While the beauty of the environments of the preschools of Reggio Emilia is renowned, and while the importance of environment is a critical component of the philosophy, the educational philosophy of Reggio Emilia preschool educators is about so much more than the aesthetic beauty of their environments. Many of us have been attracted to the aesthetics and seek to implement this idea in our programs, yet as I addressed in a previous post, to focus merely on surface belies the import and potential impact of the Reggio approach.
For me personally, it is the profound attention to and respect for the development of thought in young children that is the power of the Reggio philosophy.
Children learn by doing but also by reflecting on what they are doing. They go forward and pause, stop, go backwards. This all takes place in exchange with others…the process is never linear or made up of a predetermined sequence…[We need] not to understand what they have learned but how they have learned it, not the product but rather the process, the construction of knowledge with other children and how they learn to learn.
The Educators of Reggio Emilia, Canadian Study Tour to Reggio Emilia, April 2011
This particular quote (from a lecture during a study tour to Reggio) highlights to me some of the complexity and the power of the approach of the educators of Reggio Emilia. To me, the beauty and strength in their philosophy lies in their deep respect and value for the children with whom they work and their determination not to belittle children’s thinking as ‘cute’ but to honour it, to listen for it, to nurture it and to make it visible.
They understand that to learn, we need to discuss, reflect and analyze our thoughts in the context of being with others and that young children have the same need to do this as do adults. In developing new understandings, we go back and forth over new ideas as they mix and intertwine with ones we hold already in our consciousness. Through this interplay, we derive new understandings.
It is attention to slowing down and noticing the process and not focusing on end results that I believe so differentiates the Reggio Educators and what makes their approach so enticing in our rapidly changing world. It is this type of approach towards education that I believe will lead to creativity and the development of new thinking, new ideas, new solutions and new questions to the challenges we face today in education and indeed, in our world.
And it begins with our youngest learners.
Written by Sandra Rosekat