What is the Reggio Emilia approach to education and how does it benefit children?
What is the Reggio Emilia approach to education and what makes it different from other curricula?
When it comes to early childhood education, there are various curriculum approaches followed by preschools. One of them is the Reggio Emilia approach. So, what is the Reggio Emilia approach, and what makes it different from other curricula?
Let’s find out.
The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy focussed on preschool and primary education. It was developed after World War II by Loris Malaguzzi and parents in the villages around Reggio Emilia, Italy, and derives its name from the city.
Here are the core principles of the Reggio Emilia approach:
Child-driven and project-based learning
The child is at the centre of the Reggio Emilia approach. Founder Loris Malaguzzi believed that children should be encouraged to express themselves through words, movement, dance, art or play. They should be empowered to use many different ways to question, feel, imagine, discover and reflect their world.
A big part of this approach hence involves focussing on the child’s interests. So the role of the parent or educator would be to create learning experiences based on the child’s questions, stories and curiosities.
Projects are thus, not planned in advance, but rather emerge and develop based on the child’s interests, exploration and discovery.
Likewise, children are not simply offered answers. The search for explanations or solutions is undertaken collaboratively.
For example, if your child is curious about insects, then that interest could be turned into a project. Perhaps, children could look for a caterpillar in the garden and care for it, and observe the various stages in its life cycle until it becomes a beautiful butterfly.
The Significance of the School Environment
In Reggio Emilia, the environment is home-like and similar to that found in Montessori schools. The environmental setup also plays the part of a “third teacher”. This is because, the space in which our little ones spend their time is believed to be crucial to their learning and exploration.
An effective learning environment should be organised, stimulating, have plenty of natural light and space to explore, and provide a variety of materials like clay, paint and writing materials to help children learn.
A Reggio-inspired space is usually colourful and natural and filled with items that promote problem solving and encourage creativity. Physically, the schools generally incorporate natural light and indoor plants.
The child is encouraged to interact with these learning materials and to express their creativity with as much freedom as possible.
Teachers, Parents, and Children are all Collaborators
In the Reggio Emilia Approach to learning, parents and families are mentors, guides and collaborators. Teachers respect parents as each child’s first teacher and involve parents in every aspect of the curriculum.
Parents are expected to take part in discussions about school policy, child development concerns, and curriculum planning and evaluation. Reggio Emilia schools have a variety of parent events, such as conferences and workshops throughout the school year to help address any concerns parents may have and to help parents learn about their children’s progress, and how they can assist their children in the learning process.
Also, in the Reggio Emilia approach, the teacher is considered a co-learner and collaborator with the child and not just an instructor. The role of the teachers is to observe their children in the classroom, listen to their questions and their stories, find what interests them and then provide them with opportunities to explore these interests further.
Making Learning Visible
There is a lot of emphasis on documentation or ‘making learning visible’. This might involve making a book with the student’s quotes, drawings, and photographs. Teachers give careful attention to the documentation and presentation of the child’s thoughts, ideas, and progress.
Documentation is a way to study the student’s way of thinking and feeling. It also provides parents information on their child’s learning experience.
To sum up, the main advantages of the Reggio Emilia approach to education is that it teaches children critical thinking and collaboration. There is a lot of emphasis on respect, community involvement and responsibility. The approach is child-driven, and takes children seriously, and does what other educational methodologies may have failed to do – sparks a love for learning.