We know that children are born with amazing potential and capacities: curiosity, a drive to understand, the ability to wait, to wonder and to be amazed, the capacity to express themselves in many ways and the desire to form relationships with others and with the physical world. What kind of education and what kind of teachers do we need to foster these capacities?

The Reggio Emilia approach to Early Childhood education

The Reggio Emilia approach to Early Childhood education originates from Reggio Emilia, in Northern Italy. Post-World War II, a small group of women set about building a school in a nearby town. This is the first time in Italy there was an education setting established specifically for Early Childhood aged children.

In Reggio Emilia there are over 35 of these preschools – a relatively small number of centres given the international attention and subsequent implementation of the Reggio Emilia approach across the globe. This teaching approach is regarded as one of the best Early Learning approaches, internationally, therefore we are now seeing in Australia a large number of Early Childhood settings inspired by the philosophies of Reggio Emilia.

You will hear…

There is a strong focus on collaboration, connection and cooperation in a centre inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to education. The entire approach is designed to connect all that surrounds a community; making connections between people and the physical environment, as nothing is left to sit in isolation. This approach values and supports children, teachers and families to regularly join together to continue to improve the curriculum and standards of Early Childhood education.

As educators, when we actively listen to children, we listen with all our senses to children’s many forms of expression. Children’s voices, thoughts and opinions are valued as much as the educators’. Children understand that they are actively engaging in research, and will share, discuss, debate, articulate and challenge knowledge and learning with their peers, educators and the community.

You will see…

Documentation begins by educators and families collating information, observations and children’s learning, in order to gain a holistic understanding of each child. Examples of documentation include observations, photography, video, conversation transcripts and/or visual mediums such as paint, wire, clay, drawing materials. Educators have a deep understanding that children learn through relationships with other children, teachers and families, and their physical environment. Documentation of the children’s learning is a way to make their thinking visible.

The space within the environment supports children to explore and research independently. Teachers intentionally plan for, organise and support a variety of spaces for children based on their documentation. The program is planned to ensure that there is a balance between individual, small and large groups, child directed and teacher initiated, and inside as well as outside experiences. There is a focus on projects where a concept is explored on a deeper level. Project work is where children are engaged in explorations of their world, making choices about what they will investigate, and then together with their teachers and peers making meaning.

Children’s relationships with other children, teachers, families and their learning environment are considered paramount for the child’s growth and life experiences. Through this, you will see a partnership between children, families, educators and the local community.

At River Garden in South Yarra, educators believe that the children have many ways
to express themselves. This is known as the “100 Languages” with a strong emphasis on the visual arts. It is believed that children learn in 100 ways, and 100 more. There is not one way to learn, which means educators have to cater for the many styles. This encourages a rich environment of learning where children and adults construct knowledge together. We  believe that children, from birth, are viewed as competent, curious, full of knowledge and potential, and are interested in connecting to the world around them. Educators create environments by selecting a range of accessible and purposeful, high quality resources and materials in order to support their expressions.

Reggio Emilia influences

At River Garden, there is a strong connection between the philosophies of Reggio Emilia and the Guardian Curriculum. Our open plan environment encourages interactions between multi age learning, where similarities and differences are celebrated and stereotypes are challenged. The space is designed to provoke wonder through an abundance of natural light, where concepts such as light, transparency and shadow are enhanced.

You will see that our resources have been carefully selected by our strong team of trained and experienced educators, to support our vision of how we believe young children learn. Our educators believe in the philosophies of Reggio Emilia and use these to underpin our program and planning. Each of our rooms is led by a Bachelor trained Early Childhood teacher who support the team to collaborate in order to consistently plan for children in a way that focuses on children learning in a 100 different ways.

We strongly believe in our children being active participants in the community and the community being a part of our centre. We model respect for our environment, each other and connections to the community through our Out and About Program; where children from birth to 6 years regularly explore the nearby community.

We believe the Guardian Curriculum, the influences of Reggio Emilia, regular visits to the local community through our Out and About Program, our rooftop garden, and our outdoor invention centre, provide a space where children, families and educators thrive. It is an environment where learning and successes are celebrated. Children are supported to become lifelong learners with the confidence, resilience and skills to succeed in their future education, successful careers and positive relationships.

Written by Jess Spath, Centre Manager, and Claire de Crespigny, Curriculum Mentor, River Garden, South Yarra.