Hello lovelies! I’ve had a new project up my sleeve for a bit now and am thrilled to be able to finally let the cat out of the bag. I am going to be participating in an ongoing series called “Exploring Reggio” with four other amazing bloggers- Anna from The Imagination Tree, Kate from An Everyday Story, Ness from One Perfect Day, and Debs from Learn with Play at Home. I actually cannot even believe I am a part of this group, let alone writing about something I feel so excited about!
I’ve known for awhile now that I wanted something different for my children in terms of education. I am saddened and troubled by the emphasis on standardized testing in American public schools, the push to drill academics earlier and earlier in young children, the devaluing of play as an essential part of learning in early childhood. In my quest for alternatives, I began researching natural learning approaches to early childhood education and had the good fortune to stumble upon An Everyday Story, where I first read about the Reggio Emilia approach.
What is the Reggio Emilia Approach?
The Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood education is a progressive, play-based, child-led approach to early learning that originated in the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Here are a few of the things that attract me to the approach:
- Reggio is Child Led- The adults follow the childrens’ interests when designing learning experiences. The adult acts as a mentor and guide rather than a dictator in the classroom. This is what is known as an emergent curriculum- the learning experiences are not planned ahead of time but instead develop (or emerge) as the children express interest in a topic.
- Reggio is Social- My number one concern with traditional academic-focused preschool programs is the lack of opportunity for free play and child-led collaborations, which robs the children of the chance to develop social skills that are absolutely vital to their ability to learn and apply knowledge later in life. The Reggio approach places high value on group projects and social collaborations that allow the children to explore and investigate their ideas together.
- Reggio is Communicative- Children are given the tools to communicate or represent their ideas in a variety of ways, whether it be spoken language, art mediums, music, dance, or dramatic play. The more ways a child can express his/her ideas, the more he/she can refine those ideas and the deeper the learning that takes place.
- Reggio is Environment- One of the key principles of the Reggio approach is “the environment as the third teacher.” Reggio environments are carefully constructed to encourage learning and curiosity- there is an emphasis on natural light, authentic materials/tools, order, beauty, and purpose. Adults use a a variety of documentation and display methods (photos, drawings, text, etc.) to make the children’s thought processes visible throughout a project.
Of course, Reggio is so much more than these bullet points! To avoid reinventing the wheel (and completely overwhelming you all) I will direct you again to An Everyday Story for her Beginner’s Guide to Reggio Emilia series- start with this post on the Fundamental Principles and you’ll be well on your way to a better understanding.
What to Expect from Exploring Reggio
Every other week we will be coming together to post on different topics within the Reggio Emilia approach. This is a unique series because the participating bloggers are exploring and learning about the approach together, rather than presenting ourselves as “experts.” We are all at different stages of understanding and implementing the approach with our children at home, so we are using this series as a way to brainstorm, collaborate, and deepen our understanding of the method. Won’t you join us on our journey?
Join us again in two weeks for our first collaboration of ideas and Reggio-inspired activities; we would love to have you!