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Reflections from Reggio Emilia

Reflections from Reggio Emilia

Reflections from Carrie Kries

“Nothing happens without happiness” – Loris Malaguzzi

From November 3-11, I had the unique privilege of traveling to Reggio Emilia, Italy with three extraordinary teachers: Carmen Andino, Evan Garfield, and Kayleigh McAllister. When we left, we had a shared curiosity about the ways in which we might find Britt Hawthorne’s 4-part ABAR Framework (1. Self-love 2. Embrace People 3. Identify Unfairness 4. Act Justly) embedded in the Reggio philosophy. 

On the very first day of our studies at the Loris Malaguzzi Center, one of the pedagogistas emphatically shared, “It is in the first thousand days of life that children acquire a sense of their own identity; it is in these thousand days that they learn how to learn.”  As our learning continued, I was awestruck to hear one educator after the next reinforce that our role as early childhood educators is to see a child as a powerful individual, capable of building their own knowledge through their own processes. 

I was also deeply moved by the intentionality surrounding the development of a sense of community within the Reggio Emilia schools. Every single member of the community comes together to make meaning out of learning. The children, the educators and the parents are all stakeholders in the “educational project”, working together to generate and nurture the culture of solidarity, responsibility and inclusion.

By the week’s end, one of my most meaningful takeaways was that while what happens within a Reggio school is aesthetically beautiful, enticing and, in so many ways, magical, it is also deeply cerebral and experiential. Reggio is unmistakably metacognitive in nature; it is how we, as adults, think about the way children think, how they learn, and what they wonder about. For me, I now think of Reggio as a mindset, as a way of being, as a way of demonstrating reverence for every single child and all that makes them just who they are. 

Reflections from Kayleigh McAllister (Teacher at Duane Street)

During our time in Reggio Emilia, we had the privilege of listening to Stefano Sturloni, an atelierista from one of the preschools, speak about the use of nature and plants in his work with the children. Stefano’s presentation left me with two takeaways that I have thought about daily in my practice. While the children’s access to nature in the schools we visited is certainly different from our access to nature in the city, Stefano inspired us to “find nature in even the smallest of places… even cracks in the sidewalk.” With this guidance, we Immediately began to notice the tiny pockets of nature that could be found in the most unassuming places around Reggio Emilia. There are endless opportunities for finding these pockets of nature in NYC and as our class begins to explore more outside, we will certainly be on the lookout. 

Stefano also encouraged us to think about the scientific process as a fundamental part of the Reggio Emilia approach. We all experience (many) daily occurrences of the “why?” questions that young children constantly think of. While discussion and books are always incredible resources for answering these questions, I plan to challenge myself to create as many hands-on opportunities for children to find these answers in their own way. 

Perhaps I could even challenge you all to try and find the pockets of nature in your walks around the city with your children and to create moments of exploration when possible in response to the questions from our always-curious children. 

Reflections from Carmen Andino (Teacher at Hudson Street)

While in Reggio Emilia, we had the opportunity to visit REMIDA, il Centro di Riciclaggio Creativo. The REMIDA can be explained as a recycling center, as they collect reusable materials. However, unlike recycling centers in the United States, this center focuses on collecting with the intention that the materials will be given a “new life.” Materials are donated to REMIDA from local businesses that are unused, overstock, or imperfect. It is a place of research and education with many goals, including keeping usable materials from becoming waste and to promote sustainability through community action. 

Throughout our week of learning, materials were talked about for their possibilities. Words of wisdom from Italian writer Gianni Rodari encouraged us to “make a creative event out of an object to extract it from the facts-of-life category… [to] shake the object, extract the object from the series of usual associations.” During our lectures and school visits, we saw pictures and examples of children using a variety of materials to explore scientific theories, create representations of everyday life, and explain their thinking. We engaged in hands-on experiences and created metaphors through objects, tested phenomenons of movement and dimension with objects and light, used objects to create working machines, and used objects in partnership with photography to capture movement in nature.  

It was said during a lecture that, “materials can be a language to talk about rights - the rights of value with imperfection.” Throughout my time in Reggio, I observed that this conversation was happening in the schools between children, their teachers, and the community. The objects that we interacted with were in their “new life” and the imperfections that might have made them unusable for some, ultimately enhanced our learning experiences. This also made me think about our ABAR framework and how places like REMIDA and early childhood centers in Reggio Emilia are practicing identifying unfairness, acting justly, caring for people, and practicing self love through their material collection practices. I am inspired to think about how our classrooms might use objects in ways to give them “new life” and how our school community might seek out material contributions from local businesses and forge new connections that enhance our sustainability practices and use of objects at school.

Reflections from Evan Garfield (WMS Music Teacher)

Our week spent in Italy was inspiring and invigorating in so many ways. I am struck by the profound level of respect and trust held for the children in their school communities in Reggio. We were reminded just how empowering it is for children to feel deeply trusted and invited to share their inner worlds with their teachers and peers. In the Reggio approach the curriculum is never static, but instead is continuously evolving in close collaboration with the children - their perspectives and insights are always meaningful and worth paying very close attention to. For me this is one example of where Britt Hawthorne’s ABAR (Anti-Bias, Anti-Racist) framework shows up in the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Britt’s framework begins with self-love because it establishes a strong foundation that allows us to work towards embracing people, identifying unfairness, and acting justly. In Reggio, it’s clear that the children develop a lifelong sense of worthiness and self-love in relationship with their teachers who notice and validate them with great intention and consistency. As the WMS Music Studio teacher, I’m feeling inspired with new ideas and ways of thinking about the children and my role in our work together. In my first week back with the children, I’ve already begun dedicating more time to their questions and observations. It has felt immediately fruitful to bring more patience and a slower pace to our classes in this way. I’ve again been reminded that the children’s perspectives and curiosities are always relevant and deeply meaningful in our work together.