The Reggio Emilia approach at NIS: Inspiration and Adaptation
The Reggio Emilia approach is a world renowned approach to early childhood education that inspires educators to empower children to be masters of their own learning and highlights the importance of recognizing each child’s experiences, interests and theories. There are several fundamental principles of Reggio Emilia that inspire our ELC here at NIS. These include:
The Image of the Child
One of the founding principles of the Reggio Emilia approach is the concept of the ‘Image of the Child’, which “refers to what people believe, understand, and assume about the role of children in education and society.” (“What is a wheel?” The Image of the Child: Traditional, Project Approach, and Reggio Emilia Perspectives. (2012) Martalock).
In the ELC we have strong beliefs about children, their way of being, and the way they interact with the world around them – including people, the classroom environment and the wider world. These beliefs are summed up in our ‘Image of the Child’ word cloud, which was developed collaboratively by ELC staff. Parents also had input through the development of our definition of ‘competence’ (See here)
Our Image of the Child is reflected in the ways we interact with the children and the choices we make about the ELC program and environment.
The Role of the Teacher
The role of the teacher in a Reggio Emilia inspired classroom is focused on being a facilitator and co-researcher. This means that teachers empower children to direct their own learning, make choices about how they spend their time and promote learning through carefully planned experiences and questions. The role of the teacher can be broken down into several aspects:
- Observer and planner: Teachers observe, listen, and pay close attention to children’s interests. These observations help teachers understand each child’s interests and motivations and enable teachers to plan experiences that will engage and provoke the children's thinking, curiosity and imagination.
- Curator of the Learning Environment: Teachers take care to provide an aesthetically pleasing, inspiring and engaging learning environment for children.
- Model of Positive Behavior: Teachers model positive attitudes, respectful relationships for children and different ways of learning.
- Supporter: Teachers support children with warmth, understanding and acceptance. Teachers aid children in their problem solving by providing the questions and resources needed to deepen their inquiries.
- Reporter: Teachers record the learning and seek to make it visible to parents and other members of the school community. This is usually through documentation and is often displayed around the ELC building or published online via Storypark.
The Hundred Languages
One fundamental principle of this approach is the belief that children can, and should, communicate their ideas, opinions and feelings through many expressive ‘languages’. Drawing, painting, music, dance, wooden blocks and recycled materials, for example, are often referred to as part of “The Hundred Languages”.
Teachers seek to understand children’s interests and experiences by observing their work with these ‘languages’ and their interactions with other people. Teachers also encourage children to work with new ‘languages’ and combine them to create complex expressions of their ideas, theories and experiences.
The Environment as the Third Educator
The indoor and outdoor classroom environment plays a significant role in a Reggio Emilia inspired program, and NIS is proud of our safe and comforting environment in which each child is respected and their beliefs are valued. In the Reggio Emilia approach, parents are considered the first educator, teachers as the second educator, and the environment is thought of as the third educator. We strive to provide learning spaces that invite children to explore and inquire while fostering relationships, communication and independence.
The children’s play and interactions in and with these spaces stimulates them to become active learners, by providing ongoing opportunities for them to:
- Make choices and decisions
- Use materials in flexible and imaginative ways
- Initiate inquiry and ask questions
- Work collaboratively with others
- Sustain their interests and extend their knowledge
- Learn through experience
- Develop and test theories about the world around them
We see parents as partners who are competent, rich in ideas, and interested in exchanging information about their child’s development and learning. One important way that we encourage this partnership is through the use of online portfolios. Each child has a Storypark account to which both teachers and parents can upload stories, photos and videos that share the learning and experiences of the children at school and home.
To further develop the home/school connections we welcome parents into the ELC during our daily Community Time and at other times to participate in projects and activities. We also have several events throughout the year, which are aimed at building our ELC community:
- Parent Information Day: Sharing information at the beginning of the school year.
- Open Campus: Parents are invited to spend a session observing their child in school.
- Parent Teas: Three “teas” or times throughout the year that provide parents a chance to learn more about our program and what is happening in the ELC.
- Potluck Lunches: After our Winter Concert and Spring Celebration families come together to celebrate by sharing food and spending time together.
- Experiential Learning Days: Special excursions, three times per year, that give parents and children the opportunity to spend time together outside of school.
Documentation is the main tool we use for the assessment and recording of children’s learning in the ELC. Documentation can take many forms, and usually parents see published pieces on Storypark or displayed around the ELC building.
We also display ongoing documentation, which may include rough notes and reflections made by teachers and children. Documentation can also include notes, photographs, videos, audio recordings, diagrams and other means of recording information about children’s theories, questions and interactions.
When teachers document learning they go through a cycle of collecting information, reflecting on the children’s learning and planning ways to extend and deepen the children’s thinking and exploration of a particular interest.