It all began with a comment at meeting time in Class B.
During Morning Meetings in Classroom B, children often raise their hands to share something they are thinking about. On this particular morning, one child shared that they had a bug bite on their leg. The other children heard this, and felt compelled to share their own experiences around bugs and bug bites. Some wanted to tell about a time they got stung by a bee, others wanted to talk about how they have seen lantern flies in the park, and they try to step on them. The conversation continued with the children all deeply engaged, until it was time to move onto the next part of their day.
The teachers in Class B, noted the children’s strong interest in the topic, but dismissed it as simply being a lively Morning Meeting conversation. However, when a child brought up the subject again at another meeting a few days later, and the students of Class B were just as enlivened and engaged, they determined that this was something more than a passing interest. The level of excitement expressed by the children indicated that insects should become part of their curriculum.
They began by gathering books on the topic and found a range of both fiction and nonfiction books about insects. Some were about a specific type of bug, like bees, while others covered a whole range of arthropods. The children were especially excited by one book in particular - Bug Sandwich by Brady Smith - which tells the story of a boy who is so tired of getting bitten by bugs that he decides to bite them back, in the form of a sandwich.
In their initial conversations, lantern flies were of particular interest to the children and they asked them to share what they knew about lantern flies or what experiences they had. One child said, “I found lots and lots of them.” Another shared, “They fly, and when they open their wings they have a little red.” Next, teachers collected a few specimens and brought them into the classroom, placing them on the Science shelf with magnifying glasses and accompanying photos. The children loved to study them, looking closely and making observational drawings. One child theorized, “I think when they die they get more red.”
Responding to the interests of the children in this way is an example of Emergent Curriculum. This term, often associated with the Reggio-Emilia teaching philosophy, is one of the integral ways that we raise the voices of the children in our classroom. In responding to their curiosities, we ensure that they are engaged in the classroom, researching and learning about topics in which they are interested. More than that, it sends a clear message to the students that their voice matters. It shows them that their ideas and thinking are valued, and this, in turn, engenders a sense of confidence, and further drives their learning and their inquiry.
The inquiry surrounding bugs has continued in various forms over the past several weeks. The children studied a variety of insect specimens encased in clear acrylic. Thinking about the importance of classification within biology, the teachers created a Montessori sorting work using insect figurines and soon will introduce them to parts of an arthropod with traditional Montessori three part cards. Incorporating works that connect the classroom to the natural environment is an integral part of the Montessori learning process. Class B teachers are continuing to brainstorm about where to take this curriculum, all while listening closely to the young learner’s interests and ideas.