What it Means to Be a Reggio-Inspired Program
If you’ve explored child care programs, you’ve probably encountered the term Reggio-inspired. For instance, here at Bambini, we are Reggio-inspired and evidence of this educational philosophy can be seen throughout our programs.
Whether you have some familiarity with Reggio-inspired programs, or this terminology is completely new to you, this article will highlight what it means to be Reggio-inspired.
REGGIO… A BACKGROUND
Many people, when they first hear “Reggio-inspired”, assume Reggio is the name of a person. However, Reggio Emilia is the capital city of the Province of Reggio Emilia in Italy. The Reggio-inspired approach to education originated in this region.
The beginnings of Reggio-inspired education occurred post World War II. The destruction of the war brought the residents of Reggio Emilia together to literally rebuild a school from the rubble.
Psychologist Loris Malaguzzi was the key individual behind this new movement of education in Reggio Emilia. His view of the child and a vision for a child-centred education blended beautifully with a connected and involved post-war community. Malaguzzi’s ideas, as well as an entire community’s involvement in children’s education, set the stage for a unique education the world had not yet experienced.
WHAT MAKES A PROGRAM REGGIO-INSPIRED?
There are a lot of ideas floating around as to what it means to be Reggio-inspired. Here are six key components that are essential to a Reggio-inspired program.
RESPECT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL
The first pillar of a Reggio-inspired approach to education is the way in which a child, as a human being, is perceived.
Children are often viewed through several lenses:
There’s a personal view which might be formed out of our own childhood and parental experiences.
There’s the objective view which may come from observations, readings, and analytical knowledge of the child and their development.
Lastly, there’s the cultural view. This view is formed out of the time and place in which we live and often has the strongest influence on how we perceive a child.
The Reggio-inspired approach to early childhood education and its view of the child embraces the importance and connectivity of all these views of a child.
In a Reggio-inspired program, each child is viewed as an individual. They are capable, competent human beings with great capacity and creativity. The child isn’t someone to be shaped and formed but rather an individual who already has their own unique personality and abilities, who’s on a journey toward making their place in the world.
Carlina Rinaldi worked with Loris Malaguzzi in the municipal infant toddler and preschool system of Reggio Emilia. She so eloquently describes the Reggio-inspired view of the child as such:
“The cornerstone of our experience, based on practice, theory, and research, is the image of the children as rich, strong, and powerful. The emphasis is placed on seeing the children as unique subjects with rights rather than simply needs.
They have potential, plasticity, the desire to grow, curiosity, the ability to be amazed, and the desire to relate to other people and to communicate.”
RELATIONSHIPS ARE VITAL
Secondly, since an emphasis is placed on how the child is viewed as an individual, relationships are also a vital element in a Reggio-inspired program.
When we think of a child, their lives are influenced by various relationships. These relationships are with:
friends / other children
their school / the relationship between their home and school
the community in which they live
the culture in which they’re raised
All of these relationships are vital and have a tremendous impact on the child and his/her development.
However, for the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on the relationship between the school and the child, as well as their family. We’ll also cover community relationships later in this article.
A strong relationship between the child and the school begins with the first interactions the family has with the program. The school regards the parent as a critical resource in caring for as well as understanding the child. The relationship is nurtured in the school, and it continues to build as the child progresses through the program.
There are several ways in which a Reggio-inspired program fosters the relationship between the family and the program:
They have a warm and welcoming area to receive families. This may include a comfortable sitting area, an inviting front entrance, plants, and pictures on the walls.
When a family expresses an interest in the program, a tour is given and a handbook is provided to the families.
Families regularly receive documentation about their child’s experiences in the program. This may be done through pictorial documentation on the centre walls, emails, through apps the family can privately access, and through verbal exchanges with the family. Open communication is invited by the centre, and communication flows both ways.
The program finds unique ways to involve families in the program. This may mean hosting a centre-wide art gala, a family member visiting the program to share or demonstrate an expertise, sharing breakfast together, or a celebration of the conclusion of a project.
The program works closely with families to make sure that the education and care the child is receiving is most beneficial to the child’s unique personality.
THE ENVIRONMENT IS THE THIRD TEACHER
The Reggio-inspired classroom is like no other. In fact, the environment is viewed as the third teacher in the room.
This means that planning, reflection, and deliberate intention is put into creating an atmosphere that will educate and inspire the children (and adults) who spend their time in that space.
Some common elements one might find in a Reggio-inspired centre are:
lots of natural sunlight
plants and living things
furniture and play elements that are natural (wood, stone, clay, etc.)
soft, cozy spaces to rest and relax
a variety of unique play materials
A Reggio-inspired program is distinct. The spaces are beautiful and the environment is calm yet thought-provoking.
Since the environment is vital to the Reggio-inspired classroom, careful thought and attention is also given to the activities which are set up in the room.
