Fundamental Principles of The Reggio Emilia Approach

The Reggio Emilia approach is a child-led approach to early-childhood education developed by psychologist Loris Malaguzzi in Italy out of a movement towards a progressive and cooperative style of learning. Reggio Emilia inspired communities value the child as strong, capable and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge. Every child brings with them deep curiosity and potential and this innate curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it. This approach encourages each child’s creativity in a carefully designed setting.

The Image of the Child

At the heart of Reggio Emilia is the powerful image of the child. Rather than seeing children as empty vessels that require filling with facts, Reggio educators see children as full of potential, competent and capable of building their own theories.

Children are active participants in constructing their own learning. They are driven by their interests to understand and know more. They have the right to negotiate with the elements of their environment and construct knowledge as competent and curious apprentices.

Collaboration and Interaction

Children form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world through their interactions with others. There is a strong focus on social collaboration, working in groups, where each child is an equal participant, having their thoughts and questions valued. The adult is not the giver of knowledge. Children search out the knowledge through their own investigations.

Relationships with family, with other children, with the teachers, with the environment of the school and with the community are a part of a system where they are interconnected, reciprocal and fully supported.

Children are Communicators

Communication is a process, a way of discovering things, asking questions, using language as play. Playing with sounds and rhythm and rhyme; delighting in the process of communicating.

Children are encouraged to use language to investigate and explore, to reflect on their experiences. They are listened to with respect, believing that their questions and observations are an opportunity to learn and search together. This is a continual and collaboration process. Rather than the child asking a question and the adult offering the answers, the search is undertaken together.

The Environment as the Third Teacher

The environment is recognized for its potential to inspire children. An environment filled with raw materials, natural light, and beauty allow for organic invention. Open spaces free from clutter, where every material is considered for its purpose and every corner is ever-evolving to encourage children to collaborate, communicate, and delve deeper into their interests.

With carefully planned spaces and well-organized materials, children are free to spend more time on projects that interest them and are often able to move between activities at their own pace. The space is cared for together by the children and the adults.

A Negotiated Curriculum

The Reggio Emilia Approach takes a child-led project approach. The role of adults is to observe the children, listen to their questions and their stories, find what interests them and then provide them with opportunities to explore these interests further.

The projects aren’t planned in advance; they emerge based on the child’s interests and through the observations of children’s spontaneous play and exploration.

Documentation…Making Learning Visible

In Reggio-inspired settings, there is an emphasis on carefully displaying and documenting children’s thoughts and progression of thinking. By making their learning visible through photographs, direct transcriptions of children’s thoughts and explanations, visual representations (drawings, sculptures etc.), teachers are able to identify strengths, recognize and value a child’s effort, and refine the curriculum accordingly.

Children take great pride in creating portfolios of their work. These portfolios and displayed works of self-expression help make children aware that their effort is valued and make parents aware of their child’s experience.

The Hundred Languages of Children

Probably the most well-known aspect of the Reggio Emilia Approach is the belief that children use many different ways to show their understanding and express their thoughts and creativity.

There are a hundred different ways of thinking,  discovering, and learning: through drawing and sculpting, through dance and movement, through painting and pretend play, through modeling and music. Each one of these Hundred Languages must be valued and nurtured.

These languages, or ways of learning, are all a part of the child. Learning and play are not separated.

The Reggio Emilia Approach emphasizes hands-on discovery learning that allows the child to use all their senses and all their languages to learn.

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