I am a strong believer that your environment teaches you and gives you some of the most valuable experience that no traditional classroom will ever be able to give you. But, to get anything out of it, just like a traditional school, you have to pay attention. The reason that the Reggio Emilia Approach speaks to me is that as an adult I’m always searching for beautiful and imperfect, sensitive and firm, freedom with boundaries. What I needed for my children was a place of safety, a place of expression where there was encouragement, but where each new accomplishment was not lauded as genius. There is a respect that takes place in a Reggio environment. These children learn it from an early age. They learn how to respect their surroundings, each other, their lives.
Reggio Emilia is predominantly found in toddler and preschool environments. But, it speaks to all ages because it’s philosophy is timeless. Below, I have have given you some examples from a profound book called, The Hundred Languages of Children.
“In a strongly firsthand way, deeply rooted in ongoing cycles of observation, interpretation, and documentation, Reggio educators have borne witness to child learning in its earliest genesis and in its least restrictive environment…Least restrictive in this case refers not to an “anything goes” chaos but an environment liberated from false boundaries and external caveats that inadvertently impede or unnecessarily parse the complex development of children. Instead, the whole school environment of Reggio-infant-toddler centers and preschools is positively influenced by the presence of the atelier.
Teachers endeavor to continually provoke children’s natural propensities to search for meaning, to pose questions of themselves and others, and to interpret the phenomena of their own lives.”
-Margie Cooper, The Hundred Languages of Children (pg. 298)
“Often Reggio educators use the phrase rich normality to describe the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive environments to which they continually aspire, calling important attention to the promise of ordinary moments. For it is the stringing together of ordinary moments that ultimately give shape and quality to human life over time, just as it is the stringing together of ordinary moments that ultimately gives shape and quality…”-Cooper (Pg. 298)
“How much positive attention do we give ordinary moments in our programs for young children in North America? For example, the physicality children naturally express in their everyday encounters-running fingertips along a fence line, spinning and darting in open spaces breathing deeply the fragrances of the natural world, handling objects to view every angle-are wide ways children build understanding through natural dispositions for researching worlds polysensorially-that is, through all their senses. Within these natural ways of children, there lives an aesthetic dimension, described by Giudici as the ‘pursuit of loveliness, of harmony, of balance, poise, equilibrium and sensibility to relations’ that exists epistemologically…aesthetics is not a separate dimension from experience but rather an element of it”-Cooper (Pg. 299)
Stop when you can, when you think about it and talk with your kids about what you are seeing, feeling. If you smell something desireable or even undesireable, what kind of sensation does that invoke in you? Be present with yourself, your kids.
I am convinced that this Reggio way of thinking does not end in preschool. For, I live it everyday.
-M. Byron Trent