The Reggio Emilia educational approach was born in post-WWII Italy out of the all-encompassing need to bring change and create anew within society. The result is progressive and cooperative educational philosophy resting on social constructivism, focusing on the child’s personal interests, sensory experiences, relationships with other members of the community & the environment and opportunities for self-expression and development.
As parents are increasingly seeking out holistic, experimental educational approaches for their little diamonds in the rough, Little Steps is here to help you understand the particularities of one of the oldest, leading, and most wonderful among them.
Reggio Emilia was not a person but is an Italian city, and even more importantly, it is not a curriculum, but an educational philosophy. It isn't easy to talk about a "Reggio Emilia curriculum" since their very approach calls for a self-guided curriculum. It is not a method, and there are no training courses, no certificates. Perhaps fittingly, all Regio Emilia schools are "Reggio Emilia-inspired" since no two kids, and no two communities are the same. It is an experimental learning approach that focuses on preschool and primary education and stems from the assumption that, in early developmental stages, children develop their own "hundred languages" which allow them to express their unique selves in different ways, while their own innate interests naturally drive them towards learning. If the focus of approach has to be put into a one-word nutshell, it would have to be communication—learning to express yourself in ways that actually reflect your intention with the goal of kids and adults understanding each other, learning to communicate with the environment through the senses and create connections between the environment and ideas. Now, let's break it down into the essential ingredients needed for an educational approach...
When it comes to Reggio Emilia, teachers are not instructors, but collaborators. Both teachers and children ask and answer each other's questions—everyone is on this journey of discovery together, relationships are crucial for understanding ourselves and the world, so peers are seen as teachers too. Adult teachers view each child's development as a long-term project and teach the same group for at least three years. Children are respected as extremely capable, insightful and valuable members of their community, which is Reggio's another critical value. Reggio Emilia has a tradition of community support that stems from the local view that it takes a village to raise a child. Parents are seen as the first teachers along with the instructors. They are educational partners and an integral part of Reggio-inspired schools with a say in matters such as school policy, curriculum and other issues.
There are no predetermined "units" and no project is planned in advance—teachers listen to the kiddos' stories and ideas to see what interests them and then provide them with opportunities for more exploration, work on the project (learn by doing) together or open a dialogue to deepen each other's understanding. Concepts are presented to children through music, drama, puppetry, print, shadow play and more and kids are encouraged to depict their understanding through one of many symbolic languages, including drawing, sculpture, dramatic play, writing, etc. The learning progress is made visual by the teachers carefully documenting the children's thoughts expressed through all the different media, which also makes them researchers who use their observations to create even more opportunities for growth.
As we already pointed out, the environment plays a crucial role when learning Reggio Emilia-style. Moreover, the approach considers the environment to be "the third teacher" along with adults and other students. This is why their spaces are always connected to the outside and the surrounding community, they are homey, spacious, filled with natural light and clutter-free to ensure there are no demotivating forces in the child's way. The spaces are dynamic so as not to take them for granted but orderly, stimulating and intentionally designed to create opportunities for interaction and help kids use all of their "languages" to learn from others and teach them back!
Malvern College Pre-School Hong Kong, www.malvernpreschool.hk
Fairchild Kindergarten, www.fairchild.academy
Fairchild Junior Academy, www.fairchild.academy
Avendale International Kindergarten, www.avendale.school
Italian International Kindergarten, iikg.edu.hk
Blooming Buds Preschool, www.bloomingbuds.com.hk
Il Villaggio Dei Bambini, www.villaggiodeibambini.com *Tai Po
Mulberry Tree, www.mulberrytree.com.hk (Montessori & Reggio-Inspired)
Baby Brain, www.babybrainhk.com/reggio-play-school/
Mulberry House Academy, www.mulberryhouseasia.com (Reggio Emilia inspired Mandarin Immersion School)
Mulberry House International Kindergarten, www.mulberryhousekg.com (Reggio Emilia inspired Bilingual International Kindergarten)