years about which IEYC units students had covered upon entering K/Grade 1, thus bridging the gap between two factions.
The planner below is one of many from the Early Years Framework that I designed to help teachers in planning and documenting an Emergent Curriculum. It is based on the Reggio Emilia philosophy, and uses the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) as a guide for milestones students should work towards.
In order to ensure that teachers are basing their curriculum on students’ interests, the first thing required is filling in the “Topic of Inquiry,” as shown in the planner above, followed by listing students who are interested in exploring the inquiry. Upon completing this, teachers would then check the IEYC curriculum to see if the inquiry topic is connected to any of their themes; for example, if students were interested in an area related to the ocean, a possible link could be made to the IEYC’s Ocean Treasure unit of learning. If no connection could be made, then the “Link to IEYC” field would simply remain blank, along with any of the other IEYC fields.
Should a link between the topic of inquiry in the IEYC and teachers’ themes be found, then the circled fields in the planner above may be completed. Upon listing potential EYFS milestones students could achieve, teachers would then search the IEYC unit for ideas for provocations that could be used and then list any inquiry language provided. Teachers would not be limited to using ideas from the IEYC, and space is also provided for adding their own ideas for provocations and language. It should be noted as well that if a teacher felt that the ideas provided by the IEYC were not what they were looking for, then they would be under no obligation to use them.
The above solution does not detract from developing an Emergent Curriculum that is Reggio- inspired. There are no fixed units or forced themes; however, this resolution serves to further unite a school and create increased cohesion. When students would arrive in the Primary Years, teachers would be able to clearly see which of the IEYC units had already organically been covered in the Early Years.
Education is rarely ever black or white, and if we are willing to explore shades of gray, solutions can be found. In this case, although two different teaching philosophies would have continued to exist within the school, a common ground could have been formed in which the IEYC and the IPC could link together.