These activities are often referred to as “provocations”. A provocation is something that inspires thoughts, conversations, interests, ideas, and creative expressions. Basically and most simply described, provocations stimulate, arouse, excite, and spark interest.
Provocations can take on many forms. They can be:
natural items (wood, rocks, plants, shells, etc.)
photographs or artwork
an object displayed in an interesting manner
old materials set up in a new way (i.e. the dramatic play furniture rearranged)
In a Reggio-inspired program, provocations are placed throughout the centre, not just in program rooms. For instance, a bathroom may house an interesting piece of artwork on the wall or a hallway may have a small table with uniquely coloured rocks on it.
Every space in a Reggio-inspired program is viewed as an opportunity to provoke a child’s interest and stimulate contemplative reflection.
In a Reggio-inspired program, the child is central to their education. They take lead of their own learning by observing, thinking critically, and problem-solving. The educator supports the child as they develop theories and understanding about the world around them.
Children’s explorations may move from tactile, sensory play to music, dance, and art or from reading, acting, and creating to questioning, researching, and conversation. Multiple ways of learning and exploration are supported.
As the child expresses an interest or a question, the educators work to help the child find the answer to their question. This method of learning is meaningful in that the adult isn’t the expert teaching but rather a guide and collaborative seeker on the child’s journey for answers.
Since the program is structured this way, the curriculum sometimes evolves over weeks or even months. The children’s education isn’t confined to a prescribed outcome but rather grows and expands to accommodate their investigation. Within a program room, the evolution of a project that came out of a child’s interest can become very involved and complex.
As mentioned previously, relationships are an essential component in a Reggio-inspired program, and one of those key relationships is the child’s relationship with the community.
In a Reggio-inspired program, children are viewed as active, vital, and vibrant members of the community. Their contributions are appreciated and respected by neighbourhood businesses, organizations, community representatives, and politicians.
The Reggio-inspired program partners with the community to provide a safe means for children to explore and build a relationship with their community.
The children in a Reggio-inspired program interact with various community members in a number of ways. For instance, they might:
Make intergenerational connections at a local senior citizens’ residence by visiting and baking with the elderly people who live there.
Organize their own fundraiser for a charitable cause that is meaningful to them.
Visit the local grocery store to purchase ingredients for a snack they’re making.
Tour the community library and meet with the librarians who work there.
Participate in community clean-up and beautification projects.
Deliver treats they baked to a local business.
Moreover, the community may support the growing child in various ways. For instance, a local gardener may drop off their excess zucchini crop. A mechanic may bring in an old engine for the children to explore. A local yoga instructor may host a meditation class for the children. A community artist may demonstrate how to mix and blend colours on a canvas.
In a Reggio-inspired program, children are cherished, and their education is fostered by the community in which they live.
Lastly, a distinguishing component of a Reggio-inspired program is its commitment to documenting the children’s exploration and learning.
The investigation of a subject or the evolution of a project tells an amazing story of development. It reveals a child’s initial thoughts about a topic and captures how the child investigated and sought out the answers to their most pressing questions.
Documentation of the children’s learning is often displayed in classrooms. This serves a few purposes:
It allows the families to read about and see what their child has been learning in the program.
Documentation gives extra opportunities for families to communicate with both their children and the educators.
It demonstrates to the children that their explorations, thoughts, and ideas are valued.
Documentation celebrates the close of a project or an investigation.
Displaying documentation may inspire the children to further investigate a topic that they once previously explored.
Much like the rest of the Reggio-inspired program, careful thought and care is given to displaying documentation in a beautiful and meaningful way.
CLOSING THOUGHTS ON REGGIO-INSPIRED PROGRAMS
As mentioned previously, there are six key components to a Reggio-inspired program:
Respect for the child
The environment / aesthetics
Documentation of learning
These six facets contribute to a rich, comprehensive, and unique early learning experience for children. Moreover, the benefits of this form of education are numerous for families and community members.
A Reggio-inspired program is like no other. Wouldn’t you agree?
Bambini Learning Group is an exceptional child care program located in Edmonton, Alberta. Their vision is to inspire families to live healthier, more meaningful lives. Through innovative, holistic and supportive resources, Bambini is helping children live the authentic childhood they deserve. New locations coming soon! Contact Bambini about their unique, holistic child care program at firstname.lastname@example.org
JENNIFER BLY is the Communications Consultant for Bambini Learning Group, a published author, and creator of The Deliberate Mom, a website full of parenting and homemaking inspiration. Jennifer has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood field. In addition, she holds a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care.
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Fraser, S. (2006). Authentic Childhood: Experiencing Reggio in the Classroom (2nd Ed.). Toronto, ON: Thomson Nelson.
North America Reggio Emilia Alliance. (2019). Reggio Emilia Infant Toddler Centers and Preschools. NAREA.
Reggio Children. (2019). Reggio Children.
The Reggio Emilia Approach: An Enrichment Case Study. Historical Background of the Reggio Emilia Approach.