About the Reggio Emilia philosophy
In Reggio Emilia they don’t lock their view on children, the pedagogue or the learning process. The world and its people are always changing and that’s why they are against set programs and methods. You can work Reggio Emilia-inspired. You cannot copy the way they work in Italy because you have to consider the people, the environment and culture.
In Reggio Emilia they have a coined expression: “A child has a hundred languages”. They try to unite and develop all these languages; innovation, construction, fantasy, art, music, dance, building, writing, talking, signing, science, body and soul… The multiple languages are used to help children build knowledge and understand the world around them. The natural environment is incorporated as much as possible.
Children are little researchers; they can and want to communicate with the surrounding world. They are individuals with own thoughts, emotions and expressions. They believe in a “listening pedagogy”.
In Reggio Emilia they believe children have an enormous potential and curiosity. Children strive to understand the world, making their own theories to explain how it functions. Children's knowledge needs to be brought out using their natural curiosity and not filled in. I Reggio Emilia they believe that each person constructs their own intelligence from direct interaction with the environment and in social groups.
In Reggio schools, time is not set by the clock, but by the child’s needs and interests. Monday doesn't mean paint day and everybody don’t go to the bathroom at the same time. There should be sufficient time for a child to express, learn, explore, extend and revisit a given project.
The quote below by Malaguzzi who was a former teacher in Reggio sums up how the Italians using this approach view education with children:
"Each child is unique and the protagonist of his or her own growth. Children desire to acquire knowledge, have much capacity for curiosity and amazement, and yearn to create relationships with others and communicate. "
The teacher is trying to learn about each child, not just what is typical of 3- or 4-year-olds. The teacher in Reggio Emilia is the researcher, the data gatherer, the learner, and the strategic contributor to the child's capacity to learn. The responsibility is on the community of teachers to provide the contexts for learning.
"The child is worthy of being listened to." "Listen, observe, interact, and learn from the child." "Do not place the child in adult-designed or arbitrary time slots of adult management systems." "If the child is misbehaving, find out why, find out what the child is trying to communicate, find out how you can help the child." "Your job as an adult is to help the child communicate his feelings and guide the child toward a positive resolution of the problem.
The teacher's role within the Reggio Emilia approach is complex. Working as co-teachers, 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 as she/he lends expertise to. Within such a teacher-researcher role, educators carefully listen, observe, and document children's work and the growth of community in their classroom and are to provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking, and children's collaboration with peers. Teachers are committed to reflection about their own teaching and learning.
Documentation is central in the Reggio Emilia approach. Documentation communicates the life of the center to others visiting the center. It also provides opportunities for children to revisit the experience. Documentation is a process that involves observation, reflection, collaboration, interpretation, analysis, and is made a part of the classroom.
Multiple forms of documentation: photographs, audiotape transcripts, videotapes, note taking and the actual product of a child’s work create a multi sensory“memory” of an activity. Posting the documentation in the preschool encourages students to learn from one another and to appreciate the process of creating.
Instead of following a set agenda, the Reggio Emilia approach encourages teachers to let a child’s interests guide the curricula. Teachers are trained to recognize a child’s interests and create on-going projects that stimulate a child’s curiosity.
The environment, the room
Within the Reggio Emilia schools, great attention is given to the look and feel of the classroom. Environment is considered the "third teacher." Long hallways are meant for running, doors are meant to be opened and closed and stairs are meant to be climbed in. 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. Common space available to all children in the school includes dramatic play areas and worktables for children from different classrooms to come together.
A welcoming environment encourages a child to engage in activity and discovery. Wall-sized windows, mirrors placed on floors, walls and ceilings establish a space filled with opportunity. The Reggio Emilia approach integrates nature into the curriculum so that the child learns to appreciate the physical and structural environment. The architecture is designed to encourage playful encounters for the preschool students.
If you want to learn more about Reggio Emilia here are web sites we recommend:
Reprinted with the permission of the Scandinavian School. © by The Scandinavian School in San Francisco, 2001-2005. All rights reserved.