Throughout my experience trying to reach out to international contacts, I have had brief exchanges with many people and professionals who live or have experienced the Reggio Emelia approach first hand.
Reggio Emelia is actually a place you can go and visit. Reggio Emelia is a very proud community full of history, art and bicycles. It is the birthplace of the flag of France. It is a place full of cultural history and values music, the opera and ballet as well as modern, contemporary and classical art. But..if you google Reggio Emelia you will not get your first few results that come back as information about the place, but rather the educational approach that shares it’s namesake. The region is famous for it’s philosophy of teaching that focuses on encouraging children to explore what interests them rather than what is required or needed. I spoke with Travel Blogger Rachelle Lucas who traveled to Reggio Emelia only to learn a lot more about the educational approach than anything she expected in her travels. She was most impressed by the fact that, through her travels – from the airport, to customs, to the city streets – she met and ran into many teachers from around the world and the United States specifically there to observe and learn more about the Reggio approach.
I am very interested and passionate in the idea that that there is an important distinction between teachers teaching and children learning. Teacher-directed teaching is all about the teacher and what the teacher thinks the children need to know. The thought that the children should drive the direction of the learning is such an essential way to support them as learners and people. This idea is what the foundation of Reggio Emelia is based on. Another traveler I spoke with who visited Reggio Emelia to observe the learning first hand noticed that when children’s interests and their activities coexist, educational “magic” happens. We discussed how children are so much more motivated to learn when they are interested and how easy it is to adapt any concept to fit almost any topic or theme. She described that the teachers were far more committed to learning about their children rather than systematically teaching the children, which supports the Reggio approach that believes teachers should be learning about how to support the children’s learning.
I enjoyed learning more about the actual structure of the classrooms in Reggio Emelia, rather than just the approach. Each center and school has an atelier, which translates as studio or laboratory, which is filled with natural materials and art supplies. Many of the settings also have mini-ateliers. The atelierista, is a professional that works with the teachers and directly with the children and helps to plan weekly activities related to the project or explanation at hand. Each center also has a pedagogista who is available for consultation, planning, assistance with, and management of individual children and is tasked with developing relationships with center staff, families, and children. They also are central in engaging in problem solving with the teachers, encourages reflection and assists the teachers in planning for children with “special rights” (which is what the refer to as special needs).
I am looking forward to learning more details from professionals who have visited or work in Reggio Emelia schools IN Reggio Emelia as we continue our relationships and contacts!