The Reggio Emilia Environment
Students must feel safe and free and be given ample opportunities to express themselves, thus Reggio proponents note that a specific and useful environment is key. In fact, a key Reggio phrase is, “The environment as the third teacher.” Often, the aesthetic beauty within a Reggio school is seen as respecting the child and their learning environment and an atmosphere of playfulness is common. The Reggio approach focuses on environments that, much like Waldorf, resemble everyday living areas. There’s usually a central area where kids may gather to actively interact, a kitchen and various places to rest and relax. Almost all Reggio classrooms include a significant art studio, or “atelier,” which is packed with hands on art materials such as clay, paints and writing implements along with creative materials like pebbles, dried orange peel, driftwood, tangles of wire and tin cans. Not only can children use these materials to represent concepts that they are learning, but this supports an important integration of graphic arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development – which is consistent with Dr. Howard Gardner’s notion of schooling for multiple intelligences.
The Reggio Emilia Teacher Role
Teachers play an important, yet complex role within the Reggio approach. Teachers often work in partnership with at least one other teacher, collaborating, sharing information and mentoring each other and their peers. Teachers must be willing to learn alongside students and act as a touchstone for various child interests. Some key roles of Reggio teachers include the following:
- Teachers document and record what children are doing, helping them trace and revisit their personal learning path. This approach is called, “Making learning visible,” and may include a variety of documentation methods, such as cameras, tape recorders, journals and portfolios.
- Teachers must carefully listen and observe children’s work and the growth of the classroom community.
- Teachers’ professional development is very integrated into this method, including time spent planning, preparing materials, attending community management meetings and more.
Locating a Reggio Emilia School
Reggio Emilia schools are private, not public, therefore tuition based. Sadly, it’s extremely hard to locate a Reggio school. According to Private School Review, you won’t find labeled “Reggio” schools but you can find Reggio Emilia inspired schools, plus they state that there are only about 50 Reggio Emilia inspired schools in the United States. Google searches for, “Locate Reggio Emilia schools” yield few useful results. In fact, the only useful looking search system out there, belonging to North American Reggio Emilia Alliance, doesn’t even work. It’s frustrating. However, the Reggio Emilia Australia Information Exchange offers some useful information about this issue plus advice if you’re looking for a Reggio school, “REAIE encourages parents to look first at local possibilities. You may find that there is a school near to you that does not profess to deliver a Reggio Emilia inspired program but in fact reflects many of the principles advocated by Reggio Emilia educators. You may also find that a centre/school near you provides a high quality education to children and you may be able to encourage the teachers there to begin to explore or make connections to the Reggio Emilia understanding of education. On the down side, there are schools that use ‘Reggio Emilia’ as a brand or marketing tool without actually expressing the philosophy in their teaching and learning.” Good advice! You may also have luck with a more direct Google search, such as, “[your city here] Reggio Emilia Schools.” You also might want to try some parenting forums, such as this mama did.
Lead image via North American Reggio Emilia Alliance
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