In 1963, the people of Reggio Emilia, Italy, wanted to insure that their children attended a school system that provided opportunities to develop their intelligence and to prepare for the successes of life. So, over three decades ago, a municipality-sponsored preschool began. Loris Malaguzzi and the parents and community of this close and communal town headed the new program. By 1967 there were 20 municipality preschools for young children between the ages of three and six years. The first municipal infant-toddler program also began in that year.
The people of Reggio Emilia view the child as strong, rich in potential, powerful, competent, resourceful, curious, and loving. They see the child as having a tremendous desire to learn and the capability of constructing his own education. The child, in Reggio Emilia, is a researcher and is allowed to take a lead in his education. The child is encouraged to wonder, take notice, and make new relationships that allow him to reach a new level of understanding and development.
The Reggio Approach is often called "the education based on relationships." Since the Reggio community believed the child had the appropriate capabilities, they created a program rich in research, learning, reconsideration, communication and reflection in a sociable environment. Parents, teachers and children have strong communication networks. They focus on each child in relation to other children, family, teachers, the environment of the school and community as well as the child's relation to society at large.
The Reggio curriculum is founded on projects. Projects emerge from the children's expressed interests. They are not planned out in advance, but rather build upon the continued experiences of the child in the process of constructing his knowledge. Projects can be short term, lasting a few days, or long term, lasting a few months to a year. Projects usually require little money and lots of fantasy. There is usually more than one project happening at one time, so each project may not be worked on daily. The children often revisit and refine a project, constantly moving from theory to practice until their inner knowledge is reached.
Art is the staple to all projects. In Reggio Emilia preschools, art is not considered just "art" but symbolic expressions. These symbolic expressions are called "the hundred languages" of children. Loris Malaguzzi explains the child's hundred languages the best in the beginning of a poem he wrote (The Hundred Languages of Children, 1998):
The child is made of one hundred.
The child has a hundred languages, a hundred hands, a hundred thoughts.
A hundred ways of thinking, of playing, of speaking.
A hundred, always a hundred ways of listening, of marveling, of loving.
A hundred joys for singing and understanding.
A hundred worlds to discover.
A hundred worlds to invent.
A hundred worlds to dream.
Another key element to the Reggio approach is documentation. The children's work is documented by transcribing conversations and discussions with peers and teachers which is placed next to photographs, sculptures, drawings and paintings. Documentation is considered part of the curriculum and has several functions. Parents become aware of the children's experiences and stay involved with the children's learning process. Documentation helps the teachers to grow professionally by evaluating their work and facilitating the exchange of ideas between each other, as well as to gain a better understanding of the children.
Implementation of the Reggio Approach is not extremely costly. However, to fully implement the approach to the best of our abilities in America, a group homeschool setting with children of differing ages that meets often (more than once or twice a week) is the ideal.
The Reggio approach is fairly new to America, so unfortunately much of the information available is in Italian--although information published in English is rapidly growing. At this time, there are a number of articles, Web sites, and a few books published in English.
Books or Periodicals for Reference:
Edwards, C., Gandini L., & Forman, G. (1998). The Hundred Languages of Children. Connecticut: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
Young Children. (1993). Washington: NAEYC (A number of articles available in this issue.)
Municipal Infant-Toddler Centers and Preschools of Reggio Emilia. (1996). Municipal of Reggio Emilia. (This is available on the CDACouncil website for a fee.)
Innovation in Early Education. Michigan:The Merrill-Palmer Institute, Wayne State University. (This is available on the Merrill-Palmer Institute website for a fee.)
- Reggio Emilia Approach - This section of the ECAP/ITG Web site contains information and resources related to the approach to early childhood education developed in the preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy.
- Reggio Emelia Approach - This is a link farm to in-depth information, white papers, and articles regarding the Reggio Emelia approach.
- Reggio Emilia: Some Lessons for U.S. Educators. ERIC Digest - This is an article for professionals that explains the Reggio Emilia approach in terms of its value to US educators.
- The Project Approach - This site focuses on the principles of Reggio Emilia by focusing on in-depth descriptions of the project-based approach to learning for early childhood and elementary school children.
- Reggio Emilia Educational Philosophy - This site provides a general overview of the philosophy.
- Reggio Emilia Links - Web sites about The Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood education follow.