An Interview with Children’s World. What is Emergent Curriculum?
Children’s World is a licensed child care and preschool facility for children between the ages of 2 and 5. The Emergent Curriculum is practiced there. What kind of program do they provide? We interviewed Mitsuru Haga-Bronstyn, the Manager of Children’s World.
Thank you for taking the time to let us to interview you! Would you please provide a brief introduction of you?
My name is Mitsuru Haga-Bronstyn and I am the Manager of Children’s World. I first got involved with VJLS-JH many years ago as a volunteer and eventually became the head facilitator of the childcare staff before being appointed as the Manager in 2014. In total, I’ve been working here for more than 20 years now.
Please tell us about Children’s World and what makes it so special.
Children’s World is a unique childcare centre that provides culturally enriched daycare, preschool, and toddler programs to the Japanese-Canadian and broader communities. It is located in the original heritage Japanese Language School that was built in 1928 and renovated in 2012. These renovations allowed the centre to be licensed by the Province of BC and is now dedicated to childcare excellence where its staff follow the concept of Emergent Curriculum.
What is the “Emergent Curriculum” that you value at Children’s World?
Emergent Curriculum is a way of planning curriculum that is based on the children’s interest and passion at a certain point in time. For example, if the children are interested in dinosaurs, we would plan curriculum about dinosaurs. One time, there was a boy who knew dinosaurs well and he would share various stories all the time with his friends. He was so engaging that his friends started to get into the story more and more and asking their own questions like, “Teacher, are dinosaurs big?” “Do dinosaurs really exist?” We decided to set up a dinosaur-themed curriculum.
What did you actually do?
First, we asked questions about dinosaurs. “What do you know about dinosaurs?” “What do you want to know?” Then, various words came back about dinosaurs to the extent that they knew. The most popular topic was why we can’t meet dinosaurs now, and whether dinosaurs still exist today. Children develop the ability to think together through dialogue, which leads to new discoveries and richer ideas.
As the next step, we decided to make a big dinosaur together. First of all, we looked at the image of different dinosaurs and thought about what kind of dinosaur we wanted to make. The difficulty is to make one big thing together. The children work with friends to create a single thing while discussing opinions. Rather than guiding them, we carefully watched the process of the children finding the answers and thinking for themselves.
In this way, children thrive and learn best when their interests are captured. Learning occurs naturally.
So, it’s important to understand children’s interests and concerns and provide them with the environment they need?
I think of children as little adults. They have their own thoughts and follow their own decisions. For example, if I tell them to wear a raincoat, they will say, “I don’t want to”. However, if you show them two raincoats and ask them which they like better, red or yellow, they will honestly choose. They will feel proud and happy to wear the color of their choice. This leads to responsibility and empowerment. They are happy that they have the right to make decisions and that their decisions are recognized. You need to decide in a certain direction, but then it is important to give them options.
Has the Emergent Curriculum educational method become established in Japan?
I don’t think it has been properly established as an educational curriculum yet, but if you are involved in childcare, you are probably practicing it without even knowing it. However, it is not easy to materialize what we have been practicing unknowingly. We hold regular study sessions and have set up a website where our staff can share their daily happenings and thoughts. We are also planning to invite an Emergent Curriculum expert to give a workshop in September.
Do you notice any changes in the children through the Emergent Curriculum?
I think the children’s skills of observation and insight have improved. I am impressed and surprised by the conversations and creativity that come out of the children.
What would you expect the children who participate in Children’s World to be in the future?
I would like children to develop imagination and the ability to think for themselves. If they have imagination, they will be able to think about things from the other person’s perspective. If they acquire the habit of thinking for themselves, they will be able to create their own path. I would like to continue to nurture this ability.