Inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Education
The Reggio Emilia Approach is an innovative and inspiring approach to early childhood education. It values the child as strong, capable and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge. All children, even the very young, bring with them deep curiosity and potential. This innate curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it.
This approach originated in the town (and surrounding areas) of Reggio Emilia, Italy out of a movement towards progressive and cooperative early childhood education. It is not a method, there are no international training colleges to train to be a Reggio Emilia teacher. Outside of the town of Reggio Emilia, all schools and preschools can only consider themselves to be Reggio inspired, using an adaptation of the approach specific to the needs of their individual community. This is important as each student, teacher, parent, community and town are different. No two Reggio-inspired communities should look the same since the needs and interests of the children within each community will be different. This is not a cookie cutter approach but rather a philosophy of teaching and learning.
Children are capable of constructing their own learning
They are driven by their interests and curiosity to understand and know more. They are born capable of discovery within a rich environment.
Children form an understanding of themselves through their interactions with others, materials within their world and symbols
There is a strong focus on social collaboration and working in small groups. Each child is gently encouraged to participate and everyone's thoughts and questions are respected and valued. Learning doesn't happen in isolation but rather as a result of experiences with other children, the family, the teachers and the community.
Children are communicators
Communication is a process, a way of discovering things. Children may even delight by playing with sounds, rhythm and rhyme; delighting in the process of communicating. Children are encouraged to use language to investigate and explore, to reflect on their experiences. They are listened to with respect, believing that their questions and observations are an opportunity to learn and search together. It is a process, a continual process, one of collaboration rather than the child asking a question and the adult offering the answers. The search is undertaken together.
The environment is the third teacher
The environment is recognized for its potential to inspire children. The environment should be rich and filled with natural light, order and beauty. Open spaces should be free from clutter, where every material is considered for its purpose, every corner is ever-evolving to encourage children to delve deeper into their interests. The space encourages collaboration, communication and exploration. The space respects children as capable by providing them with authentic materials & tools. Spaces are cared for by the children and the adults.
Teachers nurture, mentor and guide
Teachers facilitate children’s exploration of both short- and long-term projects, and guide experiences of open-ended discovery and problem solving. The role of adults is to observe the children, listen to their questions and their stories, find what interests them and then provide them with opportunities to explore these interests further. Reggio Emilia takes a child-led project approach. The projects aren’t planned in advanced, they emerge based on the child’s interests.
An emphasis on documenting children’s thoughts
You’ll notice that there is an emphasis on carefully displaying and documenting children’s thoughts and their progression of thinking. This documentation makes the children's thoughts visible in many different ways such as through photographs, transcripts of words, visual representations (drawings, sculptures etc.). This documentation draws parents and teachers deeper into the child's experiences, and also shows the children that their work is valued.
The Hundred Languages of Children
Probably the most well-known aspect of the Reggio Emilia Approach is the belief that children use many, different ways to show their understanding and express their thoughts and creativity. A hundred different ways of thinking, of discovering, of learning including through words, movement, drawing, painting, building, sculpture, shadow play, collage, dramatic play and music. These "languages" lead children to surprising levels of communication, symbolic skills and creativity. They allow children to discover and communicate what they know, understand, wonder about, question, feel, and imagine. In this way, children can make their thinking visible through their many natural “languages”. And each one of these Hundred Languages must be valued and nurtured. They are all a part of the child, learning and play are not separated.
Parents are encouraged to play an active role in their children's experiences. The exchange of information between teachers and parents, the volunteered talents and skills of family members, borrowed and donated materials, field trip chaperoning, time spent observing the children at play are all valued and add richness to the children's exploration.
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