Here’s a brief excerpt from an article in Disney’s Wondertime magazine (February 2008), titled “Shopping For A Preschool”
“The theory: Take the best of Montessori and play-based, blend well, and — ta-da! — you have this artsy, idealistic philosophy that's so cutting edge and groovy, it's the basis for Google's on-site preschool for its Silicon Valley employees. And in Manhattan, former members of Blue Man Group have started their own Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool, the Blue Man Creativity Center... Reggio Emilia gets its name from the small Italian city in which parents, teachers, and public officials banded together to create schools that rose above the lockstep mindset from past decades, opening their first preschool in 1963. In 1991, Newsweek named Reggio Emilia's school system one of the 10 best in the world. Reggio-inspired schools are still pretty rare (and admissions thus mega-competitive).”
Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Education
The following principles guide the practice and decisions made at Parma Preschool and are borrowed from Foundations of the Reggio Emilia Approach by Lella Gandini.
Image of the Child and Respect
Children are viewed as competent, curious, full of knowledge, potential, and interested in connecting to the world around them. Teachers are deeply aware of children’s potentials and construct all of their work and environment of the children’s experience to respond appropriately.
Collaboration and Interaction
Collaboration and cooperation are intentional in a school inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to education. The entire system is designed to be connected. Nothing is left to sit in isolation. Everything is alive and connected. Children, teachers and families join together to continually improve the system that supports our school community.
The space within and around the school, or the environment, is considered the third teacher. Teachers intentionally organize, support and plan for various spaces for children. The daily schedules are planned to ensure that there is a balance between individual, small and large group activities, child directed and teacher initiated activity and inside as well as outside experiences. Our environment includes 3 classrooms, a library/ resource room, hallway spaces, "big room", Kindermusik room and outdoor classroom.
Emergent Curriculum is a way of teaching and learning that requires teachers to observe and listen to the children. Teachers ask questions and listen for the children’s ideas, hypotheses and theories. After observing children in action, the teachers compare, discuss, and interpret their observations. Teachers plan activities, studies and long term projects in the classroom based on their observations. Teachers partner with children and the exchange of theories are referred to as the Cycle of Inquiry. Teachers use their interpretations, intentions and goals (social, emotional and academic) to make choices that they share with children. Learning is seen not as a linear process but as a spiraling progression.
Projects provide the backbone of the children’s and teachers’ learning experiences. They are based on the belief that learning by doing is of great importance and that to discuss in group and to revisit ideas and experiences is a powerful way of learning. Project ideas come from experiences of the children and teachers, a chance event or problem posed. They can last from a few days to several months.
This deep approach allows children to learn deeply such as the new Common Core Curriculum suggests. It can also be compared to the STEM schools as all learning is integrated (or connected). The teachers easily use back-mapping to revisit projects and activities and connect them to the Early Learning and Development Standards.
The Hundred Languages of Children
Consistent with Howard Gardner's research and theory of the Multiple Intelligences, the hundred languages refers to the MANY ways a child shows their understanding of a topic. At our school, the art teacher works closely with other teachers and children by incorporating a variety of medias to explore with. This may include drawing, painting, sculpting, wire or movement with the Gymnastics instructor or song and dance with the Kindermusik instructor.
Dr. Howard Gardner’s INTELLIGENCES
- Linguistic/ Verbal = Words and Writing
- Logical/ Mathematical = Numbers
- Spatial = Pictures, Space and Visual
- Kinesthetic = Body/ Movement
- Musical = Music, Singing, Auditory
- Interpersonal = People, Collaboration
- Intrapersonal = Self, Reflective
- Naturalistic = Outdoors, Naturalistic, Gardeners
The Role of the Teacher
The image of the child shapes the role of the teacher and involves four major components. Teachers are:
- Co-constructors: partners, guides, nurtures, solves problems, learns, hypothesizes
- Researchers: learns, observes, revisits
- Documenters: listens, records, displays, revisits
- Advocates for children: involved in the community, politics relating to children, speaks for children and presents work to other educators and community members.
The Role of Parents
Parents are an essential component of the school. They are an active part of their children’s learning experiences and help to ensure the welfare of all the children in the school. All families at our school are encouraged to be in our "BOP" group (Board of Parents) which is a registered family engagement action team with NNPS.
The Role of Time and the Importance of Continuity
Time is influenced by the interests and activities that the children bring to life within the school. This in turn impacts schedules, groupings and routines. Teachers get to know children (strengths, needs and personality) because children stay with the same teacher and the same peer group as they progress through their years at school.
The Power of Documentation
Documentation is a means to collect information, observations and learning. It can be in the form of observations, photography, video, conversation transcripts and/or visual mediums like paint, wire, clay or drawing materials. Teachers use documentation to identify strengths, ideas, and next steps to support learning. This is how the teachers make the children's learning visible, meet state standards and communicate classroom action to families.