Today I wanted to open a discussion about being inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to early education. For now, I’m only delving into provocations, but more is soon to come. If you’ve been reading my blogs and my website pages, you’re already aware that The Marigold School of Early Learning is a program inspired by more than one theory of education, but the Reggio approach is the main one I integrate into my program. I would like to open a dialogue with those of you who run your own small preschools and to those of you who are parents and integrate aspects of the Reggio approach in your home with your children. So if you’re interested in having a fun discussion with me please take some time to leave your comments below or private message me if you don’t want to share with the world. I would love to start and keep a healthy dialogue going surrounding this broad topic. 🙂
These are just a few books I’ve had for years and have used often when teaching both preschool and the primary grades. I’ve found them to be not only useful but inspiring and motivational. Well written educational sources are ones that last through the years and are tried and true. Whenever I pick them up I learn something new all over again. Have you found that to be the case with your resources too?
Provocations are an aspect of the Reggio Emilia approach to education that I often feel have the appearance at first of being nothing, yet in fact, they have the potential to allow children to grow in such unexpected ways. Provocations are also risks we take as teachers with our student’s learning. My educational background is both progressive and traditional so I’ve found that from a more traditional side provocations can insight more anxiety and a feeling of not being in complete control with what I’m introducing or delving deep in with the children in terms of curriculum. However, from my progressive side, I love the flexibility, openness, and potential for learning that does happen with provocations. Giving young children the room, respect and means to question, explore, manipulate and experiment can be much more meaningful and beneficial to children than pre-planned and limited lessons. Children are powerful learners and gain knowledge not only from adults and the environment but from each other. They, in turn, are teachers and they share what they’ve learned, what they’ve understood, and quite frankly, what better educators than children teaching children!
As a teacher, I am a facilitator, support, and contributor to children’s learning. I also have the responsibility as a teacher influenced by the Reggio approach to really listen to the dialogue of children. It is within the children’s actions and dialogue that furthering their learning becomes more meaningful, practical and advanced. Yes, advanced is exactly what I mean. Young children can learn much more than we usually expect or think them capable and I’m not talking about standards and tests. I’m talking about learning environments that truly are created and used to not only teach children and introduce new knowledge to them, but environments that allow children to learn from each other, the teacher, and the “third teacher”, the classroom. The Reggio approach is a form of constructivism and children do learn from their own explorations and interactions. Internal motivation is key to how much or how little a child will learn. Yet, external motivation is also influential and that comes in the form of interacting with peers and adults. Each child, each person varies in how heavily they acquire knowledge from either internal motivation or external.
We mustn’t forget that young children are often times “adult pleasers”, so yes, they can do the more traditional letter and number worksheets, but those are simply to please the adults around them constantly praising them for how nice the all capital letter page they just finished is. Those types of methods of teaching are out of date and quite frankly not as influential or long lasting as allowing children to learn in a more natural and developmentally appropriate way. True learning comes from a child having a question, being free to explore and manipulate, or play with several tactile materials. Learning comes from a child being able to freely speak their mind, work alone or together experimenting and the process that evolves is complex, incomplete and deep! I say incomplete because with all learning there is room for constant growth. The traditional worksheet and teacher lead lessons for young children is not developmentally appropriate, so when you read or hear how “developmentally appropriate” a program is and you see cookie cutter art, worksheets and basically carbon copies all over the walls, you know this is not developmentally appropriate. And these types of programs are not about children learning, they are about pleasing adults. The children’s actual abilities in those programs are not valued or respected. The child as a learner is lost and not valued in most traditional teacher lead programs.
I love the Reggio approach because it values the unique child! Every child has the capability to learn and become something great in their life. It all starts with early learning in the home, with family and the first school experiences each embarks upon. Respecting a child’s natural abilities and helping that child grow and learn to their fullest potential all starts in the early years. “Play” is the most natural way a human being learns. We use the term “play”, but what that means is that human beings have evolved and grown into the society we have today because we interact with our environment in many different ways. Human beings have been “playing” since we arrived on the scene. Think of all the professions we have in our modern day society, and how we interact with our environment in so many different ways in order to produce usable materials and in order to continue gaining new knowledge. It is completely natural and appropriate that the early years of learning be years in which your child is supported, encouraged and respected for where they are at developmentally and where they will eventually evolve to. These first formal learning experiences do not have to be forced, unnatural, adult-pleasing and harsh. These precious early years can be happy, energizing, free, creative, supportive, respectful and truly developmentally appropriate! 🙂
How do you implement aspects of the Reggio approach in your preschool or home? What ways do you show your students or children that you value them and respect their efforts? Please like, share and comment!
Heidi Scott, BA & MIT
The Marigold School of Early Learning!