Reggio Emilia Story
Reggio Emilia is not a person but a small town in Northern Italy. When World War II (1945) ended, the town developed a learning and teaching philosophy for their young children, the focus of which is dedicated to respecting the rights of children. This is accomplished by listening to the child and observing their interactions with their surroundings.
Children are challenged with trying to communicate their emotions and expressions of how they understand their surroundings. They are individuals with their own thoughts, emotions, and expressions. These expressions are represented in the children's many "languages;" drawing, painting, sculpture, shadow play, dramatic play and music.
The Reggio Emilia philosophy believes children have a natural curiosity to learn with unlimited potential. Children will make their own theories in an effort to explain how the world functions. In Reggio Emilia, they believe that each child creates their own learning experience from direct interaction with their environment. By allowing the child to build their own foundation, intelligence is not memorized, it is created.
The teacher is a researcher guiding children's experiences. Each child will bring a unique character and personality to school. This will play a major role in how the child interacts with the teacher and interprets learning experiences. Therefore, the teacher acts as a learner alongside the child.
Teachers carefully listen, observe, and document children's work. In the classroom, teachers provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking as children work on projects. Teachers reflect about their own abilities and are committed to unlocking each child's full potential.
Relationships and healthy development depend on the quality and reliability of a young child's relationship with the important people in his or her life, both within and outside the family. Even the development of a child's brain architecture depends on the establishment of these relationships.
Growth-promoting relationships are based on the child's continuous give-and-take with a human partner who provides what nothing else in the world can offer ~ experiences that are individualized to the child's unique personality style; that build on his or her own interests, capabilities, and initiative; that shape the child's self-awareness; and that stimulate the growth of his or her heart and mind.
In the words of Urie Bronfenbrenner, ... "in order to develop normally, a child requires progressively more complex joint activity with one or more adults who have an irrational emotional relationship with the child. Somebody's got to be crazy about that kid. That's number one. First, last, and always."
Environment is considered the "third teacher." In Reggio Emilia schools, classrooms are designed to be visibly attractive and comforting. Plants, mobiles, children's work, and collections that children have made are displayed at the child's 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. A welcoming environment encourages a child to engage in activity and discovery. Wall-sized windows, mirrors placed on floors, walls and ceilings, help to establish a space filled with opportunity. The Reggio Emilia approach integrates nature into the curriculum so that the child learns to appreciate the physical and structural environment. The architecture is designed to encourage playful encounters for the student.
When we first set out to design Aspirations, the goal was to build a facility that embraced, enhanced and echoed the Reggio Emilia approach and the emergent curriculum philosophy of education.
We first introduced the concept of light. The windows, their location, size and shape all promote the concept of light and shadows. Different times of day will create different learning environments as the sun passes over the center. Natural light and how it introduces warmth and illumination were paramount to our design.
We next introduced the idea of space with large open areas for projects to spread and grow and room for children to explore and discover. We added height and dimension to each room with stages for children to have space for activity. The whole facility is a learning laboratory. The planning included an area where the Atelierista (a studio teacher who incorporates different forms of expression into learning) can bring groups together to promote discovery and teamwork.
We integrated the ability to extend each classroom to the outdoors. Large double doors from each classroom lead to the outdoor space, bringing the outdoor and indoor classrooms together as one. The large and inviting outdoor environment overlooks open spaces and invites children to use imagination and creativity in their play.
Lastly, we organized each classroom so that different centers could be set up and moved as children's work and play changes with their ideas, allowing for new ways of exploration.
With all that in mind, Aspirations is a place where adults have thought about the quality of the environment. Each room is full of light, variety and aesthetic beauty. The classroom is a place that shows how teachers, parents and children work and play together in a unique space; one that reflects their personal lives, their culture and their identity. When you walk through our doors, you will sense the creative energy and caring spaces designed with children in mind. This environment truly works.
Documentation is central to the Reggio Emilia approach. Documentation communicates the life of the center to others visiting the center. It also provides opportunities for children to revisit the experience. Documentation is a process that involves observation, reflection, collaboration, interpretation and analysis, and is made a part of the classroom. This process demonstrates to the child the importance of their work.
Multiple forms of documentation ~ photographs, audiotape transcripts, videotapes, classroom notes and the actual product of a child's work ~ create a multi-sensory "memory" of an activity. Posting the documentation in the preschool encourages students to learn from one another and to appreciate the process of creating.
Italian Reggio Emilia Site ~ http://zerosei.comune.re.it/
North American Reggio Emilia Alliance ~ http://www.reggioalliance.org/index.php
Reggio Emilia Approach/Wikipedia ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach