Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia model is an Italian-based educational approach developed by educator Loris Malaguzzi and parents who desired a progressive and cooperative education system post-World War II. Hailed as an exemplary model of early childhood education (Newsweek, 1991), the Reggio Emilia approach believes that children are full of potential, knowledge-rich, and possess an innate curiosity to learn more about the world around them.

When we look at the education system in Reggio Emilia, we see a strong connection between families and educators, children and their environment, and the program and the community. We see how families and educators have created programs for young children that reflect their community values. We see something that comes natural to them. Although we cannot replicate this approach because of cultural and lifestyle differences, we can be inspired by their findings and implement many of their practices to improve our own educational system.

Why Reggio?

View of the child: The child has rights and is highly respected as an important member of the community and viewed as capable, competent, and curious. They are naturally driven to construct their own learning to have a better understanding of the world. Children are learning and making connections from the moment they arrive into this world. This can be contrasted by the general American view of children, as we often see them as defenseless, naturally incompetent, and in need of protection. Trusting children and respecting their desire for exploration defines the Reggio approach.

Emergent, project-based curriculum: "Emergent curriculum" simply means a curriculum built off the interests of the children. Topics emerge from everyday conversation with and between children, general interests of children, and by provocation from educators. Educator collaboration is essential in producing a thriving curriculum. As a team, they work together to brainstorm possible project directions, materials required, and family/community involvement needed. A project-based approach provides no specific deadline on the topic of focus. This allows for in-depth studies on each topic and its concepts, and further builds interest. Projects can least a week, a month, or continue throughout the year. Educators act as a guide in helping children decide in what direction they want to take their project, how they want to research it, what materials they wish to present with, and in what format they wish to present through. Learning is not seen as a linear process, but a spiraling progression, and should be sustained.

Relationships: Family presence is a fundamental part of a child's success in many aspects of their life. Parents are their child's first educator, therefore they are viewed as a contributing and knowledgeable part of their child's learning experience. They have a right to and are expected to be involved in their child's development and experiences.

Observation and documentation: Observation is the process in which you carefully observe a child's actions in order to gain information. In return, you document what you observe. This includes photographs and video of activity, transcripts of child's discussion or statements made while working, or the actual pieces of work produced by a child. Documentation serves several purposes: 1) Allows educators to carefully study and project the direction in which children desire to or are already moving in. 2) Provides educators the opportunity to evaluate their own work. 3) Makes parents aware of their child's experiences and creates involvement. 4) Shows children that their work is valued and provides a sense of belonging in their environment.

Environment as the third educator: The environment is designed to support the educational vision of the Reggio-inspired program. It facilitates communication and creates an environment that is lived in and can easily be changed. The environment should support the work and interests of the children on their own terms without a heavy need for educator guidance and intervention. It is set up with just the right amount of provocation to stimulate children's minds.

Educator role: The primary role of an educator is to be a child's partner in learning. Educators are just as highly valued as children and are viewed as researchers; powerfully resourceful and guiding to learners. They provoke and stimulate thinking by listening, observing, and documenting and are supported in their work. They have complex goals and are committed to reflecting on their own educating and learning.


  No way. The hundred is there.

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi (translated by Lella Gandini)
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach


Official Reggio Emilia Website



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