The Reggio Emilia Approach
The Reggio Emilia Approach derives its name from its place of origin, Reggio Emilia, a city located in Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy. Shortly after the Second World War, Loris Malaguzzi, a young teacher and the founder of this unique system, joined forces with the parents of this region to provide care for young children. Their focus was dedicated to respecting the rights of children. This was accomplished by listening to the children and observing their interactions with their surroundings. , problem-solving, and discoveries in the process of learning. (Gandini, 1993, p. 6).
The Reggio Emilia philosophy believes children have a natural curiosity to learn with unlimited potential. Children will make their own theories in an effort to explain how the world functions. Reggio Emilia practitioners believe that each child creates his or her own learning experience through direct interaction with his or her environment. Allowing children to build their own foundations means that intelligence is not memorized but created. Children are challenged with trying to communicate their emotions and expressions of how they understand their surroundings. They are individuals with their own thoughts, emotions, and expressions. These expressions are represented in the children's many languages: drawing, painting, sculpture, shadow play, dramatic play, and music.
The teacher is a researcher guiding children's experiences. Each child will bring a unique character and personality to school. This will play a major role in how the child interacts with the teacher and interprets learning experiences. Therefore, the teacher acts as a learner alongside the child. Teachers carefully listen, observe, and document children's work. In the classroom, teachers provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking as children work on projects.
The Environment as the Third Teacher
The layout of the physical space in the school encourages encounters, communication, and relationships. The arrangement of structures, objects, and activities encourage choices. The educators of Reggio Emilia view the school as a living organism, a place of shared relationships among the children, the teachers, and the parents. The school produces for the adults but, above all, for the children, a feeling of belonging in a world that is alive, welcoming, and authentic (Malaguzzi, 1994, p. 58).
One of the highlights of the Reggio Emilia Approach is its emphasis on complex, long-term exploration of projects. The projects undertaken by Reggio educators may derive from the children’s and ideas and interests, from their thoughts and theories. Teachers often work on projects with a small group of children while the rest of the classroom continues to involve itself in other self-selected activities and explorations.
The Importance of Documentation
Documentation is a key element in the Reggio Approach. Documentation serves many purposes; most of all, it is used as a research tool for studying children’s learning processes. Documentation concerns what children are doing, learning, and grasping, and the product of documentation is a reflection of interactions between teachers and children and among the children themselves. Documentation, because it is done on a daily basis, is a medium through which teachers discuss curriculum, keeping it fluid and emergent, and develop a rational for its course. It provides a growing theory for daily practice (Seong Bock Hong, 1998, p. 51).