Reggio Emilia Approach
The story of the influence of the Reggio Emilia Approach on Emerson's philosophy of early education began in the early 1990's. Emerson teachers first learned about the Reggio Emilia Approach at conferences and through other professional development. When we visited the exhibit The Hundred Languages of Children at the Montshire Museum of Science in 1996 we were not prepared for the overwhelming impact it would have on our thinking and eventually on Emerson School. The exhibit showcased the work of children from the preprimary schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. What struck us was the intricacy of the children's work, the attention to detail, the quality of materials, and the depth of investigation. We sensed a strong sense of community among parents, children, and teachers not unlike the feeling we strive for at Emerson. We came away with a stronger vision of what we want for our school and in our classroom.
The essential messages of the exhibit reveal the essence of a connected, coherent set of beliefs about the educational experience of children:
A deep respect for the strong potential of young children
The view of teachers as researchers and partners with children
in the learning process
The conviction that children, parents and teachers are all equally
important components of a quality educational experience
The importance of community support
The great care given to an environment that provides a sense of well-being and contributes to teaching and learning
The strong value placed on relationships as essential aspects of the construction of learning
The continuity of experience that occurs when children and adults maintain a stable group over a period of years
A respect for children's own time and rhythm in the daily life of schools
Cooperation at all levels of the system based on careful organization of every operation within the schools
Learning by doing with others through projects that allow for returning to and revisiting ideas (since learning is not linear, but a spiral progression)
The attention to many languages (besides written and spoken words) expressed with a variety of materials and media is considered essential, making it possible for children to fully represent their ideas and to develop their thinking
Our school continues to be inspired and strengthened by the many ideas that originate in the Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood education. Emerson School believes that early education begins with two minds: the mind of the child and that of the teacher. Children and teachers work closely together, constructing knowledge that is shared between them. Both children and teachers grow and are changed by this reciprocal learning. One activity builds on the next one.
In contrast to programs such as Montessori and many other American schools that stress the individual learning of younger children, the Reggio Approach emphasizes that children can often do more and better in a group than alone. The skills we need as learners include how to work together. Each child has a contribution to make. Each child has a talent to share. In addition, there is something very motivating about the relationship between and among children that pulls them to a greater level of accomplishment. This provides an experience that helps children get to higher learning a bit like a scaffold helps a painter accomplish their higher levels of work. Group learning works in other ways, too. In order to persuade someone to believe your ideas, even the most proficient children must revisit their thinking about the knowledge they are conveying. They negotiate, make mistakes, question their original ideas, and consider multiple points of view as they proceed.
Our teachers observe children's work and play closely. We make notes, record with video and audio what we see and hear. We research and share our reflections about the children's thoughts and ideas with the other teachers, with the children, and with you the parents. Meanwhile we document these in the Daily Logbook and in our own notes in order to design new opportunities for learning based on our findings. Then we communicate with families about it all. It is a challenging task, but one we meet with tremendous enthusiasm and optimism.
Our role as teachers begins with a shared image of the child, of all children, a powerful view of children that first recognizes children's strengths and rights. The year with your children has a unique life of its own, ebbing and flowing with the curiosity of each class of children. We build our curriculum from their interests. Children will take on more responsibility in the decision-making process as the year progresses. Above all, the life of the school is based on relationships and the everyday joy of learning.
For learn more about the Reggio Emilia Approach you can visit these sites:
Three Approaches from Europe: Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emilia
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