Reggio Emilia — A Child Centered Approach to Learning

Reggio Emilia inspired learning

This article includes information from Lee Longo, the director of Sound Beach Day School.

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Reggio Emilia is a philosophy of early childhood and primary education that dates back to right after World War II–created by Loris Malaguzzi in the villages surrounding Reggio Emilia, Italy.

The Reggio Emilia philosophy starts with the belief of a strong image of the child. The philosophy encourages a deep respect for the child as a whole person. Children are viewed as strong, capable and driven by the power of wanting to learn.

In this style of learning parents, teachers and the environment are partners in the education process.

The Reggio Emilia Curriculum

In traditional schools’ teachers are forced to align their work with standards or readiness guidelines. In the Reggio philosophy there is no set curriculum. The curriculum is child driven.

That means that it is constantly changing based on what children are passionate about and what the teachers see unfolding in the classroom. You won't see a upfront breakdown of themes, or month by month outline of what the kids will be learning and that's one of the most amazing qualities of Reggio inspired education. The child leads the way.

The teacher’s role is to guide, stimulate and engage the student in the learning process.  The questions presented to the child, the environment and materials presented facilitate in the learning.

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The Reggio Emilia Advantage

The biggest advantage of this philosophy is the ownership that the child has in the learning process. When you follow the child's interests the learning is more meaningful. Children that learn this way develop a lifelong love for learning.

The Reggio Emilia philosophy encourages a connection with nature. Children should be outside and exploring, getting dirty picking up bugs and playing in mud. When you are an observer in this process you can see the learning taking place.

Another wonderful advantage is the collaboration among teachers and families. Parents are updated on project work and valued as partners in the learning process.

The Reggio Emilia Classroom

This philosophy considered the classroom environment the “third teacher.” The classroom is set up to resemble as close to home as possible. For example. the kitchen area may have real items that resemble what kids see at home–glass objects, a cleaned out ketchup bottle, real plates and silverware. The classroom is designed using more natural materials vs the traditional bold or bright colors. The goal is to create a soft and calming space for the children. Children’s art work is respected and displayed . Overall the aesthetics of the classroom are very important.

Reggio Emilia Provocations

This philosophy often references what is called a provocation. This simply means that teachers, after having observed the children, will set out materials that are selected specifically to provoke thoughts and ideas, and encourage creativity. Provocations are meant to compliment what the children are working on and help extend their thinking. They are not overtly teacher led activities, instead they are thoughtfully designed “set ups” that invite children to expand their own learning of an idea or concept.

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Myths about the Reggio Emilia philosophy

Longo says that she often hears questions like “what are they actually learning in this way?” Because there is no set curriculum, parents unfamiliar with the philosophy are sometimes skeptical. But Longo assures parents that, “Reggio children gain self-confidence, they are respected and encouraged to try things on their own before asking for help. They learn about risk taking, they learn how to self-regulate and develop communication skills, they are truly valued.”

She reminds parents that the pre-school level is about social emotional development and that these are the skills that will take them through life. They also learn language, literacy, numbers, science, and nature. The learning truly follows the child's interest and addresses learning in a holistic way.

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