early childhood education

Why Reggio Emilia?

I keep seeing the term Reggio-inspired. What does that mean?

The term Reggio-inspired is a hot topic on the Internet, particularly among early childhood educators. The Reggio Emilia Approach is a unique school of thought that originated in Italy in response to Mussolini’s dictatorship. A group of mothers and children decided to found their own school by creating a learning environment where it was safe to ask questions and where children’s natural desire for knowledge was nurtured. They came up with the founding principles that guide the curriculum of the schools that adopt it.

There’s a lot to like about the Reggio approach which is exactly why I try to apply the concepts to many projects with Pearl. It’s a school of thought that builds character, autonomy, and challenges young sweet ones to  explore and discover.

So what is it exactly? 

The Reggio Emilia Approach isn’t a method. There is no official training in America giving the title Reggio Emilia trained to any teacher which is why you see the term Reggio-inspired. It’s a philosophy that preschools and early childhood settings embrace, but many of the principles can be adapted to a home setting.  The central principles of this philosophy are:

1.   Children are capable of constructing knowledge.

Reggio Emilia embraces the idea that children are naturally curious beings that are already interested in the people and world around them. They are seen as potential beings that are capable of constructing knowledge.

2.   The adult acts as a guide.

In schools that embrace the Reggio approach, teachers develop what’s called an emergent curriculum. This is to say that as children share their curiosity and interests, the teacher will provide opportunities through which the child can research, test, and apply their ideas in order to gain knowledge.

3.   The environment as teacher.

         The environment is seen as a potential space that can inspire learning. Ideally, an environment filled with natural light, open space, and organization is most inviting for child learning. This can be a hard principle to bring home depending on the space available for families in areas with high population density. It can also be difficult where children and adults have domain. No need to make your entire kitchen Reggio friendly. You can simply apply it to child-centered areas by keeping toys organized in their bedroom, play area, or even section off a part of a common space. We’ve adopted this at home by keeping the playroom an inviting and organized space where Pearl can explore and get her hands deep into tissue paper or paint whenever inspiration sparks.

4.   An emphasis on documenting children’s thoughts.

         Many schools embrace this with formal documentation: using frequently trafficked areas to display children’s artwork, journal entries, and even photographs of each child and their families. Pearl’s parents and I adopt this by hanging up and displaying Pearl’s latest projects. It’s such an easy way to show that her creations and thoughts are valued, and an even easier way to add some wonderful art to the walls.

5.   Children know hundreds of languages.

This is one of my favorite ideas in Reggio Emilia. This principle suggests that children use several languages to communicate. Writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, building, and pretending are all forms of communication and expression, and each should be valued and nurtured. These languages are part of learning.

Most importantly, the Reggio-Inspired philosophy embraces a hands-on approach to learning and play, which are not separate, but one. Any one of these guiding ideas are a wonderful entry point to discovery with your little one.

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