The Reggio Emilia Approach
The school system in Reggio Emilia (a small city in northern Italy) has been the source of great change in early childhood principles addressing philosophy and environment since its inception in 1945. It was at the end of the Fascist dictatorship and of the Second World War when families came together with a "desire to bring change and create a new, more just world, free from oppression, and began to build with their own hands, schools for their young children," under the guidance of founder, Loris Malaguzzi. (Lella Gandini - Next Steps Toward Teaching the Reggio Way)
For several years now, our Early Childhood program has been inspired and influenced by the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. The preschools there have been praised as some of the best in the world (Newsweek magazine in 1991) and have continued to be a catalyst in addressing best early childhood education practice.
We are guided by the key principles from Reggio Emilia (listed below) and continue to question and discuss how we can apply the Reggio approach to achieve the best learning environments for children.
Our ongoing research tells us that relationships play a key roll in this approach. It is very important that children, teachers and families work together to support each other, and listen to one another, demonstrating our respect for children by valuing their thoughts and building on their interests. As we plan each day, it is our task, to inspire in children a love for exploration and learning, where anything is possible.
The Image of the Child
Adults see each child as competent, full of potential and active in constructing their own knowledge through interactions with others. Children are viewed as rich, strong and powerful. Therefore, adults try to understand as fully as possible the child's viewpoint and abilities.
Education Based on Interaction and Collaboration
Education is experienced as a continuous interaction. This interaction takes place with exchanges that go from teacher to children, children to children, teacher to teacher, teacher to parent, parent to teacher and again from children to teacher in a circular process. School then takes the form of an educating community where one educates oneself, with each member contributing to the education process. This "system" produces leadership by all parties.
The Reggio Emilia approach can be seen as an extension of the "Whole Language" approach often used here except that in addition to spoken and written language an entire array of creative media are used and are considered as "other languages." Through all the different forms of expression children are developing mental concepts. It is a way of using children's many ways of expressing themselves to enhance their creative, social and cognitive development.
The Importance of Time
Projects and themes follow the children's interest and development of concepts. Projects and activities are not "one shot deals" or recipes, rather they build upon one another over time, as the children re-visit their original work and ideas, refining them further through new experiences, activities and forms of expression. Time is also very important in building and sustaining, collaborative relationships.
The Role of the Teacher
Teachers facilitate children's ability to represent what they know and imagine. It is not enough to learn by doing, teachers must facilitate talking and thinking about what is being done. Teachers mediate between children's current understanding and what they are on the threshold of understanding by: reviewing and helping children tell the story of their own learning; arranging new experiences, challenges and problems; connecting children with resources; facilitating group discussions and social interactions; reflecting children's ideas and facilitating the development of new skills.
The Role of the Environment
Through thoughtful use of space, color natural light, displays of children's work, and attention to nature and detail, the environment serves as the third teacher. It conveys to children, parents, teachers and community how the space is to be used and that their presence is valued and respected. The environment serves as an invitation to enter and to participate.
The Role of the Parents
The educational process involves three equally important participants: children, parents and teachers. Parents have the right and should be encouraged to be active contributors in their children's activities, classroom, school and development. Parents collaborate with teachers in curriculum decisions as well as administrative decisions. The schools welcome parent involvement in a wide range of ways. Parents participate by giving time and talents and serve as an advocate for the schools in community politics.