An Innovative Approach to Early Childhood Education
By: Marla Pabalan, Atelerista
Hear Reggio-Emilia and it's a parmesan cheese thought bubble. The Reggio Emilia approach to education is a unique and innovative method of teaching and learning that has gained popularity worldwide. This program originated in the town of Reggio Emilia in northern Italy after World War II and has since been adopted in many countries. Here’s a closer look at what the Reggio Emilia program is all about.
In Keys, though, Reggio-Emilia, fondly shortened to RE, is the approach that inspires our PreK and K curriculum. Anchored in the principles of progressive education, it acknowledges the child as front and center of the curriculum, and also the importance of the contribution of other stakeholders - the rest of the community.
In addition to collaborative learning within and among its learners as seen in various projects, the RE approach also calls for the participation of parents as collaborators in their child’s learning, recognizes the teacher as facilitator of learning, and sees the environment as influential in the exploration and development of further knowledge and understanding of the world around them.
In the Spotlight: The Hundred Languages of Learning, Documentation, and Parent Involvement
- The Hundred Languages
Unique to the RE is The Hundred Languages of Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio-Emilia Approach. The Hundred Languages, a beautifully written poem, is also an approach that acknowledges each individual’s way of expression and communication - through the language of the arts, of literature, of architecture - the list, and the possibilities are endless.
In keeping with The Hundred Languages, Keys’ Atelier is a creative space where children may express themselves and their learning in ways that are meaningful to them. A child’s interest in sea creatures was reflected in the creation of sea castles using playdough and seashells, while another child’s curiosity on surfaces for painting was satisfied when given leeway to paint on a plastic plate instead of paper. Basics on the states of matter were introduced through the use of oobleck for painting, and the fundamentals of color theory continue to be explored as children work with all sorts of paints.
The Atelier has staple mark-making materials such as markers, pencils and crayon. These are available together with other visual arts tools. Unconventional items, part of the loose parts collection, are all in the knick-knack shelf, ready to be transformed into visual representation of learnings. The languages of the different disciplines of performing arts are supported too, as musical instruments, projector for shadow play, puppets, books, and even furniture, are within reach and ready for use.
- Documentation of Student Learning
Documentation is a word that is often heard within the walls of an RE inspired institution. Documentation is a strategy, a process - a way of gaining more understanding of children’s learning. It is more than just snapping photos, shooting videos, or recording conversations. Rather, it is the intentional, purposeful and deliberate gathering of information.
In Keys, documentation plays a vital role in supporting investigations. These documentations are reviewed, studied, and hypotheses on learning are made. These are eventually used to encourage investigations to continue or even evolve through presentation of various provocations, or carefully selected materials that may spark further interests, or through activities that, in addition to helping find answers, may actually open doors to further learning. Such is what happened when a wondering about the original beginnings of a classroom led to students interviewing members of the community who may shed light to the school’s history. In another class, wonderings on sound are enhanced by unusual sound sources on different surfaces, such as buttons and beads on a light table, stones inside plastic bottles, and other everyday objects that may be struck or shaken.
- Parent and Community Involvement
At Keys, we emphasize on a strong home-school collaboration as families and their communities are part of the children’s learning opportunities. They are considered as essential resources of the children’s investigations and research for their projects. Community Involvement also promotes an expectation that the families and children are active participants within their communities.
This approach provides a supportive and engaging environment where work is play and play is work, they all discover and celebrate the many joyful moments of learning.