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Reggio Amelia approach to education

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I am starting graduate school in three weeks after being a SAHM for the past two years. My son will turn 2 on the 25th of this month, and I am on a frantic search for the "right" preschool/child care for him.

I just found out about the Reggio Amelia approach and a place that uses this method called the Children's Discovery Center. I have a tour scheduled with them next week to check it out.

If any of you are familiar with this approach, please let me know what you know and think about it. How does it compare to Montessori? I am researching now.

I look forward to your responses.

post #2 of 17
I am an ECE student, and we just learned about the Reggio Amelia approach last semester. I think of it like a Play-Based Curriculum. Basically the teachers observe the children in something that they are interested in (our example was that the children were building tall block structures) and build a curriculum around it. Over the next 6 weeks, the children in the example learned simple ways to measure their structure, and drew what it would look like before hand, and were guessing how big it would get before it fell down, the teachers took them to see first a water tower at a nearby park (the kids got to go up inside and see what things looked like down on the ground) and draw the tower, then the next week, they went to the space needle (this was in seattle, btw) and again got to go up inside of it.

The main point behind Reggio Amelia is that the kids essentially get to pick the curriculum, because the curriculum is built off their interests.

I hope that makes sense.
post #3 of 17
Oh! I wrote a paper about these schools for my Art Ed. class a couple of semesters ago! Of course, my paper was focused more on the sensory/art learning aspects.

So... this is what I think I remember. In the sensory/art learning part, it looked amazing. An article I read compared the "typical" (North American) school classroom environment to a reggio amelia room. The differences that they found were amazing. The typical calssroom had a lot of bright primary decorations, simple shapes, stylized cartoons... basically what an adult thinks a kid likes. Few windows, lots of desks, you know- typical school stuff. But the R.A. classroom was so different. The classroom had a lot of "adult" things- things that a child would actually encounter in the real world. I thought that this was so great! It seemed that with this approach of being real, it let the children really explore and create.

Urgh. That really doesn't do justice to the article.

Anyways. From that article, and others, I really got the impression that they had a lot of respect for the kids. That they were willing to let them be children, but not "dumb down" things in the classroom. Does that make sense?

Of course, I didn't really look into the way that they taught other subjects- since it was an Art Ed. class.

I'll look later for my references- i'll need to dig them out!

post #4 of 17

I Love Reggio Emilia!!

The Reggio Emilia approach is a major influence on my work (which I'm still trying to find the exact manifestation of - but that's another story).

I know Mommy2Brittani called it a play-based curriculum, but it is actually an emergent curriculum (or project approach), however both have similarities in that they are child-centered instead of subject centered as an academic pre-school would be (which I am sooooo not a believer in).

In a play based curriculum play is the focus of the day - this is great because play is of course the work of the child and in a good play-based school, teachers may be re-setting the environment, observing the children at play, helping children out at stations etc. but the teachers are engaged in activity not sitting passively and only saying 'no' when they see "bad behavior" or maintaining safety. One of my favorite books on play is "The Plays the Thing" by Elizabeth Jones and Gretchen Reynolds.

*********THE REGGIO EMILIA APPROACH***************
The Reggio Emilia approach began in the municipal preschools of Reggio Emilia Italy by Loris Malaguzzi and others and those schools not actually in Reggio Emilia usually say they have a Reggio Emilia BASED program.

A Reggio Emilia based classroom starts with play-based, but continues above and beyond into emergent -curriculum (FYI - there are also emergent-curriculum schools that don't call themselves Reggio inspired). Emergent curriculum involves study of a particular topic. What is unique about emergent curriculum as opposed to unit-studies, which also is the study of a topic, is that with the emergent curriculum the ideas come from the children and the children's interests determine the length. Unit-studies have topics decided by the teacher that are of a pre-determined length and are usually the same from year-to-year. Additionally while unit-study topics are fairly basic in scope (birds, fall, transportation) emergent curriculum projects are sometimes very unique following the concerns of children which can also of course be unique. Two well known, well-documented Reggio Emilia projects (available on video) are "The Amusement Park for the Birds" and "To Build a Bridge in Clay."

The Reggio Emilia approach has a few important pieces beyond the emergent-curriculum style projects...

-----The environment as the third teacher----
The Reggio approach looks at the environment that the child spends their day as an important part of their education. The class rooms are generally not set up as a typical pre-school classroom, but have unique elements that are often changing - bringing in new objects and such for the child to explore. There are also many objects from nature, objects from everyday life and generally they don't look to only an early-childhood classroom catalog to set up the environment.

-----The Image of the Child----
Generally most teachers of children in Reggio based schools find it extremely important to reflect on what their image of a child is. To look at how they view children and how this affects their interactions and teaching. The image of children at Reggio schools is that they are very competent, capable individuals who are totally able to explore on their own. Teachers or course believe in this and they reflect on how they personally live this philosophy in their teaching. The best illustration of this is in the poem by Loris Malaguzzi "The Hundred Languages of Children" which I'll post in another post.

