Meadowbrook Elementary, A Reggio Influenced Learning Community
At Meadowbrook, we have interpreted the Reggio approach based on our own cultural traditions, experiences and environmental influences. Our students are encouraged to participate in choosing what to study while the teachers ensure that the topic is explored in a way that meets the BC curricular outcomes. The process of learning is ultimately more important than the product – as we observe student learning, and make that learning visible through documentation, we honour the child's intellectual capacities and intense curiosity. Our goal is to create a culture of learning where students, families and staff are engaged, motivated and valued.
The image of the child
We believe that children have potential, curiosity and interest in engaging in social interaction, establishing relationships and constructing their learning. Teachers are aware of children's potential and construct their work and environment to respond appropriately. Each child possesses skills, talents and abilities and we work to find the spark that ignites the joy, curiosity and passion for learning.
The environment as a teacher
The school environment conveys many messages - the most immediate is that this is a place where adults have thought about the quality and instructive power about space. The layout of physical space, in addition to being welcoming fosters the development of communication and relationships. The arrangement of structures, object and activities encourages choices, problem solving and discovery. The space is also highly personal and full of the children's work. Documentation is displayed – photographs and dialogue – to help the viewer understand the process of children's thoughts and explorations, making learning visible.
The Reggio vision is of an 'education based on relationships". Education must focus on individual children in relationship with the family, other children, the staff, the school environment, the community and society. These relationships are interconnected and reciprocal. The rights of children to a high quality education that supports the development of potential are recognized, as are the rights of parents to be involved in the life of the school and the rights of teachers to grow professionally.
Working and Learning Collaboratively
When creating the classroom space, teachers consciously create room for students to interact in small groups, to work individually or meet as a class. Teachers understand that children learn in exchanges with others, both guided by adults and on their own. It is important the students are provided with opportunities to practice and model active listening, to respond to others ideas in a respectful way and to be able to express their own thoughts and ask questions in a safe environment. As professionals, teachers also collaborate to further their own learning.
Transcriptions of children's conversations, photographs, videos and representation of student learning and thinking are carefully selected and displayed to document the work and process of learning. The purpose of this documentation is to make parents aware of their child's experiences, to allow teachers to understand the child better and to further guide further instruction and to evaluate the teacher's own work. This serves to promote their professional development and to facilitate communication and exchange of ideas between teachers. Having students view documentation allows them to reflect on their own learning and ensures that they know that their efforts are valued. They are then better able to express, revisit and construct and reconstruct their feelings, ideas and understandings.
The Emergent Curriculum
Meadowbrook is part of the BC public school system and thus curriculum is mandated by the province of British Columbia. Teachers express general goals and make hypotheses about the direction activities and projects might take and make appropriate preparations. After observing students in action, they compare, discuss and interpret their observations and make choices that they share with the children about what to offer and how to sustain curiosity and support the children in further learning. The curriculum emerges in the process of each activity or project and is adjusted accordingly through continuous dialogues among teachers and children.
Projects provide the backbone of the learning experiences. They are based on the strong conviction that learning by doing is of great importance and that to discuss in groups and to revisit ideas and experiences is the best way to develop deep understanding. Ideas for project arise from student and teacher experiences as they construct knowledge together. Projects can last from a few days to several months. They may start from a chance event, an idea or a question posed by one or more children, or be initiated directly by teachers. Teachers help learners make decisions about the direction of study, the ways to research the topic and which medium will best showcase their results.
Social Emotional Learning
Research indicates that the better a child can self-regulate, the better he/she can rise to the challenge of mastering increasingly complex skills and concepts. The first step in developing self-regulation skills must begin with being self aware - students must be able to identify emotions in themselves and others before they can learn to respond appropriately to them. A child can become overwhelmed by his emotions unless he develops the capacity to understand and express them. Once a child is aware of his/her emotions, he is able to learn strategies that allow him/her to move from one emotional state to another that is more useful to the particular situation.
Learning to identify and label emotions is a critical step toward cultivating emotional intelligence. Using the Mood Meter, students and educators become more mindful of how their emotions change throughout the day and how their emotions in turn affect their actions. They develop the self-awareness
they need to inform their choices. Students at Meadowbrook are learning to expand their emotional vocabulary, replacing basic feeling words with more sophisticated terms to better express and share their emotions. We looked at the RULER skills, which are developed along a continuum. It is assumed that if a student can regulate emotion, he/she is also able to recognize, understand, label and express emotion as well.