Based on a set of principles that are close to and well suited to our Kanien’kehá:ka culture, our ways and our relationship with the natural world, at Step By Step we have embraced the teachings of Reggio Emilia. One of its key principles is the knowledge that every child is a creative child, full of potential and having the desire, the strengths – and the right – to make meaning out of life through their experiences and their relationships.
What is Reggio Emilia?
The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education is borne out of the natural need for the community’s involvement in children’s education. It is committed to the creation of learning conditions which enhance and facilitate the development of the child’s thought process by encouraging self expression. Young children are encouraged to explore their environment and express themselves through many “languages”, or modes of expression, including words, movement, drawing, painting, sculpture, shadow play, collage, and music. This leads all children to surprising levels of symbolic skill and creativity.
The “Emergent” Curriculum
The curriculum is not established in advance. The child’s interests are the driving force for the curriculum. As such, the curriculum is not pre-determined, but rather develops over time and becomes self evident based on the child’s area of focus, concentration, and interests.
Teachers express general goals and make hypotheses about what direction activities and projects might take; consequently, they make appropriate preparations. Then, after observing children in action, they compare, discuss, and interpret together their observations and make choices that they share with the children about what to offer and how to sustain the children in their exploration and learning.
The Project Approach
Children of all ages experience the curriculum through a lot of project work. A project is an in depth investigation of a topic children find worth learning more about. The study is usually taken on by a small group of children within a class, although sometimes the whole class is involved in a variety of ways. The key feature of a project is that it is a research effort that allows children to have a sustained and deep learning experience. The objective is to find answers to questions about a topic posed either by the children or the adults working with them. Children and educators together work through what we have developed as The Cycle of Inquiry as they explore the topic, establish hypotheses and theories, test out their ideas and truly deepen their learning. Projects can last a day to a year.
Reggio Emilia at Step By Step
At Step By Step, we have been inspired by the teachings of Reggio Emilia and have been systematically working with all of the staff over the past several years in order to gain a better understanding of how to incorporate the Region Emilia principles into our own Kanien’kehá:ka culture and our experiences with children and their families. We have found the principles are very well suited to our Kanien’kehá:ka culture, our ways, and our relationship with the natural world and with children. And so, our choice of connecting with the work of Reggio Emilia was a natural one.
Reggio Emilia and Art
Art is a powerful way to communicate; to convey culture, identity, values, feelings, ideas and to define beauty. The use of art as a vehicle for teaching and learning is a way to provide children with “100 languages” - meaning 100 ways to express themselves. Art allows children to play and explore using different materials and then to transform the materials to make learning visible.
Entewaténikonrì:sake – “We will think and create thoughts in our own mind”
The concept of the “atelier”
As we continue our inspired journey around the principles of Reggio Emilia, the creation of our atelier is upper most on our minds. We are very excited about the development of these beautiful spaces which were completed in February 2011.
The concept of the Atelier – our Entewaténikonrì:sake – was conceived by the founders of the Reggio Emilia movement with the intention of bringing about a revolution in teaching and learning - it all links back to our image of the child. If we believe that children are philosophers seeking the meaning of life, then our Center has to provide them with the tools to explore the world. Art is a great tool for investigating and thinking and so the language of art becomes the language of learning.
With the creation of the Entewaténikonrì:sake we hope to provide children with a means to speak to us even when they don’t yet have verbal language. Art is a powerful way to communicate; to convey culture, values, identity, feelings and ideas. With the creation of the Entewaténikonrì:sake, our goal is to learn more about how to enable children to express all that is within them and to make their learning and thinking visible to us through the languages of drawing, painting, collage, sculpting, dancing, singing, acting and more.
The development of the Entewaténikonrì:sake is also a way for us to deepen our understandings of the Reggio Emilia principles and to recognize that it is about creating a culture of inquiry; a way of thinking. We want to encourage and provoke children to approach the world as explorers, to answer their own questions and to build knowledge.
Information taken from the following resources:
Exploring Reggio Emilia. Interaction Magazine. Colasurdo 2010.
Linking Past to Present to Create an Image of the Child. Theory Into Practice. 2007
The Hundred Languages of Children 2nd Ed. Edwards, Gandini, and Forman, Ed. 1998
The Language of Art: Inquiry-Based Studio Practices in Early Childhood Settings. Pelo 2007.
Authentic Childhood: Experiencing Reggio Emilia in the Classroom 2nd Ed. Fraser2006
The Power of Projects: Meeting Contemporary Challenges in Early Childhood Classrooms – Strategies and Solutions. Helm, and Beneke, Eds. 2003
First Steps Toward Teaching the Reggio Way. Hendrick 1997.