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Understanding a Reggio Emilia Inspired Program

Understanding a Reggio Emilia Inspired Program

"Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water.
Through an active, reciprocal exchange, teaching can strengthen learning how to learn."

- Loris Malaguzzi

Loris Malaguzzi is considered one of the founding believers in the Emergent curriculum philosophy, starting with his Reggio-Emilia Philosophy. You see Emergent curriculum is not in fact a curriculum in the typical sense.

The Reggio approach emphasizes an emergent curriculum that is child-led, emerges from the interests and ideas of the children, and developed through a process of ongoing negotiation with children, teachers and parents (Mawson, 2010). Through the vehicle of discussion, project-based learning experiences, and the value of children's ideas, opinions, experiences and funds of knowledge which they bring to discussions, children experience a rich variety of learning opportunities that are meaningful, purposeful, relevant to them…The value of 'learning by doing' is emphasized through a project-based approach to learning experiences in which children are given the time, space and materials they need to explore, investigate and develop their interests…Although the teacher's role is to provide provocations to stimulate discussion and enrich these learning experiences, children are encouraged to lead their own learning and to follow their own interests, building on their funds of knowledge, strengths and preferred ways of learning, while being supported to extend their capacity and repertoire for learning. As a vehicle for the emergent curriculum, this project approach encourages children to actively take ownership of the focus and process of their research and learning.[]

There are no worksheets or designated themes with Emergent Curriculum, instead there is creativity in the lesson plan, freedom from worksheets and an ability to design projects around the interest the children are showing for a specific subject.

“Creativity is at the heart of all learning experiences for children. It is "a way of thinking, knowing and making choices, and can be demonstrated in any aspect of learning" (Thornton & Brunton, 2014, p. 33). As creativity is at the heart of the Reggio approach, children are supported and encouraged to discover and experience a variety of ways to express their thoughts, ideas and creativity through their 'hundred languages'. “ []

In teaching there is a great temptation to simplify for children rather than acknowledge their right to explore the complexity of their reality.

You see, as adults we believe that children have needs. That they are blank slates with needs to be filled up, but emergent curriculum allows us to view children through a lens that allows Children to be seen as individuals who bear rights not needs.
Children have the right to joy, to curiosity, to beauty, the right to a beautiful reality.
Children have a right to discover the world in their own way and allow that way to be respected.

Children have a right to keep intact the sense of wonder and sense of curiosity and amazement of the ways of the world.

Children are not blank slates that need to be filled up, children are native constructors and native builders. They are Native constructors of their knowledge and Native builders for their foundation of understanding.

Children are encouraged to talk, critique, compare, negotiate, hypothesize, and problem-solve through group work.

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 (puddles, shadow, dinosaurs, etc.).

If we think of the learning and teaching process as a relationship then there isn’t only one part of this dynamic and the children are no longer the only part of learning.

What we can see happening is that learning becomes a more reciprocal process between the teacher and children.

Within the Reggio Emilia approach, different approaches toward the same investigation are all valued, and thus children are given access to many tools and media to express themselves.

Emergent Curriculum develops from exploring ideas that are socially relevant, intellectually engaging and personally meaningful to children. Ideas can come from any source: teachers, parents, chance events and of course, the interests of children.

Children have the potential and support to develop resilience through problem solving, trial and error, and learning to approach and work through self-set or unanticipated challenges throughout the learning process.

Children are also supported to manage risk and responsibility and to develop negotiation skills as they are given the freedom to pursue their interests, make choices, and change the direction of their learning.

Creative, critical thinking skills, curiosity, reflection, self-awareness and autonomy are also fostered and nurtured along the way, enriching the learning and teaching process as children and adults share and negotiate the roles of learner and teacher.

Not only is children's learning enriched through this negotiated process, but the adults are also enriched in their own learning and their role as facilitators and guides.

Children and adults develop a greater sense of wonder, joy and anticipation for the reciprocal learning process as they embark together on a learning journey where the destination is unknown but the potential and possibilities are rich.

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