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  • Looking for Your Child's First School? Check What Reggio Emilia Approach Is All About

    Here children learn through interaction with their environment and the people around them.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Looking for Your Child's First School? Check What Reggio Emilia Approach Is All About
  • As your child approaches school age, you’re now faced with the task of finding the right preschool for your child. It can be daunting, as you want to find an environment where your child can fit in naturally and thrive. That means taking a look at the school’s method of teaching and choosing between a traditional or progressive approach. And if you decide progressive, you want to find one with a philosophy that aligns with your values. Will it be Waldorf, Montessori, Bank Street, or Reggio Emilia?

    What is the Reggio Emilia approach?

    The approach that your child takes on can have a considerable effect on his attitude toward learning. Reggio Emilia is guided by the principle that children learn through interaction with their environment and the people around them.

    Ani Rosa Almario, school director and co-founder of Raya School in Quezon City, explains Reggio Emilia is more of a philosopy than an approach. “The Reggio Emilia philosophy revolves around the child as a citizen, as an individual equipped with many languages and a creative imagination, [and] as a person to be regarded with respect,” she shares in an email interview with SmartParenting.com.ph.

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    According to Scholastic, Reggio Emilia views young children as “individuals who are curious about their world and have the powerful potential to learn from all that surrounds them.”

    There is no given curriculum with Reggio Emilia — the classroom is there for “evolving lessons based on and guided by student interest and response,” according to Goodwin College, a nonprofit institution of higher education credited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

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    Children have a hundred languages

    “Reggio Emilia’s foremost philosopher, Loris Malaguzzi, believed children possess a hundred languages,” says Almario. “What he meant was that children are equipped with a hundred different ways of viewing and appreciating the world around them, a hundred ways of communicating their views and ideas, and just as many ways of creative expression.”

    Some of these languages are building, modeling, painting, inventing, drawing, discussing, sculpturing, playing pretend, playing instruments, making music, and many more. Play is also part of learning, and the emphasis is placed on hands-on learning.

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    The teacher’s role in Reggio Emilia

    Because children direct their learning based on their interests, teachers act as partners to the kids. They collaborate, observe, document, and provide more learning opportunities to the child.

    “Reggio Emilia teachers regard each child highly, respecting their individuality and creativity,” shares Almario. “[They] are well-known for their recognition of the role of the arts in early childhood education, and their skill in research and documents.”

    A Reggio Emilia curriculum will be based on the particular interests of the child, according to Scholastic. Topics are based on conversations with the child and his family and the child’s interests. Children will often take on projects that come from their own ideas.

    Collaboration is also an integral component of the Reggio Emilia approach. Large and small groups are “encouraged to work together to problem-solve using dialogue, comparisons, negotiations, and other important interpersonal skills,” says Scholastic. Every child gets a chance to talk to promote a sense of self and to belong to the group.

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    What to expect in a Reggio Emilia classroom

    The classroom is referred to as the “third teacher” in the Reggio Emilia approach. Almario shares that the schools she’s visited make you feel like the entire school is the classroom. “The environment is seamless as children go in and out of adjacent spaces to explore different things and express themselves in various ways,” Almario notes. “The classroom also extends outside the school as children occasionally step outdoors to discover their environment.”

    According to Goodwin College, teachers of the Reggio Emilia approach seek out materials that empower children. Instead of buying plastic toys or “child-sized” versions of products, teachers will use natural and sensory materials that appeal to the hundred languages of the child. These can be in the form of buttons, kitchen utensils and tools, scarves, fabric, shells and rocks, plants and flowers, wooden blocks, and real art supplies like paints, pencils, and brushes.

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    Materials like these engage children’s sense of touch, sight, smell, and sound. Real products and materials also naturally stimulate a child’s abilities, and kids find it more interesting to manipulate.

    Documentation is also an integral component of the approach. You might see children’s artworks, writings, and objects collected from class field trips displayed in the classroom.

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    Learning starts at home

    If you are thinking of choosing the Reggio Emilio approach for your child, it might help to start introducing its principles now before he attends school.

    “I can go ahead and suggest that parents do highly artistic activities with their children to mimic what is done in Reggio Emilia, but I think the biggest takeaway is really viewing the child as an individual with rights, views, and different ways of self-expression,” shares Almario.

    Children explore their hundred languages using movement, by creating things, conversing with one another and with adults, or smelling new scents, tasting new flavors and listening to various sounds. Fuel their creativity with fun, DIY activities (click here) and by letting them explore the outside environment (click here for activities you can do outside the home).

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    Remember to be flexible when adopting the Reggio Emilia approach. If your child finds something he wants to learn on this particular day, you can always change the plan (even if you wanted to teach him something else entirely) and go with what he is interested in.

    We are lucky to live at a time where there are many choices for our child’s early childhood education. Choosing an educational approach for your kid, like the Reggio Emilia approach, encourages growth and allows children to express themselves not only intellectually but also creatively.

    But remember that there is no single approach that is right for all kids. When choosing a program for your child, consider his learning style and personality. Once you know how he learns, you can take into account the tasks and lessons he will need to enhance his abilities. Most importantly, let him learn at his own pace.

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    Ever heard about “fairy dust teaching? One of our contributing writers, a  preschool teacher, discussed it here.”

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