What is the Reggio Emilia philosophy?
Reggio Emilia is a small town in northern Italy, recognised for its innovative, researchful and reflective approach to early years education. The first school was set up by the people of the town after World War Two when it was felt that a new kind of education was needed. Loris Malaguzzi was a young teacher working nearby who heard about the school and travelled there to volunteer part time. He ended up providing dynamic leadership to the schools which grew to encompass 23 schools and 13 infant-toddler centres in the municipality of Reggio Emilia. The schools are based on respect, responsibility and community through exploration and discovery in an enriching and supportive environment.
It is a philosophy which values the child as strong, capable and resilient with an innate capacity and deep curiosity for learning. The role of educator is one of lifelong learner, continually reflecting on and redefining their understanding of how children learn.
How do we work as a Reggio inspired school?
We seek to take our own inspiration from the Reggio schools, in a way which suits our children and the culture we are part of. We place great importance on mutual respect, listening and discussion. We seek to teach children to resolve their own conflicts. We work in partnership with parents to best support children’s learning as we believe that this helps all children succeed. We believe in children as active constructors of knowledge, working in partnership with educators to move learning forwards. Our curriculum is child-led and challenging, allowing children to spend extended amounts of time within a project or area of interest.
As educators we believe in truly reflective practice, individually in our reflection journals and as a staff team in our meetings. We have visited the schools of Reggio Emilia many times over the last 20 years and have built up a great deal of expertise which we use in our daily work. We regularly attend conferences and workshops with teachers from Reggio and have presented our own work at Reggio conferences in the UK and abroad.
Within our approach, documentation such as photographs, videos and children’s words is vital for developing our insight into how children learn. Our documentation serves a variety of purposes such as celebrating children’s learning within the school and with parents, reflecting as educators, and ultimately leading to a deeper theory and understanding.
Within this way of working, the environment is key and is sometimes referred to as ‘The Third Teacher’, meaning that learning should continue within it.
Our environment is carefully organised and developed to ensure that children can learn independently. The environment is fluid and constantly changing according to children’s interests, our project work or to reflect a special event we are celebrating. There is space to allow long term projects to be started and revisited within the environment, whether that be the creation of a wildlife area or large scale construction of a castle as part of story telling work.
We aim to provide a beautiful, natural environment with objects and activities developed for and by the children which provides for extended and open-ended discovery and play.
Our project work
Children and adults working together in collaborative and extended projects is a feature of the schools in Reggio Emilia. This allows children to explore a topic or area of interest in great depth, discussing and making their own hypotheses, collaborating with others and reflecting. It also allows children to explore many different ways of working with the same idea, expressing themselves through art, music, movement, dance, photography and many more in what Malaguzzi referred to as ‘The 100 Languages of Children’.
For many years we have collaborated successfully with schools throughout the UK, in Europe and further afield. We have worked on a number of Erasmus+ projects with schools in Europe, researching together in areas such as digital media, working with the natural environment and young children’s writing.
In 2018 we will be working on a project focussing on transdisiplinary learning with schools in the UK (Ashmore Park and Phoenix in Wolverhampton), Sweden, Spain and Romania, and an inclusive schools project with Iceland. Our headteacher Louise Lowings will be spending time teaching at the university of Tokyo and presenting conferences and workshops for the East Asia Regional Council of Schools. For more details see our “project” page.