-----The Altierista and the Atelier----
The schools in Reggio Emilia Italy all have an Altierista (studio teacher) and an Atelier (art studio) in their school as well as having a mini-atelier in each classroom. Art is very important in the Reggio Emilia Approach as one of the very important languages of children. Children use art to explore their world and to express their thoughts on the world. Art is not only for aesthetics but a very serious form of communication. Children are allowed to use all sorts of materials and because they use them all the time are very comfortable with art materials.

-----Documentation ----
The Reggio Approach documents children's work all the time through pictures, video, recording of the children's words and conversation and through the children's work itself. This documentation is both for the adults in the children's life to see their process of learning and for the children to be able to explore their ideas even further. Because teachers record and transcribe conversations with children, they are able to go back and say to children "you said...., what do you think about ...." etc. The documentation in the Reggio approach is often done in panels; foam-core boards with photographs and the children's words on them documenting a project by the children. Often this is a project still in process.

Philosophically Montessori and Reggio both see the child as an incredibly capable person. Montessori is definitely a more didactic approach to ECE however.

The Montessori philosophy has children using "Montessori Objects" as opposed to doing emergent curriculum activities. These Montessori objects are designed to be self-correcting in that there is one way the object can be used for it to work. For example there is a set of cylinders that get gradually larger in circumference that fit into a base of holes that get gradually larger in circumference. This object is self-correcting in that there is only one way to put the cylinders in the holes and therefore the child using the objects is meant to learn tacitly about changes in sizes.
Children are able to choose what objects they want to work with (it is always called work in Montessori) and will often repeat these activities over and over. The teacher in a strict Montessori setting is supposed to introduce the objects in a three-step process:
1) This is a
2) Bring me the
3) What is this?

The Montessori philosophy doesn't really address art in the education process at all, while Reggio sees it as an important language. The Reggio teacher helps children explore their ideas, the Montessori teacher helps children to do something by themselves, but in a particular way. While I think the Montessori objects can definitely be useful for kids, I'm not a fan of showing them how to be used.

**********REGGIO RESOUCES***********
These are some of my favorite resources about Reggio

BOOK-The Hundred Languages of Children -Edwards, Carolyn; Gandini, Lella and Forman, George. This is THE book about Reggio. A collection of essays from people who have implemented the Reggio approach both in Reggio Emilia Italy and other places around the world. An AMAZING book.

BOOK - Beautiful Stuff: Learning with Found Materials - Cathy Weisman Topal, Lella Gandini. This is a beautiful look at children exploring through objects.

BOOK - Bringing Reggio Emilia Home - Cadwell, Louise. A teachers look at implementing the Reggio approach in her classroom.

VIDEO - The Creative Spirit: Creative Beginnings. Creative Beginnings is one in a series of four Creative Sprit Videos which was a PBS series. I was able to check the video out from my library (over and over) - purchasing is expensive ($80 for series). The video has a beautiful segment on Reggio Emilia commented on by Howard Garnder.

EXHIBIT - The Hundred Languages of Children. Yes it's the same title as the book!! One of the most amazing things I've seen in my life. I flew to Columbus to see this and spent the entire day in the exhibit. A collection of documentation panels etc. from Reggio Emilia Italy schools and other Reggio schools as well. Currently in St. Paul MN. For the schedule see:
http://www.mpi.wayne.edu/resource.htm#The%20Hundred%20Languages%20of%20Chil dren"%20Exhibit%20Schedule

BOOK: The Plays the Thing - by Elizabeth Jones, Gretchen Reynolds. Not Reggio, but a great discussion of children's play and the ways adults can be involved.
post #5 of 17

The Hundred Languages of Children Poem

The Hundred Languages of Children

No way. The hundred is there.

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marvelling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.
The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)

but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.
They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

Loris Malaguzzi

(translated by Lella Gandini)
post #6 of 17
I am a Reggio inspired teacher and I teach at a Reggio school. Little yellow gave you a great over view of Reggio.

I would be happy to talk with you through PM's if you wish..
post #7 of 17
sedia -
that was the daycare I had both my boys pulled from because I was really unhappy with their care. The Southwyck location was the one my son was slapped at. I dunno reggio amelia or not I wasn't all that impressed!~ Hope it works for you maybe the other locations are better. It really all depends on the teacher imo.
P.S. I still want to get together soon with our lil' ones.

post #8 of 17
Thank You Little Yellow. Emergent Curriculum is what I was trying to remember. I referred to it as play-based curriculum simply because I couldn't remember the other term. Really, I'm not dumb...LOL
post #9 of 17
Anyone know how to find a school that is based on the Reggio Emilia approach? I am researching pre-schools for next year.
post #10 of 17
the regio approach is also used in some after-school care centers. i was trained in it, but never strickly used it. basically, to get my class started i would put on the board.

what we know about (some thing they want to know about)
what we want to know about

and i went from there. i know some teachers who did dogs,potatos,trucks, bats, shoes, watches.
post #11 of 17

