Friday, October 31, 2014

Reggio Emilia Approach Gives Students a Voice in the Curriculum

February 24, 2012 by twalker  
Filed under Featured News, Top Stories


By Teal Ruland

When Newsweek magazine recognized Reggio Emilia in the early 1990s as one of the top approaches to preschool education in the world, the groundbreaking philosophy soon became more popular across the United States, including in a growing number of public schools.

Named after the Italian town where it originated, Reggio Emilia is an innovative approach to teaching preschoolers and kindergarteners that may seem unstructured and slightly out-of-the-box, but it works. It’s a form of negotiated learning that encourages the students to create the curriculum. Teachers are seen as co-learners and observers, and the environment itself is a “third teacher.”

It’s not a traditional classroom with assigned seats and roll call. Art hangs at the children’s eye level, and they can easily see where supplies are in the class and are encouraged to use them.

A classroom at the Maplewood Early Childhood Center.

“The Reggio Emilia approach is an example of how teachers can engage children in creative and meaningful learning activities,” explains Shyrelle Eubanks, senior policy analyst at the National Education Association. “We would like to see more young children in schools have opportunities to learn using developmentally appropriate approaches like Reggio.”

The Maplewood Richmond Heights Early Childhood Center in Maplewood, Missouri launched their own Reggio Emilia program in 2005. The school’s administration and teaching staff, says Brenda Fyfe, Dean of the School of Education at Webster University, both believe that “children should have a voice and a sense of agency in negotiating the learning process, and have the right to engage in experiences that are meaningful to them. ” Webster University, a partner with the Early Childhood Center, is a leader in bringing Reggio Emilia to St. Louis-area schools.

“They understand that children and adults learn through an active process of exploring their world together, exchanging ideas, and learning from and with each other,” Fyfe adds.

In Heather Bailey’s kindergarten classroom in Mapleweood, children climb in and out of a cardboard box with a large umbrella sticking out of the top. The inventive contraption is a “hot air balloon,” the recent topic of their class discussions. They chart maps of their hot air balloon journeys and share stories of their make believe travels.

Bailey incorporates Reggio’s “hundred languages,” a metaphor for the way the children express themselves. The languages include writing, building, sculpting, and dramatic play. “Play isn’t something we do to take a break,” she says. Bailey tries to include play in learning, whether it’s creating a story while sculpting clay figurines or learning how hot air balloons are able to travel before building their own full-size model.

“I’ve learned about harnessing the power of play. You need to give children the opportunity to play, and it needs to be intentional. It’s student-led and teacher-framed.”

Ann McLaughlin, another teacher at Maplewood, shares the benefits of the Reggio approach: “Children gain a sense of autonomy. It’s a hands-on learning experience, and they develop hands-on skills. They’re engaged in real-life situations and have fun and enjoy it.”

The students are seen as important members of the community, and they often take walks through the neighborhood to learn about the world around them.

McLaughlin and Bailey also frequently turn the students’ curiosity and questions into guided science experiments. Bailey elaborates, “There’s a lot of collaboration and teamwork because you can’t do the work yourself.”

The transition from negotiated learning to tradition classroom learning has not been an issue for their students.

“The Reggio approach equips them to use problem-solving strategies,” says Bailey. “The children have a strong sense of self, and they construct their own knowledge and do it well.”
Video: Reggio Emilia at the Maplewood Early Childhood Center


6 Responses to “Reggio Emilia Approach Gives Students a Voice in the Curriculum”
  1. Sheryl Morris says:

    This is so encouraging to see in neatoday.
    Please share more!

    Every child deserves a beginning such as this.

    One question: I believe that there are many similarities, but how does Reggio Emilia differ from Montessori?
    Thank you!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Jeff M says:

    Good stuff. Nice to see public school teachers doing this! The Maplewood Childhood Center sounds like its a leader.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Curs Valutar Bnr De Azi
    Can you tell us more about this? I’d like to find out some additional information.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. [...] Originally Posted by LovelySummer Arge, I've got to stay to points west but thank you so much for the suggestions. I really, really appreciate that glimpse into daily life that you provided in such detail. That must have been very difficult for your son to see other children using materials that he could not use. I imagine this would be the case for most children his age. Oh wow. Lots and lots to think about. You mentioned Reggio-based preschools. I have looked at those too. The issue that I have with Reggio-based is that it just doesn't seem to be anymore than just playing with toys to my untrained mind/eyes. I just don't get how Reggio-based is worth tuition (how it is any different from a random daycare). I imagine that you have seen the differences in action. I also am a little bit skeptical bc there are no standard materials/toys/guidelines and each center is on its own to implement as they see fit. If I have understood correctly. Would you care to elaborate and fill me in on that approach? I have also been investigating Waldorf (now that you have mentioned the Waldorf school in Atlanta). Waldorf seems a little bit weird to me for some reason. I can't put my finger on it. Celebration of the seasons and stuff like that. Just seems a bit odd. AZ, We are looking at immersion schools as of late since we are now unsure of the Montessori school approach hearing what we've heard. We figure we might as well open up our minds to schools not previously seriously considered before making a decision. Baby boy has been learning spanish for almost a year now so it would be nice to continue that – possibly in an immersion environment. But AIS is whew, as you implied, very, very expensive! That would definitely take from the college fund money. I'm not so sure that interchanging some of the college money for preschool makes sense. LOL. Here is an article on the Reggio approach that might be helpful. We are not actually at a Reggio school right now. It just wasn't going to work out for us this year. I thought Waldorf was kind of strange too until I actually went to the school and took a tour. I was really impressed. Reggio Emilia Approach Gives Students a Voice in the Curriculum | NEA Today [...]

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