"Oh yes, Reggio Emilia....I've heard of that......Now what exactly is Reggio Emilia?" Yes, this is a common reaction. Well, in all fairness mentioning "Waldorf" can prompt some funny looks as well, but on a much smaller scale, and it's a topic for another time.The gist of Reggio Emilia is the following: Focus is on the child, not only as a learner but also as a guide. The teacher not only facilitates but is a learner as well. When the teacher observes how a child acquires information, ergo knowledge, the teacher can better understand how that particular child learns and can structure a true individualized curriculum and environment. How is this brought about? With a lot of work and a surprising amount of structure! The portfolio method of evaluation is absolutely essential, and the teacher needs to have a tight enough grip on his ego to allow the child to guide himself. A hands-off approach is not as easy to develop as one might think. After the approach is underway, though, there becomes a natural flow to the activities of the day that, while focused, are completely fluid.
Brainstorming by the individual child (or by the class) initiates a topic. The curriculum then is developed by focusing on a particular topic and evolves into a multi-dimensional project. Therefore Reggio Emilia in this country is often referred to as "Project Approach". A project concept is thoroughly researched over days, weeks and often over months. It all depends on the level of interest and the amount of detail invested. In this approach there is little emphasis on information memorization, but rather in the art of learning from new situations that present themselves and from schema (a multi-faceted perceptual model) rather than the isolated presentation of facts.
A Reggio class will display art that results from their careful investigation of the topic of interest. Learning is made evident by the art displayed. In essence, the environment becomes another means of evaluation and is in reality a diagnostic tool. These are, of course, just a few of the characteristics of Reggio style, and as I'm sure you see, can easily be incorporated into any teaching model to enhance an already existing program.
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