I am often asked what the Reggio Emilia Approach 'means', and I find that my answer varies in the depth that I share depending on who I am speaking to! So not to scare some people off by my passionate spilling of information or to intrigue a person in just the right way to get them thinking and wondering more!
One of the special facets of the Reggio Emilia Approach is that it has to be connected and interpreted with the local culture, people and environment in mind. I believe then in turn, that we can say the same for the way educators define the Approach.
To me, the Reggio Emilia Approach is a way of being with children. The approach has encouraged me to be an attentive, intuitive, and mindful educator. I am reminded often, to slow down, dig deeper and think outside of my realm of understanding. It empowers the education system to be connected with the present moment. Teaching each child at the age they are now and not 'preparing them' for what's to come. This freedom to let a child just 'be' in the classroom makes for such a lighter workload and enjoyable experience for all. It's about believing that children are capable beings and have many ways of showing their intelligence and understanding of the world. As the educator, it's my responsibility to ensure that the environment allows children to explore those ideas and that I facilitate their learning. To do this, we explore theories through a multi-modal, inquiry based approach that is realistic, hands-on, and full of authentic experiences. As the educator, I listen to the interests of the group and connect them with multiple resources to develop their understanding and give them time to share what they know, what the wonder and what they have learned. Project-based experiences allow children to developed a deeper understanding of things they are interested in. Which lends itself to giving children time to theorise, problematise, discover and re-develop their understandings. Then, as the educator, showcasing these processes through documentation. Mindfully choosing ways to display a child's learning process to share with others, to act as a learning tool and to put value behind process focused education. All of this demonstrates the respect for children; where they are, who they are, what they think, and how they connect. And as my smile widens, I have to say that it's about love. A love for children and the unique gifts they bring. A love for discovery; the pure joy found in learning something new. A love for the unknown that each day brings. And the love that you feel when you belong, when you're connected to what you do and the world around you. Summed up for me beautifully by Loris Malaguzzi, a man who began his journey with a goal in mind, 'nothing without joy'.
What does the Reggio Emilia Approach mean to YOU? How have you interpreted it and how do you 'explain' it to others? Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts!