The Reggio Emilia Approach
The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy for preschools and kindergarten. It is a pedagogy that is student-centered, constructivist and project-based. The following overview will help you understand the Reggio Emilia approach in case you choose to send your child to a Reggio Emilia kindergarten or a Reggio Emilia school.
The History of Reggio Emila
In response to the tragedy of World War II, people from the town Reggio Emilia developed a new model of education. War ought to never happen again. Led by Loris Malaguzzi, a teacher, their idea was to enhance a child’s learning through real-life experiences, instead of a fixed curriculum, so that each child develops a love for discovery, forms a personality of their own, and learns to respect others. Land, money, food, and skills for the first preschool were provided by the community.
The Philosophy of “An Image of a Child”
The Reggio Emilia approach is based on the philosophy of “an image of a child”. All children are viewed as full of potential, with an innate sense of curiosity and endless imagination. They are creative, capable of constructing their own learning and they have a natural interest to explore. While they follow their own interests, they always stay connected with others. Adults nurture their learning by providing a rich environment and support.
Project-Based Learning in Reggio Emilia
Instead of a one size fits all curriculum, Reggio Emilia is a child-centered approach with a lot of project-based learning. Projects can emerge at any time, for example during play. Teachers can observe and create opportunities for new learning at a specific instance. For example, by opening up new environments, letting children raise thought-provoking questions, or by inviting others to collaborate. After an intervention, the children take control and progress independently until the project is finished and can be shared with others.
Children Become Explorers
Throughout a project, children naturally embody the spirit of researchers, risk-takers, designers, and explorers. They make hypotheses, try new things, investigate, play and imagine. To progress, the explorers raise the questions, the researchers give feedback and the designers demonstrate ideas and prototypes. Lastly, they all turn their theories into reality and construct experiments together. The learning becomes social, with endless ways to solve specific problems.
Children Learn to Manage Conflicts
To promote the development of creativity, teachers step aside and let mistakes happen. The conflicts that can follow, nurture their social skills. Because conflicts teach children to speak, to listen, to argue and to discuss. Then learn to accept different opinions and to respect others for who they are. If two kids discuss a problem, a third can have an idea and the entire group learns the value of teamwork.
The School Makes the Learning Visual
Teachers document projects through pictures, videos, or written observations. The learnings become visible in photographs, drawings or sculptures. Ideas, quotes, and transcripts of conversations are put onto the walls. The children can later revisit their achievements, see projects that were left unfinished and learn that failure is part of the path to progress. They built confidence in their own abilities.
Teachers are More Coach than Instructor
But teachers aren’t instructors. Instead, they are companions in the child’s own journey of discovery. They can introduce books, show new tools, or offer entirely new perspectives. However, they always remain mindful not to take over the constructive learning process, knowing that this limits a child’s endless imagination and motivation. The children are fully in charge and develop a sense of ownership of their own progress: the foundation for a love for lifelong learning.
There are 100 Languages
To pay justice to the creative capacity and individual qualities of each individual child, Malaguzzi believed that there are “one hundred languages” children can use to express themselves. They paint, sculpt, drum, whisper, and hark. They build, listen, speak, or sing and dance. And they play, which Einstein allegedly said, “is the highest form of research.”
The Environment Becomes the Third Teacher
Children learn from adults, other students, the environment which is regarded as the “third teacher”. Rich in materials, the space is designed to spark curiosity, creation, and discovery. Ideally, there is an open kitchen and big windows, so the children can see what’s happening outside, just like at an Italian town square – a piazza – where we can observe the lives of other members of our community.
The Role of Parents in Reggio Emilia
Parents are regarded as the last part of this education. To deepen their knowledge of child-centered education, they are encouraged to learn from and with the teachers and children. So when the children come home after school, he can continue to be researchers, risk-takers and explorers.
Malaguzzi once said: “Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before.” Maybe one day our small researchers and explorers will grow into the big inventors and great explorers.
Reggio Emilia Kindergarten in Bangkok
Kindergarten or preschools in Bangkok or other parts of Thailand that call themselves Reggio Emilia are usually nonaccredited and follow some sort of national curriculum, which often doesn’t allow for full implementation of the ideas behind the approach. We recommend you visit the school before enrolling to see if they are able to follow the original vision of Malaguzzi and other Reggio Emilia educators.
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Omkwan Wechayachai from Cream Bangkok