What children learn does not follow as an automatic result from what is
taught. Rather, it is in large part due to the children’s own doing as a
consequence of their activities and our resources.
~ Loris Malaguzzi, Reggio Emilia, Italy
Our philosophy of education has developed over the twenty-five plus years that
we have been teaching young children. While we have integrated the ideas of
many fine educators, we have been most inspired by the Reggio Emilia
preschools in Italy whose aim is to "preserve the spell of the child unbroken." We
have learned to think of ourselves as a "Reggio-inspired program". Because
Reggio Emilia is situated in Italy - a different culture with different dynamics, we
see our goal as adapting those elements of the approach which seem
appropriate to our community, and our families.
Our Image of Children:
Our work at DELC begins with a strong image of all children as competent,
resourceful, intelligent, creative, imaginative, and full of curiosity about the world
around them. With this image before us, we try to listen, pay attention, plan, and
co-construct with children. We strive to create a learning community of children
and adults where our image of children and the thinking of students is visible to
children, teachers, parents and the public. We consciously prepare classroom
environments to offer complexity, beauty, and sense of well-being and ease,
through physical qualities such as transparency, reflectiveness, openness,
harmony, softness, and light. Inspired by our Reggio counterparts we hope to
convey to children, parents, and teachers that their presence is noticed, valued,
and respected. We feel the best way to accomplish our academic goals is by
promoting a classroom atmosphere of playfulness and joy.
Key elements of the Reggio approach we consider vital
- Strong partnership with families
- An emergent curriculum (curriculum is approached in an integrated,
imaginative way that builds on children's particular interests and involves
them in projects and small-group work.
- open-ended questions and discussion which promotes problem solving
(We respect young children's desire to approach the complex, to ask "big
questions," and to learn about the whole picture before focusing on its
parts and mastering simple steps.
- Use of a wide variety of materials to explore ideas (paint, clay, wood,
drawing materials, recyclables for collage, wire, etc.)
- Developing a sense of community and colleagiality amongst children, staff
- Documentation: use of media to display for both parents and children the
rich learning moments and social interactions which take place during the
course of the day. We use photographs, typed transcriptions of
conversations, and narratives in panels and books to help highlight those
In working with children, Reggio Emila teachers seek to play a role of artful
balancing between engagement and attention (Edwards, 1998). They ask
questions to draw out the children's ideas, hypotheses, and theories. Then
teachers discuss together what they have recorded and make flexible plans and
preparations. They are an endless source of possibilities and provocations to the
children. They also act as recorders for the children, helping them trace and
revisit their words and actions. Teachers offer new ways of looking at things to
children and provide related experiences and materials. They provide instruction
in tool and material use when needed, help children to find materials and
resources, and scaffold children's learning-sometimes coming in close and
interacting actively, sometimes remaining attentively nearby. They also nurture
the children's emotional needs and support and develop relationships with each
Time, too, is treated with special care in Reggio Emilia. Close and extended
relationships are formed because children and teachers usually stay together in
the same group for 3 years, so that a strong link is formed for the child between
home and school. Children's own sense of time and their personal rhythm are
considered in planning and carrying out activities and projects. Children have
time to explore their ideas and hypotheses fully and in depth. Projects and
themes follow the children's ideas and development of concepts. Projects,
activities and experiences such as field trips and celebrations build upon one
another over time. They can extend for a couple of days, weeks, or months
depending on the age and interest level of the children. Children review and
revise their original work and ideas, refining them as they have further
experiences, consider further questions, notice more details, make more
connections, and acquire improved skills.
Collaboration is encouraged among Reggio Emilia children from an early age.
Children are active participants in their learning. They make many choices
throughout the day, including where to go in their classroom and building and on
what to work. In addition to ongoing projects, children engage in many other
forms of activity and play, including pretend play, singing, group games,
storytelling, reading, cooking, outdoor play, rest, and sociable meals together.
They become part of a close-knit group, with their own unique rituals and ways of
expressing friendship and affection for one another.
For more information on this approach, we suggest the following books:
The Hundred Languages of Children; Second Edition, edited by Carolyn
Edwards, Lella Gandini, and George Forman. 1998. Ablex Publishing Company.
Bringing Reggio Emilia Home, by Louise Boyd Cadwell, 1997, Teachers College,
Bringing Learning to Life: The Reggio Approach to Early Childhood Education ,
by Louise Cadwell, Forward by Carlina Rinaldi, 2002.
Reflections on the Reggio Emilia Approach,Lilian G. Katz and Bernard Cesarone,
Making Learning Visible: Children as Individual and Group Learners,Reggio
Children, Italy, and Project Zero, 2001.
Children, Spaces, Relations:Metaproject for an Environment for Young Children,
Reggio Children and Domus Academy Research Center, Giulio Ceppi, Michele
Zini, editors, 1998
Everything Has a Shadow Except Ants (second edition),Reggio Children, Italy,
Children, Art, Artists:The Expressive Languages of Children, The Artistic
Language of Alberto Burri,Vea Vecchi and Claudia Giudici, editors, 2004.
In the Spirit of the Studio:Learning from the Atlelier of Reggio Emilia, Lella
Gandini, Lynn Hill, Louise Cadwell, and Charles Schwall, 2005
Beautiful Stuff:Children Learning with Found Materials, (A Reggio Emilia inspired
resource), Cathy Weisman Topal and Lella Gandini, 1999.
Dartmouth Early Learning Center
284 Gulf Road
South Dartmouth, MA 02748