Reggio Emilia is a town in Italy. This town became the site where several educators came together, after the Second World War, to develop what is now known as the Reggio Emilia Approach. The founders, namely Loris Malaguzzi, were influenced by the work of fellow educators and philosophers like John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, David Hawkins, Jerome Bruner, and Howard Gardner. This philosophy sees children as capable active learners that should have some control over their learning, be surrounded by adults that support their thinking and ideas, and be engaged by a thought provoking and beautiful environment. A child’s natural sense of curiosity about the world around them will offer the adults in their presence vast opportunity to help the child discover and apply concepts of every discipline - literacy, math, science, social and emotional development, ect. The philosophy believes that children must construct their own knowledge and they have an infinite potential to learn. Reggio schools aspire to cultivate an authentic passion and love of lifetime learning and exploration. There are 8 fundamental principals of the philosophy:
1. Image of the Child
Children are capable and trustworthy. Children are celebrated just as they are. We believe we are not meant to mold them into who we think they should be, but rather nurture the goodness, curiosity, confidence, competence, ingenuity, creativity, and love that already exists within each and every child. Children are seen as contributing and active members of the classroom with the rights.
2. Environment Serves as a Teacher
Much care and consideration is placed into every space the children will spend time. In the Reggio Emilia philosophy of learning, the environment is considered the 3rd teacher. This means the physical space around the children should look inviting, be easy accessible, inspire curiosity, and reflect their ongoing learning processes through project work. Each classroom has a mini-atelier readily available to the children with various loose parts and quality art materials such as paint, glue, markers, clay, play dough, and various other art materials. By allowing children full access to materials, we are telling them they are trustworthy and capable. Reggio children do not clamor when they see a light table full of rocks, pebbles, shells, paints, glue, markers and paper.
The chidlren come to calmly use everything purposefully because materials have always been within their reach.
These materials are not brought out only during art class or special times of the day. As the children explore the classroom, every area is carefully planned to offer opportunities to think, construct, create and challenge them. There are many provocations or ‘invitations’ that supports the interaction and engagement of the children with each other and with their environment on their own terms and at times without adult mediation. Rotating centers are areas that are carefully set up to invite the children to delve deeper upon existing knowledge of a project. A rotating center can also be a teacher designed area meant to inspire engaged exploration of a chosen topic.
3. Emergent Curriculum with Projects as Vehicles for Sustained Learning
The Reggio Emilia Philosophy believes that children are most engaged when they are interested in a topic of study and the children should be actively engaged in making decisions about their education.
Without a pre-determined lesson plan, the day is open to start a new project or continue exploring ongoing projects.
Projects are created based on what the teacher observe the children/child is interested in, topics the children discuss, or extensions of an ongoing project – example would be if a project on the jungle began due to the interest shown in the jungle while reading the book Where the Wild Things Are. Through researching the jungle, the children become every interested in all the plant life of the jungle. A study of different plants, leaves, and their role in the jungle emerges. The start of a project is like the truck of a tree. As the children learn and have experiences the project can branch into other topics. Projects can last for 1 day or for 1 month and can involve the whole class or a few children. There can be different projects going on at the same time. The children’s interest dictates the project subject and academic areas are infused into these projects by the teacher.
4. Teacher as the Co-Learner and Supporter of the Child
In the Reggio Philosophy, the teacher largely takes a supportive role versus a directive role in the child’s learning. Children are involved in chosing the content of what they want to learn and the teachers have academic goals within that content. The teacher places immense value on the interest of the child and then presents materials, books, real life experiences, ect to enrich the learning and create the best possible experience to fully engage and learn about the topic. Throughout a project, teachers help guide students to make different decisions or carry out their plans but we are careful not to take over... the projects must remain rooted in their thinking: both individual and collaborative.
When a child asks you, "Why is there a moon?", don't reply with a scientific answer. Ask him, "What do you think?". He will understand that you are telling him, "You have your own mind and your own interpretation and your ideas are important to me." then you and he can look for the answers, sharing the wonder, curiosity, pain - everything. It is not the answers that are most important, it is the process - that you and he searched together. - Carlina Rinaldi, Director of the Reggio Emilia Pre-schools
5. 100 Languages of Children
Probably the most well known aspect of the Reggio Emilia approach is the strong belief in the "100 languages" children use to communicate and learn. Essentially "100 languages" symbolizes the infinite ways children express their knowledge, emotions, ideas, learning, etc. Art is a major vehicle for this expression. We encourage children to translate their thinking, emotions, and ideas into tangible items. This process requires higher order thinking and evaluation. This approach gives the teachers many ways to evaluate the knowledge and thinking process of the children.
Insert the 100 languages poem and add 3 photos of different ways children learn about plants with captions (shadow play to show life cycle in wonderland, clay representation, child working on their plant based costume)
6. Real Life Experiences
We believe that children deserve the opportunity to use all their senses when learning - smelling, tasting, hearing, seeing, touching and eventually creating. Real life experiences are a cornerstone of the Reggio Emilia Philosophy. Children must have an authentic avenue to apply concepts they are learning and they must use all their senses to truly understand what they are learning. It is during the experience of real life learning that childhood thrives.
Our children marvel at a hatching butterfly
Our children go to the top of a downtown high rise to see a real skyline
Our children go to the beach to make observations and collect data
Our children cook in restaurant kitchens
Our children live their learning.
As the children are working and playing, the teachers take notes of the children’s remarks and discussions, ways they manipulate materials, knowledge they have, and what challenges them. With this information, teachers brainstorm with each other, the Director, and the Think Tank Atelieristas to devise the emergent curriculum for the project.
As a project emerges and progresses, the teachers carefully display the work of the project. This documentation allows for the children's learning to become visible.
The pictures, writings, drawings, and creations that done our walls all speak for the children. Documentation allows for several aspects of the project work to be visible: the direction of the work, the connection, the thought processes, the explorations, the search for answers.
8. Parental Involvement
The involvement of the parents is crucial to the Reggio Emilia Philosophy. Parental involvement offers many aspects of enrichment. The child sees that the parent places value on their efforts at school. Children are very excited when they bring in something from home to contribute to projects and this fuels their efforts. Parents are seen as resources with their own areas of expertise and passion. Parents are welcome to share their knowledge with the classrooms if they chose. When this happens, the children’s horizons instantly expand.