Strong words describe the child within the philosophies of both Dr. Maria Montessori and those of the educators of Reggio Emilia, Italy. “Rich, strong, powerful” (Rinaldi 1993, 102): “active, and competent” (Edwards 1993, 152); “connected to adults and other children” (Malaguzzi 1993. 10.)
Reggio Emilia is a city in northern Italy situated in a region rich in art, architecture, agriculture, industry and tourism. It is also an area with a very highly developed concern for child welfare. Following WWII strong local initiatives led to the parent-run schools that were the beginning of the Reggio Emilia preschools. The parents found inspiration and encouragement in the progressive ideas of John Dewey and Celestin Freinet. The work of Jean Piaget, and others such as Leo Vygotsky and Maria Montessori supported the teachers’ observations and discoveries about children and their development.
In 1963 Loris Malaguzzi brought his energies and philosophy into a battle to get the city government to make the people’s schools municipally funded. Under his direction, the educators in Reggio Emilia have come to view children, as well as teachers and parents, as collaborators in a holistic, educational process. They have not established a formal model to be emulated in every early childhood class around the world. Instead, they view their experience with the children as an evolution of relationships that benefits and expands the thoughts of the adults, as well as the children. In Reggio Emilia, it is an ongoing process. It is an exciting process of attitude to be adapted to other cultures.
Teachers are nurturers, guides, and partners in learning.
They facilitate the children’s explorations through long and short projects, and guide experiences of joint, open-ended discovery and problem-solving. To know how to plan and proceed with their work, teachers listen and observe children closely. Teachers ask questions, discover children’s ideas, hypotheses, and theories – and provide occasions for discovery and learning. Teachers are researchers working with children.
The child is a collaborator and communicator in his own growth and development.
As in Montessori philosophy, children are strong and capable, bringing potential, curiosity and interest into constructing their learning. They negotiate with everything their environment brings to them. In the Reggio Emilia philosophy, the child does not work in isolation. Each child is part of a relationship with other children, the family, the teachers, and the community. He begins life in a community. We are learning to work together. This approach fosters children’s intellectual development through a systematic focus on symbolic representation, including words, movement, drawing, painting, building, sculpture, shadow play, and music . . . 100 languages of the mind and spirit.
Parents are partners.
Parent participation is considered essential and takes many forms. Parents play an active part in their children’s learning experience and help ensure the welfare of all the children in the school. The ideas and skills that the families bring to the school – and even more importantly, the exchange of ideas between parents and teachers – favor the development of a new way of education, which helps teachers view the participation of families as an integration of different wisdoms. (Cadwell 1997,5)
The environment is a third teacher.
Every corner of every space is rich in potential to engage and to communicate. Within the Montessori classroom “prepared environments” focus attention on materials and encourage independence and self-discipline. Within the beauty of those materials, the child is given the opportunity to see the individual aspects of an idea and work with those small parts as he/she gains understanding. The environment within our studio requires that the child build on the concepts gained in the rest of the classroom and reestablish a whole. Education becomes a spiraling development of learning, not linear. Ideas are revisited through encounters, exchanges, and communication.
Documentation is a means of communication.
It makes parents aware of their children’s experiences. It allows teachers to better understand children, to evaluate their own work, and to exchange ideas with other educators. It also shows children that their work is valued. Finally, it creates an archive that traces the history of the school and the pleasure in the process of learning experienced by many children and their teachers.
If you are interested in learning more, please call or contact us here to take a tour and speak to our teachers and staff at Renaissance Montessori Academy.