Children are naturally curious, inquisitive and engaged with their environment. When their surroundings are stimulating, they learn through experiment, trial and error and discovery. In other words, they learn through play.
The Reggio Emilia Approach
The concept of children learning by doing is part of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, a play-based, child-led early years and primary school approach that originated in Northern Italy after WWII when parents and teachers in the city of Reggio Emilia believed there was a better way to teach children and inspire young minds. Since its conception in Northern Italy, the philosophy has been embraced in more than 80 countries around the world today, including local school St Therese’s School, Bentley Park.
“The principles of Reggio Emilia are around the image of the child, making learning visible, parent participation and the environment as crucial elements to learning,” said Jacqueline Jackson, who is the Assistant Principal Administration at St Therese’s School where the innovative approach has been adopted.
So what is the Reggio Emilia philosophy about exactly? In a nutshell, the philosophy has three core principles: the child, the environment and the teacher.
The approach views the child as the owner of their learning journey. The child is seen as a capable, resilient learner who uses their own unique ways of thinking and exploring to create meaningful learning experiences. Children use the ‘Hundred Languages of Children’ to express their thoughts and ideas including drawing, writing, painting, storytelling, dance, song and pretend play.
The learning environment is crucial for this approach to learning and should enable children to explore, play and pursue their interests while providing a source of stimulation. Children should be able to touch, listen, see and move to develop a deeper understanding.
The teacher is encouraged to gently guide, mentor and observe students rather than simply direct them. They work alongside students, ask questions to stimulate and engage and listen to the child’s ideas.
The Reggio Emilia approach views parents and the community as essential to the learning process for the child. It takes a village to raise a child, after all, and this sense of communal responsibility is encouraged.
The Benefits of Reggio Emilia
The Reggio Emilia approach aims to ignite a love of learning from a young age, while respecting that all children learn in different ways.
“There is a growing body of evidence showing the importance of a strong start in life including the role of experience, environment and relationships and their direct effect on achievement and wellbeing,” explains Jacqueline.
The Reggio Emilia approach encourages children to be the best version of themselves and sets them up for a life of inquiry, experiment and learning.
The Reggio Emilia Approach at Home
This approach to learning is play-based and child-led, so you can follow your child’s lead to create learning experiences based on their interests. Below are some ideas to inspire you at home:
- Open-ended toys lead to open-ended play. Purchase or create toys with multiple uses that allow your child to use their imagination. Think wooden blocks that could be used to create different shapes, can be organised in colours, counted or stacked. Play dough, which can be used to make countless shapes, animals and learning experiences. Costumes, play kitchens and sensory boxes are great too.
- Collect items from nature such as shells, pine cones, stones, sticks, leaves and feathers. These can be used for counting, stacking, artwork, craft, storytime or however your child decides to incorporate them into their learning.
- Observe your child’s interests and explore these topics. For example, your child may be interested in spiders and love the song Itsy Bitsy Spider. You could make spiders out of clay and sticks or cardboard and recreate the Itsy Bitsy Spider song using a watering can. This involves a variety of skills and learning opportunities including counting the legs as you make the spider, naming the body parts, remembering the words to the song and making the lyrics come to life through performance.
- Veggie gardens, potted herbs or general gardening are great ways to learn about responsibility, science, plants, food, nutrition, the senses and nature.
Reggio Emilia at St Therese’s School, Bentley Park
To learn more about the philosophy of Reggio Emilia, visit Reggio Children
For more tips on how to ‘Raise the child, change the world’, read the latest issue of Raise Magazine.