The Guiding Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach
The Reggio Emilia Approach to learning involves making connections and relationships between feelings, ideas, words, and actions. Every child brings with them deep curiosity and potential. It is this innate curiosity that drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it.
Probably the most well-known aspect of the Reggio Emilia Approach is the belief that children use many many different ways to show their understanding and express their thoughts and creativity. A hundred different ways of thinking, of discovering, of learning. Through drawing and sculpting, through dance and movement, through painting and pretend play, through modeling and music, each one of these Hundred Languages must be valued and nurtured. They are all a part of the child, learning and play are not separated. The Reggio Emilia Approach emphasises hands-on discovery learning that allows the child to use all their senses and all their languages to learn.
“The pleasure of learning, of knowing, and of understanding is one of the most important and basic feelings that every child expects from the experiences he confronts alone, with other children, or with adults. It is a crucial feeling which must be reinforced so that the pleasure survives even when reality may prove that learning, knowing, and understanding involve difficulty and effort.” —Loris Malaguzzi
The following key principles are inspirations from Reggio Emilia, which we adapt to our own community and culture at Stonebrook Day School.
- The Image of the Child
At Stonebrook, we maintain a strong and positive image of the child. More specifically, we believe that all children are born as capable and competent and have preferences, interests and opinions on the world and how it affects them. We know that our students have a great deal to offer our school community and classroom curriculum. We listen and encourage them to voice their ideas and suggestions, and know that their concerns and dislikes are valid.
- Teacher as Researcher
Our teachers have the responsibility to observe and document the interests, ideas, questions, struggles, connections and insights that their students make on a daily basis. From that documentation the environment is arranged, materials are gathered and the curriculum is built. Teachers ask thought provoking questions to gather prior knowledge and learn about curiosities. They present materials that they suspect will engage and elicit even further interest of the study.
- The Role of the Environment
The classroom environment plays just as important a role as the teacher and the students. The teachers arrange and rearrange the classroom with intent and respect. Materials are chosen that will stimulate, inspire, and challenge the children as they enter the room in the beginning of the school year. As the year progresses, specific needs arise, a community is built and project topics emerge; the environment will change as a result. For example, the dramatic play areas will become restaurants, taxi cabs, subway stations, post offices, and much more. The classroom is also set up so that children may freely engage in activities, use materials and make choices with little adult intervention. This respectful process lends itself to children learning independence and gaining confidence in their abilities.
- Project Approach
The Reggio Emilia approach uses an emergent curriculum that is developed and guided by the children’s interests. Children engage in long-term small-group and large-group projects, which involve hands-on investigation, finding the answers to questions, reading about a topic, visiting sites or places, talking to experts and visually representing their learning through a variety of media.
- The Power of Documentation
Teachers use observation and documentation techniques to capture children’s interests, learning and development. Documentation tools and techniques include written anecdotes, collected samples of children’s work, photographs, video recordings and written transcripts of children’s conversations. Documentation serves the purpose of encouraging children to make connections between ideas and reflect on their work, allowing adults to reflect on children’s work and predict where their work with children might go, enabling families to experience the work and explorations of their children, documenting children’s growth over time, and communicating the shared respect for children and their accomplishments with the school and larger communities.
In Reggio Emilia schools, reference is often made to the Hundred Languages of Children. Reggio Emilia educators share the belief that children have many methods of communicating, including storytelling, music, art, movement, dramatic play and construction. All of these methods of communication are respected and encouraged in the schools by providing children with a variety of interesting and open-ended experiences and materials, including natural and recycled objects. When children represent their ideas with a variety of different media, they reinforce new knowledge, allow for the formation of new questions and predictions, learn to elaborate on their ideas and strengthen their ability to communicate with others.
- The Role of the Parents
The role of the parents is very important in the Reggio Emilia Approach. They are an essential component at Stonebrook Day School. We recognize that each family brings a unique perspective to the classroom and require parents’ active participation in our program. Parents are also expected to participate in the child’s activities outside of the school environment. Activities should be planned to help re-enforce what the child is learning at school.
Some of this material is excerpted from the Reggio Hundred Languages Exhibit. All of it is reflective of our approach to Early Childhood Education.