The Benefits of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Children and Their Parents
The Reggio Emilia Approach is among the so-called alternative approaches to early childhood education. Under this approach, the school’s emphasis is on the concept of children having rights when it comes to determining the direction of their learning. The curriculum focuses on exploration, creative expression, and active learning in a nurturing and relaxed environment, and the learning process is adaptive and child-driven.
This approach has real-world benefits for learners in the form of developing resilience, responsibility, self-confidence, problem-solving skills, as well as teamwork, creativity, and scientific thinking.
The primary goal of the Reggio Emilia Approach is to educate children to become good citizens who think critically and collaborate with their peers.
A brief history
In the aftermath of the Second World War, residents of a northern Italy city called Reggio Emilia sought to rebuild their society with a keen focus on forging a different approach for educating young children.
This endeavor, which is firmly rooted in the people and community of this small city, became the seed of what is known as the Reggio Emilia Approach.
The first school to use this approach formally opened in 1963. To finance the city’s first preschool, residents sold military trucks, horses, and a tank. At the same time, they contributed to sourcing building materials like timber, stone, and sand.
Eventually, other preschools that followed the Reggio Emilia Approach opened all around the city. By the late 1970s, about half of the city’s young children were enrolled in these preschools.
Much of the development of the Reggio Emilia Approach can be credited to Loris Malaguzzi. Before World War II, Malaguzzi enrolled in a teacher training class and completed his studies during wartime. He continued his studies in 1946, enrolling in a post-war psychology course.
After completing this course, Malaguzzi found his way into Reggio Emilia and stayed there after being impressed by the efforts of the residents. Combining his training in education and psychology, Malaguzzi pioneered most of the concepts currently used with this approach.
What makes the Reggio Emilia Approach different?
The Reggio Emilia Approach seeks to develop critical thinkers who are ready and willing to learn. To achieve that goal, the approach uses a few fundamental guiding principles.
Focus on the children
Children have an innate sense of curiosity and creativity. To further develop these and turn children into capable and competent adults, their interests are explored. In this approach, teachers recognize the individual potential of each child and provide appropriate guidance and support.
The role of teachers
Teachers perform multiple roles inside and outside the classroom. On the one hand, they guide the children in their journey toward learning. On the other hand, they witness and record the different experiences inside the classroom. Teachers usually work together with one another and with parents to create a community that fosters curiosity and learning. Under this approach, the teacher is also considered a learner.
Parental involvement and support
In the Reggio Emilia Approach, learning is not confined within the four corners of the classroom. Education can take place practically anywhere, but more importantly, in a child’s immediate environment – his home and community. As such, the Reggio Emilia Approach encourages parents to take an active part in the education of their children by providing opportunities for learning at home.
The environment as the ‘third teacher’
Anyone who goes inside a Reggio Emilia classroom will immediately notice a few key differences from the classrooms of other nurseries.
Inside, an immediately noticeable feature is how open the environment is; filled with natural light, mirrors, and natural furnishings. Displayed prominently are different projects in various stages of completion.
In the Reggio Emilia Approach, the classroom is recognized as another teacher that reflects the school children, their teachers, and their parents. The classrooms are thoughtfully designed to seamlessly combine organic elements with the carefully curated elements.
An emergent curriculum
The Reggio Emilia Approach embraces the teaching philosophy known as an emergent curriculum. In an emergent curriculum, learning and teaching begin with the teacher asking children questions.
From their discussions with the children, teachers formulate the ‘curriculum’ as well as long-term projects that enable the students to dive deeper and explore concepts. Unlike the curriculum in some nursery schools that are linear, an emergent curriculum has a spiraling progression.
The goal of each project is not merely to touch upon a subject in passing before moving to another concept. Instead, concepts are explored in great detail. Furthermore, teachers use a diverse array of platforms and materials that enable pupils to approach these concepts using their ideas and expressions.
Projects can take different forms such as art activities and are completed anywhere between a few days to many months.
The importance of documentation
Teachers and children document their journey toward learning using different media, from drawings to photographs and videos. The primary purpose of documentation is to aid in learning and to support a child’s journey toward further education.
Benefits of the Reggio Emilia Approach
What sets the Reggio Emilia Approach apart is its strong emphasis on the individual child as unique and fully capable of learning.
The fundamental principles of the approach are anchored upon the principles of responsibility, collaboration, problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking. All of these are valuable skills that prove to be useful in and out of the classroom.
More importantly, the approach places the child at the center stage. Instead of merely receiving information from their teachers, children are actively engaged in their education, exploring new learning concepts, aided by their natural curiosity. For parents, this approach encourages active participation in the education of their little ones.
If you are interested in the Reggio Emilia Approach and the benefits it can give your child, be sure to always take into consideration the curriculum of the nursery school you are considering. This way, you’ll know if it fits with your educational goals for your child.
Ayesha Hoda is a marketing and communications specialist working at Step By Step Nursery Group in the UAE. She holds an MBA degree from a leading business school in Pakistan and has more than 13 years of experience in corporate communications and journalism. She has worked in both agency and client-side roles, designing communication strategies for multinational clients, nonprofits and small businesses in various industries, such as education and healthcare.