At Community Building Children’s Center (CBCC), our approach to early education is inspired by the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Children are engaged in a creative relationship-based curriculum, offered natural whole foods, provided a home-like environment, surrounded by a trained loving staff, have parents as partners, and are given opportunities to celebrate the natural world.
The feelings, thoughts, and theories of young children are solicited and respected through developing skills in painting, sculpting, drawing, constructing, music, poetry, movement, and drama.
What is a Reggio Inspired School?
A Reggio Inspired School is one that is based on the philosophy of education that emerged out of the city of Reggio Emilia, Italy. It was in this city after World War II that this educational philosophy was born out of the work of Loris Malaguzzi and the parents of children in the war-torn city. The main tenets of the philosophy are that an education that is led by the child is most profitable to the child. Respect, support, encouragement, engagement with imaginary and real experiences in the world, and a strong focus on the social-emotional development of the child are central to the educational experience in the classroom.
Central to the Reggio Emilia approach is the Atelier, or studio, and the Atelierista, the studio teacher. It is in this space that the students are given the opportunity to explore the languages of various materials, such as paint, clay, loose parts, and paper. Malaguzzi posited through his work and in his poem, The Hundred Languages of Children, that children need and have many languages to express their thoughts, opinions, feelings, and experiences of the world. The studio is one of many spaces in the classroom in which this expression is nurtured and developed.
What is Emergent Curriculum?
We value and respect young children as competent and capable learners. Their play, ideas, questions and theories become the foundation for our curriculum. This type of curriculum development is referred to as ‘emergent curriculum’. We believe that this approach is the most developmentally appropriate and most aligned with our understanding of how young children learn.
This approach requires that we pay close attention to children’s play, taking written notes as well as photo and video recordings to help us reflect on what theories, ideas, skills, and interests are ‘emerging’. Each week the lead teachers in each classroom meet twice with Anita as separate classroom teams to reflect on our observations and to develop our curriculum based on those observations. The teachers then use individual planning time to bring the curriculum into the classroom. This may require bringing in new materials, reintroducing children to old materials, and preparing the environment for deeper levels of exploration and thinking for the children.
We make sure to integrate physical, social, emotional, cognitive, math and language development; these are also grounded in cultural, health, and safety awareness. Literacy and numeracy development are introduced and woven throughout all activities. The teachers are facilitators, partners, observers and co-learners. Teachers are very busy and engaged as they play and build alongside children, watching for moments when they need guidance or assistance with a conflict or a problem. Teachers look for opportunities to extend the children’s play and learning by offering materials, by asking a well-timed question and by joining in and deepening cycles of meaningful dialogue and conversations with children.
The Seven Key Features of the Reggio Inspired Approach
- Emergent Curriculum
- Project Work
- Representational Development
- Teachers as Researchers
- Environment as the Third Teacher
How is Reggio Inspired different than Montessori or Waldorf?
The Reggio Inspired Approach, along with Montessori and Waldorf approaches, while gaining in popularity, is often seen as an alternative to other and more widely available educational styles. While all three philosophies came to the United States from Europe, they have many similarities and differences. One way to depict the three is graphically:
Waldorf education was established in Germany in the aftermath of World War I by Rudolf Steiner. The foundation of this approach is imaginary play through which children will develop their physical, mental and emotional abilities. For children younger than seven, there is an emphasis on oral language, story, and song. The teacher in this setting is a performer or leader.
Founded by Maria Montessori in Rome in the early 1900s, Montessori schooling is based upon the belief that children have natural intelligence and the emphasis for this educational model is to develop the child’s abilities based on rational and empirical work. Teachers are unobtrusive directors who allow students long periods of uninterrupted time with periods of recovery in between them.
In Reggio Inspired schools, children are understood to have a full range of skills and abilities that encompass the imaginative and the real. Teachers are engaged in the activities with children as well as guiding the activity, finding a balance between the two.
All three methods view the child as a whole person and as the guide in their own learning and teachers take their cues from the children to determine where to focus the individual or group’s attention and what materials or prepared environments can be introduced in order to facilitate the learning.