It was cool to see the school I teach at as a link, too!
post #12 of 17
Originally Posted by Mommy2Brittani
Thank You Little Yellow. Emergent Curriculum is what I was trying to remember. I referred to it as play-based curriculum simply because I couldn't remember the other term. Really, I'm not dumb...LOL
Hey Mommy2Brittani - hope I didn't offend , just wanted to clarify in case the OP ran into some of the terms. There are many of them out there and it's definitely hard to keep track of them all. I think Emergent Curriculum and Play-Based Curriculum are both great!!!!!
post #13 of 17

I can't give any more technical info than what the (very knowledgable!!) PPs said.....my ds goes to a care provider that uses this approach though, so I have some informal thoughts. we have had a very good experience as i really like the "play" aspect as well as the "child-initiated learning." i put these terms in quotes b/c they are not technical at all but rather my mama-observations the school he goes to was designed based on this ideology and the teachers rotate going to training, etc. so they do try to keep up, but given that i have no experience with the philosophy, i'm not sure how accurate everything is. i am VERY satisfied with the way his caregivers interact with him and the other kids though. i am a single mama grad student and he only goes for a few hours while i am in class but even from that short time i've seen great stuff emerge. his school takes the "child-initiated" (again, my amateur language, sorry) VERY seriously, even in the infant rooms. i love that my son's interests are taken so seriously and he is given that space to explore. they are also VERY into found objects, rather than flashy noisy toys, and use items from nature in everything from art projects to decorating the rooms. although some of this may not apply if your little one older, i've also found this particular school to be very AP- whether or not it's just their own ideas or the Reggio approach though, i'm not sure- they never do cio, are very support of things like extended bfing, are all about gentle discipline (i am HORRIFIED that one of the pp's babes was hit, that's so terrible mama !!!!!!) etc. etc.

just my experience........good luck!!

post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 



Thanks for all these great responses. We've been moving, so I haven't had a chance to get online. The move went well and we are finally out of apartments and in an adorable little duplex in a great neighborhood. Yippee!

So, we visited Children's Discovery Center (the place that practices the Reggio Amelia approach) this morning. It is all right. Just all right. Their menu is FULL of meat, and my child is vegetarian. Not a huge problem because I can pack a lunch for him, but that was the least of my concerns. I just wasn't wowed by the place in general...especially not for $37 a day. If I'm going to leave my munchkin there, I want to be WOWED, or at least WOWed or wowed, know what I mean?

We first visited the 18-27 month room. The children and two teachers came in from outside just as we walked in. About three of the children had runny noses, the teachers looked exhausted and burnt out, kinda mopey, and just...well, not friendly. (It wasn't just me. When we left the room, my husband asked me if I'd noticed the children's noses, and he said he got the same vibe I did from the teachers, one in particular). We found out later that the teacher we got the worst vibes from is the one that has been there the longest (10 years) and has the most experience!!! It's a good thing we inquired about the next room. 2 to 2 1/2 year olds (who are working on potty training). Thankfully, our son would be in that group. The two teachers in there were much more alive, and seemed more interested in the children.

There is one particular playroom there that I like; it was designed by COSI (the science center). I liked it that they seem to be very focused on science and nature in general. In the room my son would be in, they were working on frogs (too cute) for the week.

The woman (very nice, by the way) giving us the tour didn't mention the Reggio Amelia approach even once!!! I found that odd, since they claim to use that approach.

One great thing is that my son seemed to really like it there. I am definitely paying attention to that. I want him to be as comfortable and as happy as possible.

Overall, Children's Discovery Center is on reserve, a just incase kinda thing. I have about one week to find a place.

The search continues....

post #15 of 17
It's too bad the school was not as exciting as you had hoped! bummer. I was starting to get excited for you after learning about this approach from everyone's responses. I hope you can find something that WOWs you!!
post #16 of 17
Gracie's new school follows this approach, so I found this thread quite fascinating. The director seems committed to the RE philosophy. She gives presentations and goes to Italy to visit the schools there and learn. I think the entire staff is planning to go to Italy to visit the schools in the spring.

One thing I find interesting is that this particular school really honors the child's connection to her parents. The teachers is going to come to our home the day before school and ask Gracie to draw a picture. Then, on the first day of school, the class is divided in half and half of the class meets for one and a half hours and the other half of the class meets for the second one and a half hours. Parents are encouraged to stay with our children if the children are not ready to be separated.

This is so different from some of the other preschools where children are started out with full days and where I was advised that many of the children cry off and on for a few hours a day for the first few weeks but then they adjust.

I am eager to read these books. Thanks for the information.
post #17 of 17
Originally Posted by inezyv
One thing I find interesting is that this particular school really honors the child's connection to her parents. The teachers is going to come to our home the day before school and ask Gracie to draw a picture. Then, on the first day of school, the class is divided in half and half of the class meets for one and a half hours and the other half of the class meets for the second one and a half hours. Parents are encouraged to stay with our children if the children are not ready to be separated.
My kids went to a RE preschool. With my youngest one, when the half day with parents came, I went in to the classroom all excited to be there "one last time" My DD looked at me and said "Mama!" I answered "yes, sweetie" And she looked at me and said BYE and motioned to the door. She wanted to go to school "by self" like her big sister, not have mama tag along. LOL
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