My thoughts on the Reggio Approach:
International Group Study 2016
Reggio- Emilia, Italy
By Lexie Biegun
Visiting Reggio, Emilia Italy in April 2016 has definitely been the highlight of my 20 year long career as an Early Childhood educator. Travelling to the other side of the world (alone) I set off on a journey to understand the philosophy I have been actively practising, studying and implementing into my centres for nearly two decades. I participated in a week long, intensive Group work study at the renowned Loris Malaguzzi International centre in the Province of Reggio Emilia Italy. Below are some of my notes on the experience….
Loris Malaguzzi was instrumental in the founding of Reggio Children, and said that, “A teacher is a learning person.” He was multi-disciplinary and integrated thinking from diverse fields of study into an educational philosophy. The creation of the schools was in response to the rise of fascism in Italy, and in the aftermath of war, citizens dedicated themselves to building a system of education that would have at its heart ideals of democracy and equality. Political activism is at the core of the schools in Reggio Emilia.
Here are some key points to acknowledge about the Reggio-Emilia philosophy:
Loris Malaguzzi believed:
~Children have the right to express themselves freely; all children have the right to education no matter of their abilities or social status. Children are seen as rich, competent citizens, full of potential.
~Learning in school is not linear, rather looked at as a spiralling progression.
~Learning happens in groups that are arranged by educators. Children with different temperaments, abilities, social aptitudes and interests are placed together to build on one another’s strengths. They turn to one another for assistance, not to the teachers, in this way they create strong relationships. (Aiming for long- term global unity)
~ The environments and routines encourage self care, washing, toileting, combing one’s hair. Beautiful spaces with sinks, small tubs, bidets and mirrors, where children take care of themselves at their own pace.
~ There is a HIGH value placed on work/life balance. This becomes extremely evident when you witness the school’s first hand. The children take long, un-rushed lunches, enjoy a 2 hour siesta until age 6, dress their food tables in beautiful linens with thoughtful table arrangements, and help the cooks prepare nutritious balanced meals for all the children and staff to enjoy.
~Educators watch, listen and document, provoke and collaborate. They remain somewhat distant from problem solving, allowing the children to negotiate and experiment on their own.
~Children are visible in the community. The schools are considered (public) places where residents are always welcome. Malaguzzi believed in a school without walls, children without labels and where every citizen has a voice, and children are respected for who they are …..Always.
~ The Image of the child as competent beings begins with small babies; they form strong bonds with their environment, materials and with people. Very young children use clay, water, wood, wool etc. Continuously, therefore really and truly understanding the materials and what they are capable of doing with them. By four or five years old, they are creating artistic pieces which (we) consider beyond their years. Projects are worked on and stretched over long periods of time, months even years! Taking home (daily) art is NOT expected…. or even acknowledged.
~It’s very important to remember that the educators are looking for research, dialogue and effective communication skills. They are never looking for the outcome of a project! Projects may take days or weeks to complete and can twist and turn in various directions.
~ The entire community is invited and encouraged to participate in the children’s learning! Weekly parent meetings and monthly community events play a huge apart in making the children’s learning visible!
~ All of the documentation is considered ongoing work! There is never an END to a thought or project! Educators meet to discuss the materials/documentation collected by the Pedigistas (caregivers). The educators discuss, negotiate, collaborate and share their views. This is all considered part of the learning process for children. Documentation is a learning process. It tells its own story. It is not only making a child’s learning visible… but it is also making it sharable. Documentation is building a common-shared memory. (Like us as adults, we have stories that usually start as, “hey, remember that time when we….”
It also helps to spark memories creating conversations and giving us a sense of belonging. Documentation respects memories made in the process of learning.
While in Reggio, Emilia I had the unbelievable luck to meet and speak with Carlina Rinaldi, President of Reggio, Emilia Children and my long time idol. It truly was an unbelievable experience to chat briefly with her about her contribution and dedication to children in the world. Fulfilling a lifetime goal to visit Reggio, as well as meeting Carlina in person certainly has inspired me and motivated me in ways I could not possibly imagine.
I have so much to learn, and I am dedicated in the creation of the many amazing moments ahead.
This will be continued…….