This Is What Student-Led Curriculum Looks Like

This is what student-led curriculum looks like. While our focus is on social and emotional development during early childhood, educators should be responding to the needs of the children. We don’t decide that it is time to begin teaching letters, the children do. 

When we observe the lunch table discussions center around the first letters of their names or the children show pride in spelling their names or we observe other indications through their play that they are ready, we look for a fun game to incorporate into the circle. 

This is a simple, fun game to play for letter recognition in early childhood. This homemade box is our ABC Alligator, and we sing a little song:

Simple, fun game to play for letter recognition skills in early childhood

“Alligator, Alligator, down by the lake,

Let ________ reach in and see letter what you ate!”

Each child gets a turn to reach in and pull out a letter. They either identify it, or ask for help from the group. We then come up with words that begin with that sound. Assessment occurs informally through observation, and there is no pass/fail. We want it to be fun, and there are no wrong answers. This is a low-risk, play-based, student-led game that the kids have a blast playing. It may be the beginning of letter recognition, phonics, and spelling for some, while reinforcing those skills already present in others. The mixed age group pairs well with the scaffolding of the developing reading skills, too. Children who have an answer learn impulse control while their friend figures out if they know the letter or if they want to ask for that help. We all have fun singing the song and coming up with words that begin with the letter.

One final note about academics in early childhood: We believe the focus in early childhood should be social and emotional health, developmentally appropriate circles and a focus on the natural environment. Having said that, we embrace an interdisciplinary approach that uses whichever pedagogy is most effective. This occurs through mindful observations of the children during free play and throughout the rhythms and routines of the day. Our curriculum focus is on meeting both the individual’s and the group’s needs in developmentally appropriate ways.

Little Schoolhouse in the Woods in the Winter

Early Childhood Education in the Great Outdoors!

Early childhood education is the beginning of many years of schooling for a child. Before a child can sit down to formal learning we feel that it is important to develop the social emotional health of a child. We want to help children build a mental resiliency. In outdoor education a young child is pushed to find their grit, to endure all sorts of weather, terrain, all while playing in the magic of nature. While children are learning to collaborate with their peers, work through conflict, and share ideas, we have found that it is much easier outside. Being in nature, for all ages, reduces anger, fear, stress and increases a feeling of calm. We have observed young children advance in their motor skills, such as balance, coordination, and agility. We also spend a lot of time observing the changes in the natural world around us, which help children to start using their observation skills and reasoning. Outdoor education respects childhood while offering the same early education aspects as a traditional classroom setting.

by Lee Hamzy

Watch the slide show here.