Emergent Curriculum: Our Integrated Unit of Study

There are so many ways to approach a unit of study.  

The integrated unit of study at Peconic Community School is emergent: the specific direction of our study evolves from provocations and questions, from a dialogue between facilitators and learners.  The beginning of each trimester at PCS is an exciting time as we invite students to consider a topic or an idea and then follow them over the next several months to see where their questions lead us.      

This trimester we are studying maritime history and our current interactions with Long Island’s waterways.  While a shared theme unifies the focus of the school for the term, specific topics, practical approaches, and learning objectives are differentiated for each classroom according to developmental readiness.  

Here's a quick glimpse of some of the work emerging in these first two weeks of study:

Early Childhood began an exploration of our maritime history with literature and loose parts.  Stories of sailors and the sea inspired model lighthouses; and our youngest learners used their breath to blow paint to recreate the colors and movement of the sea on paper.    

Lower Primary students approached the waterways unit by investigating the different types of water on Earth and their relative concentrations. Students also began a study of maps and visual perspective when questions arose about Long Island's unique situation amongst bodies of fresh, salty, and brackish water.  

Middle Primary approached our maritime/waterways unit with a literal tracing of Long Island’s connection to the water: students researched our Island's first settlers and their land, and made   line drawings to illustrate how the water defines our home.  Student writers also reflected on the morality of Long Island's historic whaling industry in their core value journals.

Mrs. Timoney offered Upper Primary students a viewing of the following film as a provocation to explore the connection between people and the landscapes they inhabit – in this case, the story of a lighthouse keeper.  Students were further invited to reflect not only on the subjects of the story, but on the story itself: they discussed how the filmmakers’ choices (cinematography, ambient sound vs. soundtrack or interview) shaped the story of the lighthouse and its keeper.  (And this is just the introduction to the unit!)

This differentiated, yet thematically unified, approach to our third trimester study aligns with PCS’s overall educational model – learning for our younger students begins with open-ended exploration and discovery and progresses for our older students through to critical thinking, innovation, and an understanding of the complex interaction between people and their world.

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A Day in the Life of a Lighthouse Keeper a short film by Kauri Multimedia, via National Geographic.

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Authormegan eilers