The first 6-8 years of child’s life is widely accepted to be the most critical and formative years of development. The quality of education offered through this period is hence vital for life-long development.
Early Childhood Education (ECE) requires that young children be provided opportunities and experiences that lead to their all-round development -- physical, psychological, social, emotional and school readiness, alongside with health and nutrition learning that are equally important. Learning at early stages must be directed by the child’s interests and priorities and should be contextualized by their experiences rather than being structured formally. An enabling environment for children would be one that is rich, allows children to explore, experiment and freely express themselves and
one that is embedded in social relations that give a sense of warmth, security and trust. Playing, music, art and other project-based activities using local materials along with opportunities for speaking, listening and expressing themselves, and informal interaction are essential components.
It is in this context that Grassroots, being “Reggio Emilia inspired” has been able to put forward a comprehensive and supportive international program, that promotes child development in each and every domain that is - social, personal, emotional, aesthetic, language, cognitive, sensory, physical and motor, in a balanced and harmonious manner. This method is holistic and child-centered, and the development and learning in all the areas is integrated.
The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education has emerged from over forty years of practice and experience in the Reggio Emilia Municipal Infant/toddler and Preschool Centres in Italy. This approach views young children as individuals who are curious about their world, having innate potential to learn effectively from all that surrounds them. It places emphasis on children's symbolic languages in the context of a project--‐oriented curriculum. Within this approach, learning is viewed as a journey; and education as building relationships with people (both children and adults) and creating connections between ideas and the environment.
In 1991, a panel of experts’ commission by the famous Newsweek Magazine identified Reggio Emilia preschools as one of the "best top ten schools in the world" (Newsweek 1991). This brought international recognition to the approach. 1997, the Municipal Preschools and Infant Toddler Centres at Reggio Emilia initiated a collaborative project with the Harvard Graduate School of Education which brought in more evidence-based practices. Further to this in recent years, notably, Google and the World Bank have become prominent advocates for this approach to early childhood education. Today, leading educationalists and institutions are increasingly adopting the Reggio Emilia approach for their preschool programs for their whole-child approach to education and overall development.
The Reggio Approach is based on a comprehensive philosophy, underpinned by several fundamental, guiding principles. Broadly speaking, it sees:
Unlike traditional, predesigned curriculum, an emergent curriculum is one that builds upon the interests of children. Topics for study and exploration are captured from the talk of children, through community or family events, as well as the known interests of children (puddles, shadow, dinosaurs, etc.). Given the emergent nature, team planning is an essential component as it is difficult to predict the direction in which the learning will take shape. Teachers work together to formulate the possible directions of a project, the materials needed, and possible parent and/or community support and involvement.
In-depth Project Work
Reggio is known for what are referred to as Projects. They are nothing like the type we might associate with traditional schools. Projects that emerge from the children’s enquiries are in--‐depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests that arise from the children. Considered as an adventure, projects may last one week or could continue throughout the school year. Throughout a project, teachers help children make decisions about the direction of study, the ways in which the group will research the topic, the medium that will demonstrate and showcase the topic, and the selection of materials needed for the work.
The Reggio Emilia approach compliments Howard Gardner's notion of schooling for multiple intelligences; and calls for the integration of the graphic arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development. Presentation of topics/concepts in multiple forms --‐--‐ print, art, construction, drama, music, puppetry, shadow play etc --‐--‐ are viewed as essential to children's understanding of experience. Theatre, dance, movement, music and art are an everyday affair in the Reggio classrooms and equip children with multiple representational skills.
Within the Reggio Emilia approach, different approaches toward the same investigation are all valued, and thus children are given access to many tools and media to express themselves. Children are encouraged to talk, critique, compare, negotiate, hypothesize, and problem--‐solve through group work. The relationship and collaboration with the home, school and community all support the learning of the child. Collaborative group work, both large and small, is considered valuable and necessary to advance cognitive development.
Teachers as Researchers
The role of the teacher within the Reggio Emilia approach is complex and is first and foremost to be that of a learner alongside the children. The teacher embodies the role of a teacher, co-teacher, learner and research. They are facilitators, a resource and guide as they lend their expertise to the topic. Within such a complex role, teachers carefully listen, observe, and document children's work and the growth of community in their classroom. They provoke, co--‐construct, and stimulate thinking and peer collaboration; and are committed to reflection about their own teaching and learning.
Observation and Documentation
Documentation is a means to gather evidence of learning. It can be in the form of observations, photography, video, rubrics and checklists, conversation transcripts and/or visual mediums like paint, clay or drawing materials. Documentation is focussed both on the growth of children and teachers; and is another vital component of the Reggio Emilia approach. Photos of children at work and play, along with anecdotal evidence of their experiences, help teachers and parents learn more about a child’s. Teachers use documentation to identify strengths, ideas, and next steps to support learning.
The Classroom as Teacher
The classroom/environment is referred to as the “third teacher” in Reggio schools. Great care is taken to construct an environment that allows for exploration of the topic at hand. Teachers intentionally organize, support and plan for various spaces for children. The daily schedules are planned to ensure that there is a balance between individual, small and large group activities, child directed and teacher-initiated activity and inside as well as outside experiences. Items from home, such as pillows, real cutlery and utensils, curtains and tablecloths, plants, and animals, contribute to a comforting, “homely” classroom environment.
The Role of the Teacher
The Role of Parents
The Role of Time and the Importance of Continuity
The Role of Projects
The Role of Media
In a nutshell, the Reggio Emilia philosophy is an approach to teaching, learning and advocacy for children. In its most basic form, it is a way of observing what children know, are curious about and what challenges them. Teachers record these observations to reflect on developmentally appropriate ways to help children expand their potentials. Long term projects connect core academic areas in and out of the classroom.
Grassroots School does not intend to duplicate this philosophy primarily because the children, families and teachers of our community offer a culture, location and perspective that is very different from what is seen in the town of Reggio Emilia, and from the resources available there. It has merely taken inspiration from this balanced whole-child approach to ensure that the learning in these formative years are developmentally appropriate and holistic.