Curriculum is the framework of experience and activities developed by teachers to help children increase their competence (Hendrick, 1994). Progressive education promotes a curriculum that develops the whole child. The activities and interactions designed to complete the curriculum revolve around the child’s interests and also develop the child’s self-esteem and positive feelings towards learning.
The components of the curriculum are the program’s content, the learning environment and class grouping.
1. The Content
Feeney, Christensen & Moravcik (2000) describe three well-known approaches in organizing the curriculum. The most common way to break the curriculum into parts is according to subject matter (Hildebrand, 1991; Schickendanz, York, Stewart & White, 1990; Seefeldt & Barbour, 1994) or the subject-centered organization. Although this approach guarantees that all areas of content will be given attention, it does not teach children the relationships between subjects. Although the subject-centered approach exists in classrooms for older children, adolescents and adults, it is not appropriate for young children.
Feeney, et al. (2000) identifies the next approach as the learner-centered organization. This approach emerges from the developmental stage, needs and interests of the children. It promotes large blocks of time for play and exploration in a prepared environment. It is appropriate for infants, toddlers and young preschoolers. However, it may not give enough cognitive stimulation for older preschoolers or children in the primary grades.
The third approach that Feeney, et al. (2000) identifies is the integrated or thematic planning. This approach revolves around a theme or topic of study that serves as the framework for integrated subject areas. Since the theme is chosen based on the children’s interests, the learning experiences are more meaningful and worthwhile. It can be customized to fit the learning styles of a group of children and of individual children in a group.
Redoble (2000) studied the development of the Integrated Core Curriculum (ICC) by the UP Child Development Center (UP-CDC), the laboratory school of the Department of Family Life and Child Development (DFLCD). ICC is indigenous to the DFLCD. This curriculum is based on all the aspects of a child’s development, interests of the child, different learning experiences and a central theme that is based on the child’s interests. Redoble (2000) states that there are three stages in planning the ICC. The first stage is the formulation of a theme that is grounded on the children’s interests. Next is the formulation of the Curriculum Framework. The Curriculum Framework or ICC Framework is composed of the theme or topic and organizing questions that the curriculum answers through concepts. The last stage is brainstorming for the activity web wherein different activities are chosen to accomplish the framework’s concepts. These activities are usually categorized by subject.
In planning the curriculum content, all the domains of the child should be taken into consideration. Hendrick (1994) discusses the concept of the whole child wherein not only should the mind be the focus in education but also the physical, the emotional, the social and the creative domains of the child.
The subject matter should center on the child’s own social activities and not on special studies that are external to the child’s own experiences (Dewey, 1897). Process is only learned if it is understood, and that understanding has to be rooted in experience (Washburne, 1952).