The Reggio Emilia Approach?
The Reggio Emilia Approach is an innovative and inspiring approach to early childhood education which values the child as strong, capable and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge. Every child brings with them deep curiosity and potential and this innate curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it.
The Reggio Emilia Approach to preschool education was started by the schools of the city of Reggio Emilia in post-World War II Italy. It is named after the town of Reggio Emilia in the Emilia Romagna province of northern Italy. In Reggio Emilia, 54 centres provide education for children from birth to six years. These schools have been described as among the best in the world.
The schools of Reggio Emilia began as a parent initiative. With the end of World War II, parents in Italy banded together and, with the proceeds from the sale of surplus war materials, founded the town’s first pre-schools. They had a vision for a new kind of school where children would be treated with respect and parents would be active participants in their children’s education.
The parents sought the help of educator Loris Malaguzzi to set up schools that reflected their vision. From those early schools grew the framework for a new model in education for young children.
What is the Reggio Emilia Approach?
The Reggio Emilia philosophy is an approach to teaching, learning and advocacy for children. In its most basic form, it is a way of observing what children know, are curious about and what challenges them. Teachers record these observations to reflect on developmentally appropriate ways to help children expand their academic and social potentials. Long term projects connect core academic areas in and out of the classroom.
Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Education
The following principles guide the practice and decisions made at Pikopiko Learning and are borrowed from Foundations of the Reggio Emilia Approach by Leila Gandini.
Image of the Child
Children are viewed as competent, curious, full of knowledge, potential, and interested in connecting to the world around them. Teachers are deeply aware of children’s potentials and construct all of their work and environment of the children’s experience to respond appropriately.
Collaboration and Interaction
Collaboration and cooperation are intentional in a school inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to education. The ability to collaborate and debate ideas is an essential life skill at any age, so teachers construct opportunities for children to learn to both listen to others theories as well as verbalise their own.
Emergent Curriculum is a way of teaching and learning that requires teachers to observe and listen to the children. Teachers ask questions and listen for the children’s ideas, hypotheses and theories. After observing children in action, the teachers compare, discuss, and interpret their observations. Teachers plan provocations and long term projects in the centre based on their observations. Teachers partner with children and the exchange of theories can also be referred to as the Cycle of Inquiry. Teachers use their interpretations, intentions and goals (social, emotional and academic) to make choices that they share with children. Learning is seen not as a linear process but as a spiralling progression.
Projects provide the backbone of the children’s and teachers’ learning experiences. They are based on the strong convictions that learning by doing is of great importance and that to discuss in group and to revisit ideas and experiences is the premier way of learning. Project ideas come from experiences of the children and teachers, a chance event or problem posed. They can last from a few days to several month
The space within the centre or the environment is considered the third teacher. Teachers intentionally organize, support and plan for various spaces for children. The flow of the day is planned to ensure that there is a balance between individual, small and large group activities, child directed and teacher initiated activity and inside as well as outside experiences.
The Hundred Languages of Children
The teachers work closely with the children through the art areas in the centre. There are intentional spaces containing materials and tools to pursue thinking and concepts. What is done with the materials is not art per se, because in the view of Reggio educators the children’s use of media is not a separate part of the curriculum but an integral part of the whole cognitive symbolic expression process of learning.
The Role of the Teacher
The image of the child shapes the role of the teacher and involves four major components. Teachers are:
Co-constructors: partners, guides, nurtures, solves problems, learns, hypothesises
Researchers: learns, observes, revisits
Documenters: listens, records, displays, revisits
Advocates for children: involved in the community, politics relating to children, speaks for children and presents work to other educators and community members.
Image of the Parents and Teachers
For children to learn, their well-being has to be guaranteed; such well-being is connected with the well being of parents and teachers. Children, parents and teachers have rights; the right to safety, care and welfare, the right to be involved and the right to grow professionally.