Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Info for parents and educators: Reggio Emilia




Children are natural learners, curious and inquisitive. Knowing that, I've sought to provide the best environments, experiences, and relationships for children that I could. 

I have respect for research and practices that have been validated through years of study. In fact, most of my research in grad school was on teaching students with autism and the neurology of learning. However, within the variety of settings I have taught - private preschools, special needs, public school, early intervention - it seemed to me that much of the focus was on the curriculum, data, and bureaucracy of education. Thoughts kept running through my mind about the importance (or lack of) of daily rituals and expectations, relationships with parents and children, and the opportunities that children were given to explore independently. 



Additionally, I saw children's natural curiosities dissipate as required study was forced on them. In some cases, even the time of day for a particular assignment was expected to be identical across classrooms of the same grade. How could the varied learning styles and individual strengths be given room to grow in such a structured, unwavering environment? There is a gap between what is known to best support students and what is expected to be provided.

While teaching outside of the home and attending school, Reggio Emilia kept popping up in my studies. In spring of 2014 I began prepping my home for family child care. This was when I began looking more closely at this teaching philosophy and saw a wonderful opportunity.


According to Wikipedia:

"The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based upon the following set of principles:
Children must have some control over the direction of their learning;
Children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing, and hearing;
Children have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that children must be allowed to explore and
Children must have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves."

I love this.

That's it. That is the end. I'm at a loss for words. Children should have what they need when they need it. That is just the way it is.
Here is how I try to do that:

Children must have some control over the direction of their learning
Actively playing with the children, documenting their interests and abilities, and being aware of child development influences what is done on a daily basis.  I created a framework of educational goals, AKA curriculum, to reach toward at the beginning of this process. That was so I know that I am providing opportunities for exposure to all of the "stuff" that will benefit them in elementary school. The how and when is decided by my interactions with the children. Their interests, questions, and play schemes become the curriculum.

Children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing, and hearing
The daily routine includes loud, quiet, moving, and calm activities. The classroom and outdoor spaces are nearly 100% usable for children, the exceptions being cleaning supplies, teacher scissors, changing table, etc. I try to set up each space as functional and child friendly as possible. Materials are rotated every few weeks, to provide opportunity to experience different sounds, textures, smells, and activity.

Children have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that children must be allowed to explore
There is very little teacher led time, the exceptions being circle time (which they are quickly learning and taking over on their own) and read aloud stories. Each month we focus on a character building trait to strengthen relationships. During play, children are allowed - sometimes encouraged - to make mistakes, disagree, problem solve, and help each other. Children are trusted to use and share the tools, materials, and toys.

Children must have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves
Art, writing, music, and building materials are available throughout the day. We do story telling, dance, yoga, share experiences, talk about feelings and opinions, and ask open ended questions. Children are active participants in activity planning by creating and contributing ideas for dramatic play, group projects, and gross motor play.


Being able to implement a philosophy that I love has been fantastic. The kids are happy because they aren't being forced to do tedious projects they don't understand or have a connection with. I'm happy because I am able to see them develop their strengths and grow as a person. I'm looking forward to what my program is going to become.


If you are looking for more information, a book that has been highly recommended multiple times is  The Hundred Languages of Children. I've yet to read it myself, but it is next on my list.

No comments:

Post a Comment