Reggio Emilia is a town in Northern Italy.
Immediately after World War II, citizens decided to build quality public preschools with the goal of creating a sense of hope in their war-torn community. With the proceeds from a few tanks and horses they built the first school brick by brick. Loris Malaguzzi joined the effort and spent his lifetime dedicated to what is now called the Reggio Emilia Approach to the Education of Young Children.
In 1963, the city assumed funding for these schools. There are currently 22 preschools and 13 infant-toddler centers offering full-day care and social service support for families in Reggio Emilia.
Taken from Reggio Emilia at NAEYC by Penny Fahlman: The renowned public preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy emphasize the following concepts:
- Emergent Curriculum
- Project Work
- Daily Documentation
- Environment as the Third Teacher
- Children, Parents and Teachers as Partners
- Teachers as Learners
- Hundred Languages of Children
Emergent Curriculum: The emergent curriculum builds upon the interests of children. Topics for study are captured from the talk and play of children. It requires the teachers to observe, document and brainstorm. The teachers then work together for possible directions of a project, the materials needed and possible parent and community support and involvement based on what they learn from the children.
Project Work: Projects, also emergent, are in-depth studies of concepts, ideas and interests that happen within the group. Projects are child-centered and follow their interests or may be inspired by teachers, families or happenings in the community. Project work may be long term (months to a year) or short term (days or a few weeks).
Daily Documentation: Documenting children’s daily experiences and ongoing projects gives interpretation to all that the children do. It is through the documentation that the teachers are able to gain insight into the thoughts and feelings of the children, determine further investigation for working on topics, create a history of the work and generate further interest. Other benefits of documentation are a better understanding of children, opportunities to evaluate children’s work, making parents aware of children’s experiences, a venue for children to recall and value their own work and the process of that work, facilitating communication and an exchange of ideas among other teaching professionals
Environment as the Third Teacher: The environment is considered the “third teacher”. Teachers carefully organize the space for small and large group projects and small intimate spaces for one or multiple children. Documentation of children’s work, plants and collections that children created are displayed both at the children’s and adult eye level. Space is available to all children with dramatic play areas, a space for art and work tables for children to explore materials. Other supportive elements of the environment include ample space for supplies, frequently rearranged to draw attention to their aesthetic features.
Children, Parents and Teachers as Partners: Children, teachers and parents are interactive and work together. Parents are viewed as partners, collaborators and advocates for their children. Teachers respect parents as each child’s first teacher and involve parents in aspects of the curriculum. It is not uncommon to see parents volunteering within Reggio Emilia classrooms.
Teachers also conduct frequent meetings with parents to help educate them about children’s social, emotional, creative and academic development.
Teachers as Learners: The teacher’s role within the Reggio Approach has many sides. The role of the teacher is first and foremost to be that of a learner alongside the children. The teacher is a teacher-researcher, a resource and guide. Teachers carefully listen, observe and document children’s work and the growth of community in their classroom and provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking and children’s collaboration with their peers.
Teachers become skilled observers of children in order to inform their curriculum planning and implementation. Teachers often work in groups where they share responsibilities and learn together under the spontaneous children’s activities.
- The Hundred Languages of Children: Children have one hundred languages and they want to use all of them. As children explore their environment, they express themselves through a multitude of ways including drawing, sculpture, dramatic play, writing, communicative and cognitive languages including words, movement, painting, building, shadow play, collage, and music. As children work through problems and ideas, they are encouraged to depict their understanding using many different representations. As their thinking evolves, they are encouraged to revisit their representation to determine if they are representative of their intent or if they require modification. Teachers and children work together towards an expressed intent.
At Explore and Discover our curriculum is based on the Reggio Emilia Approach and includes a combination of exploration, creative expression, practice of everyday tasks and small-group cooperative efforts. Children are encouraged to learn by exploring their environment by using their senses. Teachers are guides who create classrooms full of opportunities for stimulation, use of challenging materials and fun activities. Children are encouraged to repeat key experiences, observe and re-observe, consider and reconsider, represent and re-present. Teachers are responsive to the children’s interests and are highly sensitive to topics that capture children’s imagination.