WORLDS BEST PRACTICE
Originating in Italy, in a town called Reggio Emilia, this approach is becoming popular in the United States, England, Australia, New Zealand, and now Japan. It is fully recognized and recommended by many of the world’s leading experts in childcare.
The following overview of the Reggio Emilia Approach was taken from a packet of information available at The Hundred Languages of Children Traveling Exhibit.
Hailed as an exemplary model of early childhood education (Newsweek, 1991). The Reggio Emilia Approach to education is committed to the creation of conditions for learning that will enhance and facilitate children’s construction of “his or her own powers of thinking through the synthesis of all the expressive, communicative and cognitive languages” (Edwards and Forman, 1993). The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education is a city-run and sponsored system designed for all children from birth through six years of age (Note: Bilingual Kids International (BKI) Preschool is from 12 months to 6 years of age). The Reggio Emilia Approach can be viewed as a resource and inspiration to help educators, parents, and children as they work together to further develop their own educational programs.
ASPECTS OF THE R.E. APPROACH
An emergent curriculum is one that builds upon the interests of children. Topics for study are captured from the talk of children, through community or family events, as well as the known interests of children (dinosaurs, puddles, shadow, etc.). Team planning is an essential component of the emergent curriculum. Teachers work together to formulate hypotheses about the possible directions of a project, the materials needed, and possible parent and / or community support and involvement.
Projects, also emergent, are in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests which arise within the group. Considered as an adventure, projects may last one week or could continue throughout the school year. Throughout a project, teachers help children make decisions about the direction of study, the ways in which the group will research the topic, the representational medium that will demonstrate and showcase the topic and the selection of materials needed to represent the work.
Consistent with Howard Gardner’s notion of schooling for multiple intelligences, the Reggio Emilia Approach calls for the integration of the graphic arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development. Presentation of concepts and hypotheses in multiple forms of representation — print, art, construction, drama, music, puppetry, and shadow play — are viewed as essential to children’s understanding of experience.
Collaborative group work, both large and small, is considered valuable and necessary to advance cognitive development. Children are encouraged to dialogue, critique, compare, negotiate, hypothesize, and problem solve through group work. Within the Reggio Emilia Approach multiple perspectives promote both a sense of group membership and the uniqueness of self.
Teachers as Researchers
Teachers may research a project that the children are interested in. They will also guide the children into doing their own research. The children can then use the teachers as a guide and a resource to find out information on their own. The teachers listen, observe, and document the children’s work. Within the group, children are encouraged to collaborate with their friends and community. Teachers will at times provoke the children to stimulate thinking.
Similar to the Portfolio Approach, documentation of children’s work in progress is viewed as an important tool in the learning process for children, teachers, and parents. Pictures of children engaged in experiences, their words as they discuss what they are doing, feeling and thinking, and the children’s interpretation of experience through the visual media are displayed as a graphic presentation of the dynamics of learning.
Within the Reggio Emilia schools, great attention is given to the look and feel of the classroom. Environment is considered the “third teacher.” Teachers carefully organize space for small and large group projects and small intimate spaces for one, two or three children. Documentation of children’s work, plants, and collections that children have made from former outings are displayed both at the children’s and adult eye level. Common space available to all children in the school includes dramatic play areas and work tables for children from different classrooms to come together.
FEATURES OF THE R.E. APPROACH
- to co-explore the learning experience with the children
- to provoke ideas, problem solving, and conflict
- to take ideas from the children and return them for further exploration
- to organize the classroom and materials to be aesthetically pleasing
- to organize materials to help children make thoughtful decisions about the media
- to document children’s progress: visual, videotape, tape recording, portfolios
- to help children see the connections in learning and experiences
- to help children express their knowledge through representational work
- to form a “collective” among other teachers and parents
- to have a dialogue about the projects with parents and other teachers
- to foster the connection between home, school, and community
- can emerge from children’s ideas and / or interests
- can be provoked by teachers
- can be introduced by teachers knowing what is of interest to children: shadows, puddles, tall buildings, construction sites, nature, etc.
