The Reggio Emilia Approach is an innovative and inspiring approach to early childhood education which values the child as strong, capable and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge. Every child brings with them deep curiosity and potential and this innate curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it.
The Reggio Emilia Approach originated in the town (and surrounding areas) of Reggio Emilia in Italy out of a movement towards progressive and cooperative early childhood education.
It is unique to Reggio Emilia. It is not a method. There are no international training colleges to train to be a Reggio Emilia teacher. Outside of the town of Reggio Emilia, all schools and preschools (and home schools) are Reggio-inspired, using an adaptation of the approach specific to the needs of their community.
This is important, as each student, teacher, parent, community, and town are different. No two Reggio-inspired communities should look the same, as the needs and interests of the children within each community will be different.
Typically the Reggio Approach is applied to preschools and early childhood settings but we think, with an understanding of the general principles, this inspiring child-led approach can be adapted to the home as well.
The Child as Protagonist
Children are born thinkers, doers, and planners. Young children are resilient, driven by relationship, and predisposed towards health. As educators and caregivers, adults can support the development of competent and resourceful human beings by understanding that children are active constructors of knowledge, not empty buckets needing to be filled with information.
Asking a young child questions like—“What do you think? What do you see? “What are you wondering?”—sends the message that you expect them to be doing both. This sort of questioning creates opportunities for you, the adult, to learn. It also communicates to the child that you assume that a curious and pattern seeking mind is very much alive inside them and that you believe they are thinking thoughts that will benefit the world.
Environment as the Third Teacher
In the municipal pre-primary schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, the teachers refer to the classroom environment as the third teacher because there are two co-teachers with each group of children. kidz go eco uses our natural environment, our outdoor spaces, and beautiful classrooms to be welcoming and supportive of exploration, creation, collaboration and discovery by competent and resourceful human beings.
Our materials in our nature-based classrooms are always changing, as children build on the environments that they encounter here, and so our work of connecting our intentions to the design outcomes is continually evolving. Knowing that the health of the developing brain is profoundly influenced by interactions with environments, we believe that it is an issue of human rights to provide nurturing, sensory rich, relational environments for children in which they are free to play and explore.
The Role of Documentation
In an environment designed for children’s learning, adults must also position themselves to learn from the children. Developing a habit of capturing evidence of learning (through photographs, anecdotal note-taking, transcripts, and the collection of children’s work) and a process for reflecting on what has been captured, supports a reciprocity of understanding and solidarity between adults and children. As adults, based on what you’ve observed, what do you notice and what do you wonder about the children and the learning process?
Children as Citizens
What are the implications for our approaches with children when we think of them as citizens with rights rather than children with needs? What if our nature school was the place where we demonstrate, in particular, how these citizens have a right to a voice, a right to belong, and a right to play? How would our future communities benefit from the support of these rights now? How might the contributions of children benefit our current community?
In children’s fresh viewpoints, their capacity for metaphor, and their willingness to imagine, there is great inspiration for us all. Nature based, Reggio-inspired schools like kge can take leadership in our community as a place where these perspectives flourish and their present resource is put to use. Our nature school focuses on building citizens with regard for wildlife & environmental stewardship, connecting children with the outdoors, teaching them the importance of good citizenship, and growing a deeper appreciation for conservation.
Parents as Partners
Parents are children’s first, most important teachers. How can we model our strong value in the competencies of children so that parents have confidence to see their children as the capable young citizens they are? How can we invite parents to identify and focus on the gifts their children bring to the world? How can we support parents to be advocates for the rights of their children to rich opportunities for meaningful, playful learning? How can we remain open and responsive to the distinctive wisdoms parents bring to our communities?
Children and Adults as Researchers and Co-Creators
A healthy relationship between childhood and adulthood is vital for our communities. Adults who are willing to see children as competent seekers of relationship and meaning and who are, in turn, seeking meaning and relationship with the perspective of children, support childhood to become an adulthood that can do the same for the next generation.
The Hundred Languages
With materials in hand, children can express and discover ideas that would otherwise remain invisible to themselves and to the world. The products children create with materials reflect back to them a tremendous insight about who they are. So with that in mind, what do we want to offer children an opportunity to see? The materials we provide to children are limited by the image we hold about their competencies. Through materials, children receive messages about their own potential, their own value. Documentation encourages and reminds us to stretch our image of children as a protagonist of their own learning, which in turn allows adults to create environments rich in material exploration and expression.
The Reggio Approach supports a powerful, evolving, and reciprocal journey of learning and open-ended exploration. It’s what keeps us inspired to push our own boundaries and test our own assumptions of what’s possible.