Curriculum and Change

            For most who read this, I am sure that the majority have used google maps. This convenient application gives us turn by turn instructions on how to get from point A to point B. What exactly do we need to do if we want to get from where we are, to where we want to be? When we press start, we are told how long to drive straight, when to turn, and we are essentially guaranteed to end up in our destination if we follow the instructions. If you have used google maps before, you might have had the experience of following the map so intently that you almost forget to look at the actual road that is before you, not to mention the trees, shops, and views that pass you by. It is easy to get pulled into an automated following and we miss the joy of the journey itself.

           Working at Roong Aroon for the past year, we have had the opportunity to navigate through new terrain without any sort of google maps. Our school doesn’t function from a set curriculum. There is no standardized plan for what content or goals are required from each grade. In general, the teachers have a different type of freedom, as well as responsibility, to create the path that teachers and students will journey down together. So instead of google maps, we have a landscape that is co-created by the teachers and administrators. We work together to create a picture that has lines and shapes, like a map that has no roads labeled or landmarks identified. There isn’t even a specific unit of measure to see how many miles you have gone or have left to go before reaching a specific location. It is simply a view of what that landscape has to offer and the possibility of places to be explored. This guide is more open ended and leaves space for the teachers and students to explore in the way that inspires them, breeds curiosity, and deepens learning. 

Coming from a place where a curriculum is something solid, this has taken some time to adapt to. At first, the freedom of the landscape is awe-inspiring which blossoms all sorts of creativity. But then, the immensity of all the choices starts to creep in and often we have been left seeking for those familiar roads and need to ground ourselves. But, with some recent research we have been finding that the curriculums which have seemed so solid and safe, are often missing the mark when it comes to education and learning. It is becoming clear to us that curriculums which promote a standardized guide to learning are often construed of something archaic that no longer fits and adapts to the changes that are taking place both within the teachers, educators, administrators, and the society in which the school is held. The traditional approach to following set curriculum now seems to be something bordering on obscene and unthinkable. We are coming to realize that a different approach is more enriching for the holistic development of our students. 

Well, what are the changes that are consistently arising? And how do we create a curriculum (which is by definition a predetermined course of study) that is flexible, open, and adaptable? Covid-19, virtual learning, and social distancing… These are changes that have been unavoidable no matter where you are in the world today. In our school, we have also had to manage more localized changes. We have had to adapt to new colleges, changing classrooms or grades, air pollution, schedule changes, etc. Change is inevitable and the only certainty in life is that everything changes. When we have a standardized curriculum, it leaves little space for the natural process of change and our ability to adapt and move with changes. It can create a pressure that we need to follow the plan even when the actual situation calls for something different. It can limit our potential to notice and identify change and find our own creative solutions. 

In kindergarten, we try to help the children to have the real experience of change and dealing with the unexpected. Life is not something perfectly planned, but constantly has challenges that we need to understand and work with. For example, when we plant our seeds for this term’s theme of gardening, we may find that our seeds don’t sprout, that when they sprout, they don’t grow into full plants. We learn through this emergent process that sometimes things don’t go according to our plan. At the end of this experience, the children can explain a more authentic process of planting because they have lived through the unforeseen changes that are inherent to all of life and living. It would feel as if I was denying them the experience to learn if I felt constricted to follow a curriculum that was set from external sources, that required us to move from the topic of seeds, to soil, to sprouts, week by week. That’s simply not how life works. We give children a false sense of the world and rob them of the chance to deal with change when we function from a curriculum in this way. 

But what if this idea didn’t just stop with the students. This sort of learning is something that we all need. Teachers, staff, administrators, cooks, groundskeepers, parents, grandparents, and the greater school community, all can have this outlook on living and learning from change. When we are adaptable, so are our children. 

Instead of a national curriculum that for many is the trend, can we learn from the natural, living, and local environment. At Roong Aroon, we go for walks around our pond, we observe how the water level rises and falls with the season, the different vegetation that grows, and the ways in which we can make a difference in the place where we leave our footprints in the mud. In doing so, we leave space for the individual curiosities and interests of the children. We don’t dictate what needs to be learned, but follow the children themselves and act as shepherds in their learning process. We need to find the opportunity in change and the inspiration in challenges if we are to support authentic life learning of our students. 

This is the lesson that we have learned and continue to learn everyday as we go on exploring the landscape that is laid before us. There is a map, there are places to go and things to see, there are roads to follow and paths to wander down. Which way we go, how long it takes to get there, and how often we stop to watch a gecko crawl up a wall is all to be determined by the constant unfolding of learning and growing together. 

by Andrea and Camden

One thought on “Curriculum and Change

  1. Lovely! The metaphor of maps in contrast to the real territory, place, environments and situations in which we find ourselves, I find helpful. Noticing maps as complimentary to our movements of learning through living , but that the map of the curriculum is not the learning by living in the moment. They must be different for learning to come alive. Food for good thinking. ��

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