As directors, we often feel the pressure to choose one curriculum for our classrooms, yet, as early childhood professionals, we know that every child learns in his or her own unique way. At the Child Development Center on the campus of Lincoln Land Community College, we recognize that children benefit from both the framework of the Creative Curriculum and the flexibility for further exploration provided through project work. We have been using this combination throughout the past 10 years or more to allow teaching staff the flexibility to meet the diverse needs of learners in their mixed-age classrooms.
Throughout the years, we have seen great projects evolve here at the center, such as “The Garbage Truck Project,” “The Baseball Project,” and “The Goldfish Project.” What is the common thread to the success of each of these projects? Each was driven by children’s interest to find out more about the subject.
Is project work going on all the time? No, sometimes a topic does not engage the children, and the project never really develops. Some projects last longer than others, with some continuing for many months and others for a much shorter time. In reality, a classroom within our center may have a true project going only once or twice during a school year. By using a framework that encourages both themes and projects, teachers have the opportunity to observe the interests of children and to pounce on a project idea when children show an interest or need to find out even more information.
Will every child be deeply involved in project work? We have found that each year every class has a core “project group” of children who become deeply involved with a topic. Other children certainly benefit from the project and may participate at varying levels, but project work is usually not the only thing happening within the classroom; some children may be more engaged in other important activities such as music, story time, building with blocks, or outdoor play.
Will the teacher know where Monday’s project work will have led to by Friday? Probably not, but because other things are also going on in the classroom during this time, teachers have the flexibility to allow project work to emerge or develop as children follow their interests in the topic.
Using a combination of curricula has certainly provided us the ability to support all learners within our center. As a director, don’t be afraid to let your staff try the Project Approach just because it is not your chosen curriculum. Project work and other curricula can certainly coexist and can provide teachers with many additional ways to meet the unique needs of all learners within their classroom.
Laurie Rhodes, Director
Lincoln Land Community College Child Development Center