The Project Approach to early childhood learning is a specific method of curriculum delivery that allows children to explore a subject deeply, rather than exploring many topics superficially. It is not unlike theme-based learning, where the content areas connect, but different because the Project Approach allows the children to decide what they want to study. Ideally, the central focus of an inquiry comes directly from the children’s interests while the teachers support the development of the children’s explorations by providing logistical support (materials and space), and scaffolding.
For the past couple of years, I have been blogging about themes; broad concepts that can be studied with children. This is a common way that many ece teachers approach curriculum. In fact, many use store-bought curricular models that outline what themes should be explored, and when they should be explored. When I visit a program around the 2nd week of April and the children are building houses out of boxes, I know that they are using Teaching Strategies Gold. I don’t think this is necessarily bad for children, but I do question the widespread use of canned curricula, especially when children have much better ideas about what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.
I bet knowing you are going to explore “houses” during the 2nd week of April is much easier than figuring out what you are going to study. It takes a lot of flexibility and ingenuity on the part of the teachers to incorporate the Project Approach into programs. There is good evidence that children who participate in in-depth studies of subjects they are interested in, produce high-quality work individually and as a collaborative member of a team.
If you spend some time listening to your children over the next few days, can you tell from their conversations what they are interested in? Is one of those topics worth exploring deeply? If so, tell us about it.