What is the Reggio Emilia Approach to learning?
You’ve probably heard of philosophies like Montessori or even Waldorf, but Reggio Emilia is starting to gain more popularity in the US. With just as many benefits as other approaches to early childhood learning, it seeks to educate the whole child, making them a productive member of their community.
A little history
In 1945, a teacher named Loris Malaguzzi collaborated with local parents in the Northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia to develop a new kind of childcare. They wished to create a system that would result in responsible, respectful citizens, and to enrich the lives of the children born into war. After decades of operating in Italy, word of the Reggio Emilia technique traveled to the United States in 1987. Since then, the approach has steadily risen in popularity. In 2002, the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA) was formed, an institution that mobilizes educators and parents, and promotes Reggio Emilia schools.
The three core components of the Reggio Emilia Approach are the child, the teacher, and the environment.
The child is central to their own learning process. They are encouraged to pursue their own interests and learn at their own pace. Collaborate is also key, and children are encouraged to interact with others in their environment to explore their curiosities. Children are also encouraged to communicate and express themselves however they can.
The teacher, which can also be a parent if taking the Reggio approach to homeschooling or just play in the home, is encouraged to observe rather than direct the child. The teacher is a partner in the learning process, not necessarily in charge of it. They keep an open communication with the parents, who are also very involved in their child’s learning. Teachers gently guide students through their environment, observing their success rates to create portfolios instead of taking traditional assessments. They facilitate “projects” for the students to learn through, rather than a curriculum of lessons.
Reggio environments and classrooms are open and free flowing, allowing for movement. This enables uninterrupted exploration and learning. Outdoor spaces are just as valued in the learning the process, and ideally, a classroom would allow for movement between inside and outside easily. Unlike the Montessori approach which fills the classroom with pre-prepared activities and age-specific material, a Reggio Emilia environment reflects the complexity of the real world. While a classroom will be set up to encourage exploration and can include natural materials, it is not a defining principle.
While there is no official accreditations for schools to be “Reggio Schools” like Montessori, the approach to learning is just as successful and effective. The toys we have in our shop can align with several philosophies, including Montessori and Waldorf, but we associate more with the Reggio Emilia technique. The open ended-ness of our toys allows for the child to direct their own play, and offers endless possibilities for collaboration and group play.