Reggio Emilia Method
Reggio Emilia is the name of a small city in northern Italy. In the wake of the destruction of World War II, local women wanted to work and to help rebuild their community. But they also needed to care for their children. So in 1945 or 1946, local mothers relied on informal social networks to set up a preschool. Slowly, a system of municipal preschools was developed.
These preschools evolved to reflect the democratic principles of the socialist tradition of the region. The people of Reggio Emilia understood that everyone had a collective responsibility for young children. As a result, the local preschools were established as a collaboration between teachers, children, families, and the community. With the influence of this social setting and of several early childhood education theories and ideas, the people of Reggio Emilia developed a unique method to promote early childhood creativity and learning. In recent years, this method has been internationally acclaimed, though few daycares in Calgary have adopted its insights.
We can discern a number of key principles of the Reggio Emilia Method:
- Collaboration : children, teachers, families, and the community need to work together.
- The Concept of the Capable Child : each child is understood to be competent, inventive, and full of ideas and they deserve our respect as the unique individual they are.
- Environment as Teacher : children should learn by interacting with the world around them.
- Relationships : it is important to build physical, social, and intellectual relationships with objects, the environment, and people.
- Transparency : light, mirrors, and transparent objects should help illuminate every space. This works both to create a feel of openness and as a metaphor for the openness of the Reggio Emilia Method.
- Documentation : it is important to ensure a verbal and visual trace of each child's work.
- Provocation : the teacher should listen to children and strive to provoke further action and ideas.
- Flexibility : all lessons and activities should be flexible so that children can shape them with their own ideas.
- Sensual Learning : children should be encouraged to use all of their senses and to learn by touching, hearing and listening, seeing, tasting, smelling, and moving. Symbolism and making visual representations with different kinds of media is also promoted.
- Reciprocity : interaction and the exchange of ideas is something to be valued.
Peter Pan Daycare has incorporated elements of the Reggio Emilia Method since 2005. Introduced to the Method at early childhood education conferences in Calgary and Winnipeg, Director Sharon Hsu was able to follow up these experiences with a weeklong training session in Italy in March 2011. She toured five well-known daycare centres in Reggio Emilia and took part in a series of workshops to get a full sense of the approach. Subsequently, our staff have been immersed in the method and have pursued training at local workshops.
In light of this training, our programming places greater emphasis on creative activities and in involving children in the decision-making process. We provide children with recycled and raw materials and encourage them to come up with their own projects. We also promote free movement, so that children engage both their minds and bodies in the learning process.