The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education is based on more than 40 years of experience in the Reggio Emilia Infant/toddler and Preschool Centers in Italy. Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) founded the 'Reggio Emilia' approach at a city in northern Italy called Reggio Emilia. The 'Reggio' vision of the child as a competent learner has produced a strong child-directed curriculum model.
Reggio approach has a strong belief that children learn through interaction with others, including parents, staff and peers in a friendly learning environment. Learning is viewed as a journey; and education as building relationships with people (both children and adults) and creating connections between ideas and the environment. Through this approach, adults help children understand the meaning of their experience more completely through documentation of children’s work, observations, and continuous teacher-child dialogue. Reggio approach guides children’s ideas with provocations—not predetermined curricula. There is collaboration on many levels: parent participation, teacher discussions, and community.
Within the Reggio Emilia schools, great attention is given to the look and feel of the classroom. Environment is considered the "third teacher." Teachers carefully organize space for small and large group projects and small intimate spaces for one, two or three children. Documentation of children's work, plants, and collections that children have made from former outings, are displayed both at the children's and adult eye level.
In the Reggio approach, the teacher is considered a co-learner and collaborator with the child and not just an instructor. Within such a teacher-researcher role, educators carefully listen, observe, and document children's work and the growth of community in their classroom. Teachers provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking and children's collaboration with peers and facilitate the child's learning by planning activities and lessons based on the child's interests, asking questions to further understanding, and actively engaging in the activities alongside the child, instead of sitting back and observing the child learning. "As partner to the child, the teacher is inside the learning situation" (Hewett, 2001).
Teachers are committed to reflection about their own teaching and learning.
The Fundamental Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach
The "principles" of the Reggio Schools - which they refer to as their "Educational Project" not a "type" of teaching:
- Children are active protagonists of their own learning Children possess extraordinary potential for learning and change. They are capable and competent, strong, powerful and rich in potential and resources right from the moment in birth. They are possessors and constructors of rights who should be respected and valued for his/her identity, uniqueness and difference, and their own rhythms of growth and development. They are citizens of our community... and citizens of our world
- The hundred languages The hundred languages are a metaphor for the extraordinary potentials of children, their knowledge building and creative processes. Children tell us about their understandings of the world in many ways (with their hundred languages). There are many different ways to communicate, to learn and to know. Children are encouraged to make meaning of their world through artistic expression such as paint, clay, drama, fabric, dance, sculpture, storytelling, construction, loose parts, and many more...it is giving value and dignity to all the different forms of learning children possess...verbal and non-verbal
- Participation This is the strategy of being together with others and the importance of the teachers, the children and the parents being stakeholders in the educational project. It is the co-construction of learning together. Participation gives value to, and makes use of the hundred languages of children, of the many differing points of views of human beings - of culture. Participation creates a sense of belonging.
- Listening In an education that values participation, an active attitude of listening is at the forefront of context between relationships between adults, children and the environment. It nurtures reflection and openness to oneself and others thoughts and to the question of meaning. Rinaldi tell us to to listen with all our senses... "listen with your heart, listen with your skin", "Children are speaking to us even when they are not talking" Rinaldi
- Learning as a process of individual and group construction Each child, and human being, is an active constructor of knowledge, competencies and autonomies. This construction of knowledge takes place in his/her original way and is shaped, guided, influenced by their relationship with their peers, adults and the environment. This process allows for creativity, discovery, uncertainty, curiosity, and quality research! All this is promoted through play, in a aesthetically pleasing, spiritually and emotionally nurturing, relational interwoven process . It is intrinsically motivating, pleasurable and joyous.
- Educational research Research represents one of the essential dimensions of life of children and adults alike. A knowledge building that must be recognised and valued. Shared research between adults and children is a priority practice of everyday life. An ethical approach for interpreting the complexities of life, of the world, of living with others
- Educational documentation Documentation makes the learning of the community visible, giving it value and respect. The educational experience that unfolds in the early childhood service assumes its fullest meaning when documentation helps adults and children reflect on prior experience; listen to each other's ideas, theories, insights, and understandings; and make decisions together about future learning paths - basically when it is revisited, reconstructed, re- signified, and assessed. In-depth documentation reveals the learning paths that children take and the processes they use in their search for meaning
- Progettazione The educational action takes shape by means of progettazione, which is the process of planning and designing the teaching and learning experiences, the environment, the opportunities for participation and the professional development of the educators - and not by means of applying predefined curriculum. It pays respect to the designing and unravelling of work with children. It accepts doubt, uncertainty and error as resources, and is capable of being modified in relation to the evolving context. It is carried out by means of the processes of observation, documentation and interpretation in a recurring relationship, and through a close synergy between the organisation of the work and the educational research
- Organisation The organisation of the work, the spaces and the time of the children and the adults is a structural part of the values and choices of the educational project. A shared responsibility at the administrative, political and curriculum levels; choices that contribute to guaranteeing identity, stability, security a sense of belonging to the children and to the educational service
- Environment, spaces, and relations The interior and exterior spaces of the early childhood services are designed and organised in interconnected forms that foster interaction, autonomy, explorations, curiosity and communication, and are offered as places for the children and for the adults to research and to live together. The environment interacts with, is modified by and takes shape in relation to the projects and learning experiences of the children and of the adults in a constant dialogue between architecture and learning.
Care of the furniture, the objects and the play spaces by the children and the adults is an educational act that generates psychological well-being, a sense of familiarity and belonging, aesthetics and the pleasure of inhabiting a space, which are also primary premises and conditions for the safety of the environments.
- Professional Development Ongoing professional development is both the right and duty of each individual and of the group. It is a time for building understandings and meanings of methods of education. Professional development is given priority within the daily activity of the centres and schools through the reflective practices of observation and documentation, with the weekly staff meeting being the primary occasion for in-depth study and sharing
- Assessment The assessment process is part of the totality of the aspects of life within the school or early childhood service, including the children’s learning, the professionalism of the personnel, the organisation and quality of the service. It is understood and proposed as an opportunity to recognise and to negotiate the meanings and internationalities of the educational project and is configured as a public action of dialogue and interpretation.
This is a program based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum
Some wonderful blogs and sights for families to visit to learn more about Reggio Emilia
An Everyday Story www.aneverydaystory.com/beginners-guide-to-reggio-emilia/
Natural Parents Network http://naturalparentsnetwork.com/inspired-by-reggio-emilia/