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Creating an Intentional, Emergent Curriculum

At NCRC we believe in children’s capacity to ask questions and engage in deep discovery around meaningful topics. In contrast to teacher-directed classrooms, where the topic is often determined in advance, at NCRC, teachers collaborate with their students in generating the curriculum. Within this emergent curriculum, our teachers are observers – noticing not just what children are playing and doing, but also how they are playing and what they are saying. For instance, the classroom teachers may facilitate an investigation into an obscure question the children have: How does a nose know what the smell is? The teacher’s job is not to know all the answers. Rather, it is to investigate, collaborate, and learn alongside children.  An emergent curriculum requires that teachers respect the voice of each child and their unique learning styles and talents, while meeting established standards in the five learning domains. This results in a responsive, observation-based curriculum.

The following assumptions, offered in Susan Stacey’s book, Emergent Curriculum in Early Childhood Settings, provide a clear picture of what our emergent curriculum looks like at NCRC:

  • Framed by the teacher, yet initiated by the child, the flexible and dynamic curriculum allows for collaboration, giving everyone a voice

  • Responsive to the child, the curriculum allows teachers to build upon children’s interests, ideas, and questions

  • With teachers as facilitators using what they see and hear, opportunities are created for children to dig deeper and discover more

  • Made visible through various forms of documentation, the curriculum informs decisions about future support


NCRC’s Director of Diversity, Equity, & Community and Pedagogista work with teaching teams to support the process of creating intentional emergent curriculum that includes literature, conversations, and activities that reflect the lens of our community and our world. This may include building on a simple, classroom conversation, or setting up a meaningful invitation to take a closer look at similarities and differences.  


Each classroom has a visible research board to record student and teaching team inquiries. Placed at a child's eye level, this designated area is a fluid representation of evolving ideas and questions that inform our curriculum path.

Source: Susan Stacey, Emergent Curriculum in Early Childhood
Source: Susan Stacey, Emergent Curriculum in Early Childhood Settings



The research boards have added to our curriculum learning in the classroom. The children see these boards at least 3-4 times a day as they line up and come into the classroom. The children see the visual representations of what we are focusing on and learning. It's also a teaching opportunity while transitioning with our class. We love the communication it generates and individual contemplation and thought. Sheela Woo, Directing Teacher