Posted on 09/16/2011 at 08:34 AM by Global Reach
Many early childhood educators have long used a theme-based approach toward setting up their curriculum, but recently we are hearing much more about the value of transitioning from theme-based units to long-term studies. Long-term studies are also referred to as the project approach, and they can be implemented at all grade levels. Let’s learn a bit about how long-term studies are different than themes and why they are more beneficial. We look briefly at them in relationship to the early childhood years and how they are administered within the Creative Curriculum for Preschool environment.
Long-term studies often develop from the interests of children whereas themes come from teacher’s ideas, published guides or year after year practices. If children become fascinated by the ants that are crawling all over the ground after a shed was removed from the playground a long-term study on ants may develop. If children have been all about putting a stick in the ground by the end of the sidewalk to represent a stop sign a long-term study on signs may be in order. When children are interested in a topic the learning goes deeper and with studies the children’s excitement drives where the study goes and how long it will last. The teacher focuses on incorporating learning in The Creative Curriculum 38 objectives that are organized in the areas of social-emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, mathematics, science and technology, social studies, the arts and English language acquisition.
Learning is also enhanced when the topic is meaningful to the children and relevant to their world, and this too is a focus of long-term studies. Doing a theme on penguins when you live in Iowa will not allow children to have direct experience with the topic. Just like learning about skyscrapers in a town with a population of 2,000 does not lend itself to children exploring that topic firsthand.
When implementing a long-term study there is flexibility, yet structure. There are guidelines for selecting a good study topic and insuring learning occurs in the content areas. At the beginning of a study the possible topic is investigated, a web of learning ideas is formed and it is discussed with children and families. In the middle of the study materials are organized, experiences are planned, investigations are facilitated and findings are documented. At the end of a study the learning is celebrated with the children and their families.
Whether early childhood teachers want to move from theme-based units to long-term studies gradually or suddenly, the Early Childhood Consultants at Northwest Area Education Agency can provide reading material and training that can help guide the process. The teachers who’ve made the transition boast of the intrinsic motivation for learning on the part of the children and the immense enjoyment on the part of both teachers and children!