Reggio Influenced Learning at Meadowbrook
The Reggio Emilia Approach originated in the town (and surrounding areas) of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy out of a movement towards progressive and cooperative early childhood education.
It is unique to Reggio Emilia. There are no international training colleges to train to be a Reggio Emilia teacher as it is not a method of teaching but a philosophy. Outside of the town of Reggio Emilia, all schools and preschools (and home schools) are Reggio-inspired, using an adaptation of the approach specific to the needs of their community.
This is important, as each student, teacher, parent, community, and town are different. No two Reggio-inspired communities should look the same, as the needs and interests of the children within each community will be different.
At Meadowbrook, we have interpreted the Reggio approach based on our own cultural traditions, experiences and environmental influences. All teachers follow the BC curriculum when planning and assessing student learning. We observe student learning, and make that learning visible through documentation, we honour the child's intellectual capacities and innate curiosity. Our goal is to create a culture of learning where students, families and staff are engaged, motivated and valued. The process of learning not the product is the focus.
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.
The image of the child
We believe that children have inherent 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 of the physical space. The layout of physical space, fosters the sense of belonging, competence and autonomy. The arrangement of structures, object and activities encourages communication, choice, problem solving and discovery. The space is highly personal and full of the children's work, rather than adult work. Documentation is displayed – photographs and dialogue – to help the viewer understand the process of children's thoughts and explorations, making learning visible.
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 tells us that emotional interactions that foster secure, attentive, empathic and nurturing feelings act as regulators within relationships. These supportive and warm interactions help children (their nervous systems) to stay in a brain state that is calm and alert. Research also tells us that children who have experienced such secure and caring relationships with adults tend to be cooperative, flexible and positive in their interpersonal relationships. Such contexts, driven by positive emotions, allow children to feel safe and comfortable which, in turn, increases their sense of curiosity, focus and interest in exploring learning opportunities. Because of the natural internal motivation these positive emotions produce they also influence children's ability to self-regulate. So then, it is through nurturing relationships that children come to identify emotions in themselves and others and learn to regulate them. As such, we may consider that the quality of the child-adult/teacher relationship is the single most important factor for a positive school experience for children in order to develop their understanding of self, others and the world around them.
With this in mind, at Meadowbrook our community has been introduced to the Concentric Rings of Care, a concept within Care Theory as conceptualized by Nel Noddings. We will be viewing our everyday interactions and our learning journey through the lens of care – care for self, family and friends, strangers and distant others, animals, plants and the earth, the human made world and ideas. Within each center of care many themes can be identified and each is a huge topic unto itself. Caring for self is placed in the center of the rings of care. This idea works well with the medicine wheel and its attention to finding balance between all the parts of our self (emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual) so as to experience health and well-being.