Our programs are inspired by the highly regarded Reggio Emilia philosophy. Originally developed by Loris Malaguzzi, in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia, this program has been adapted throughout the world. The Reggio Emilia approach to education is committed to the creation of conditions for learning that will enhance and facilitate children’s construction of “his or her own powers of thinking through the synthesis of all the expressive, communicative and cognitive languages” (Edwards and Forman 1993).
Our most fundamental commitment is to create an atmosphere where children feel respected, loved and valued – a place where childhood is celebrated: a place of warmth, fun, joy and laughter, a ‘safe’ place. A place, where children can begin to understand themselves through their interactions within a supportive learning community and where they can create their own unique ‘culture of childhood’. Through active listening and observation we try to understand how each of us perceives our world and how parents, children and teachers can all work together, to enlighten and enrich our views.
The Reggio Emilia approach is based upon the following principles:
- Emergent Curriculum – An emergent curriculum is one that builds upon the interests of the children. Topics for study are captured from the children’s conversation, through community or family events as well as the known interests and ability of the children. Planning is an essential component of the emergent curriculum and Teachers work together to formulate hypotheses on the possible direction of a project, the materials needed, and the possible parent and /or community support and involvement.
- Project Work – Projects, also emergent, are in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests, which arise within the group. Considered as an adventure, projects may last one week or could continue through the year. Teachers help children make decisions about the direction of study, the way in which the group will research the topic, the representational medium that will demonstrate and showcase the topic and the selection of materials needed to represent the work.
- Representational Development – consistent with the Howard Gardener’s notion of learning for multiple intelligences, the Reggio Emilia approach calls for the integration of the graphic arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development. Presentation of concepts and hypotheses in multiple forms of representation—print art, construction, drama, music, puppetry and shadow play—are viewed as essential to children’s understanding of experience.
- Collaboration – collaborative group work, both large and small, is considered valuable and necessary to advance cognitive development. Children are encouraged to discuss, critique, compare, negotiate, hypothesize and problem solve through group work. Within the Reggio Emilia approach multiple perspectives promote both a sense of group membership and the uniqueness of self.
- Teachers as Researchers – the teacher’s role within the Reggio Emilia approach is complex. Working as co-teachers, the role of the teacher is first and foremost to be that of a learner alongside the children. The teacher is a researcher, a resource and guide as she/he lends expertise to children (Edwards, 1993). Within such a teacher-researcher role, educators carefully listen, observe, and document children’s work and growth of community in their classroom and are to provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking, and children’s collaboration with peers. Teachers are committed to reflection about their own teaching and learning.
- Documentation – similar to the portfolio approach, documentation of children’s work in progress is viewed as an important tool in the learning process for children, teachers, and parents. Pictures of children engaged in experiences, their words as they discuss what they are doing, feeling, thinking and the children’s interpretation of experience through the visual media are displayed as a graphic presentation of the dynamics of learning.
- Environment – within the Reggio Emilia centres, great attention is given to the look and feel of the classroom. The environment is considered the “third teacher”. Teachers carefully organize space for small and large group projects and small intimate spaces for one, two or three children. Documentation of children’s work, plants, and collections that children have made from former outings are displayed both at the children’s and adult eye level. Common space available to all children in the school includes dramatic play areas and worktables for children from different classrooms to come together.