- should be long enough to develop over time, to discuss new ideas, to negotiate over, to induce conflicts, to revisit, to see progress, to see movement of ideas
- should be concrete, personal from real experiences, important to children, should be “large” enough for diversity of ideas and rich in interpretive / representational expression
- explore first: “What is this material?” “What does it do?” Finally, “What can I do with the material?”
- should have variation in colour, texture, and pattern: help children “see” the colours, tones, and hues; help children “feel” the texture, the similarities and the differences
- should be presented in an artistic manner: it should be aesthetically pleasing to look at; it should invite you to touch and admire; it should inspire
- should be revisited throughout many projects to help children see the possibilities
For further reading, please follow this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach
WHY REGGIO ?
A Creative Spirit may be the Best Investment in Your Child’s Future
In institutions around the world pressure is mounting on the sanctity of childhood, and with the pace of change in today’s world rapidly increasing, most of the world’s current educators have no idea of what’s going to happen in terms of the future.*
Our question is this: If we can’t grasp the future, how do we educate for it? We believe that the key is creativity and that, as educators, we have to go back to the basics and rethink the fundamental principles with which we educate our children. Creativity is not something we learn, it is something all children are born with which gets “undone” as they progress through the current “Left Brain” system. In rectifying this, we need environments that encourage, promote, and embrace play based creativity as a basic function of learning. The Reggio Emilia method of teaching allows opportunities for just such an environment. (To see some of the latest projects that the kids are doing please follow this link: http://www.bkipreschool.com/blog-red-hot-discoveries)
Successful adults are often those with the greatest problem solving abilities. More often than not this requires a measure of persistence and adaption, which can be learned, and when combined in a creative way produces exceptionally positive results. Our in-house method focuses on this right brain development, not merely on learning, but on learning how to learn through creative play, adaption and persistence. It’s the new kind of “Teach a Man to Fish” scenario which is so important in Early Childhood Education.
In teaching children how to learn how to learn so much is also about learning how to be motivated to teach themselves. What stays with the children is not so much about facts, but more about the contagious inspiration, motivation and excitement about learning that we pass on to them!
We believe that the age of “Left Brain Dominance” is now well and truly behind us and that the future will belong to those adults who have creative and emphatic Right Brain abilities. With up to 80% of your child’s personality being formed in these vital early years, now may be your very best opportunity to make such a positive difference at this critical time.
After all, if you cant see the future why not create it?
Reggio and Spoken English
Another central focus is your child's ability to speak and understand English. By tapping into your childs natural curiosity we draw out this ability. The Reggio Emilia Approach ensures that your child learns to discover the pleasure of inquiry. English becomes fun! and this in turn allows a great deal of time for reflection and revisiting of experiences through constant group discussion. This repetition of English provides constant positive reinforcement of words, sentences and grammar. Reggio is generally a far more “in-depth” method of learning than most other systems of childcare or standard English classes. This is carried out in a 100% English conversation environment. As all the subjects of inquiry and conversation follow the interests of the children it is our experience that BKI Kids have far more enthusiasm and energy which allows them to learn at their full capacity.
INTEGRATION (REGGIO AND CULTURE)
Being an international school in Tokyo, we realise that your child is in a unique learning environment, which requires a unique learning method. What is the most unique thing about Japanese and Western culture in terms of education?
The answer is simple. Japanese education is group-based and Western education focuses on the individual. The Reggio Emilia Approach balances the importance of group learning with individual learning. The philosophy of the Reggio Emilia Approach is also highly focused on the importance of relationships (between children, parents, staff, the community and other things in life) and nature, just as it is with Japanese culture. We believe that this is critically important for the bilingual child in Japan, as it forms a bridge between the two cultures. Such learning will also form a vital key to your child’s self identity if your child has one parent from each culture.