|Reggio Emilia is a small town in northern Italy. The community supports a beautiful preschool
program there that has been an inspiration for many other preschool programs all over the
The first time I heard of Reggio Emilia was when I was a master's student, and we watched a
film of children playing in a poppy field. They loved the field, and some took off their shirts.
Suddenly over the hill came a big Chinese dragon! They children were thrilled. The dragon
covered their own teachers.
To look at pictures of children in Reggio Emilia is inspiring, but it is impossible to understand
just how cool they are. The children are given real artist supplies, are given much more
freedom of expression than ordinary preschools, and the emphasis on discovery is much
more than in ordinary preschools.
|** Each child has a mailbox, and messages and pictures are exchanged as a natural part of
the school day.
**Children work in small teams to complete tasks such as setting the tables for lunch.
**A basic assumption is that there is an important distinction between teachers teaching and
children learning. Teacher-directed teaching is all about the teacher and what the teacher
thinks the children need to know. Children may learn content and skills taught, but they may
be of little meaning to them. When the learning experience flow from the children's ideas,
however, there is more likely to be a good match between what the children are ready to
learn and activities offered in the classroom than in a teacher-dominated curriculum.
**There is a shared belief that children have an innate understanding of how to relate to the
world. The job of a teacher, then, is to nurture that ability so that the child can grow and
**Children become researchers by learning to ask questions and collect data with which to
answer them. Teachers use the arts -- including painting, drawing, and working with clay,
natural materials such as leaves and shells, and recycled materials such as tubes and
spools -- as a vehicle for understanding the child's thinking processes.
**Each infant-toddler center and pre-primary school has an atelier, which translates as a
studio or laboratory, which is filled with natural materials and art supplies. Many of the
settings also have mini-ateliers. The atelierista, who works with the teachers and children, is
a specialist in the graphic arts.
|**The environment is warm and calm (no primary colors jump out at you), featuring wood, glass,
and muted colors. There is a space to be alone, yet the environment encourages children to
interact with others. There are real plants and flowers, a kiln, a kitchen, a piazza, dining room,
toileting rooms, and garden areas.
**There is a light table, which is a table with lighting underneath a glass or Plexiglass cover, used
for drawing and exploring and related activities.
**In infant-toddler centers, the changing and bathing rooms are equipped with several waist-high
tubs for bathing.
**There are two teachers for each age group.
**Documentation of children's learning is everywhere, usually in the form of large photos of
children working together on a project with text about what the children are doing, thinking,
feeling, wondering, and questioning.
**The environment has wood floors and many wooden toys. The doors are partly glass. All the
materials are from the natural world or from the recycling center. Homemade puppets and a
puppet theater made by parents are in some centers.
**The atelier and mini-atelier have a beautiful array of art materials, including colored pencils,
markers, paints, materials for collages and sorting (usually in a box with sections, each section
containing different materials such as dried red peppers or beans), pencils and pens of different
kinds, and various colors and shapes of paper. Trough sinks are in the bathing, changing, and
toileting rooms. These low spacious sinks with several spigots allow children to easily reach the
tap and stand close together while washing hands, or engage in water play.
**The outside environments have areas for water play, hills with climbers, a child-sized maze of
small trees planted by parents, and picnic tables.
**Children with "special rights" have priority in enrolling in the Reggio Emilia schools. One child
with autism was allowed to roam around the school for several months while the teachers
observed her to find out what was interesting and motivating for her.
**Time out is not used in Reggio Emilia. Self-knowledge and self-understanding are major goals
for young children. Their philosophy is that each child is accepted for his or her unique learning
style. A child who is very active is not seen as a problem, but as a child who needs to move
around during the day, and adaptations are made for the child. Drugs are not given to children for
|Here are some reflections from teachers at Reggio Emilia:
~Take time to listen and know what you are listening for.
~Listen to each child's melody.
~Provide space and time to be alone.
~Accept the premise that learning need not be lonely.
~Recognize that dialogue is more valuable than singular thought.
~Keep boredom away.
~Value the process of thinking.
~Help children ask, "Why?"
~Seek truth, but realize there is no one truth.
~Accept and value differences
~Shun the stigma associated with a disability
~Have a profound respect for each child.
~Look further into the reasons for a child's behavior, rather than just the external signs.
~Recognize that it is all about relationships.
~Understand the importance of enjoying food and rest.
~Observe, document, interpret.
~Wait, watch, respond.
~Recognize that documentation is visible listening.
~View the child as the protagonist in the environment.
~See the teacher as a facilitator and guide assisting the child in learning.
~Understand that instruction and education are different.
~Do not hurry the child or yourself.