Reggio Emilia Philosophy
Immediately after World War II a town in Northern Italy, called Reggio Emilia, decided to bring hope to their families. Out of the ruins they constructed quality preschools for their children. In present times Reggio Emilia has been broadly recognized for having some of the best preschools in the world.
The Reggio Emilia approach to education is committed to the creation of a learning environment that will enhance and facilitate children's construction of his or her own powers of thinking through the combination of all the expressive, communicative and cognitive languages. The Reggio Emilia approach is based upon the following principles:
Emergent Curriculum: An 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, shadows, dinosaurs, etc.). Team planning is an essential component of the emergent curriculum. Teachers work together to formulate hypotheses about the possible directions of a project, the materials needed, and possible parent and/or community support and involvement.
Project Work: Projects, also emergent, are in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests, which arise within the group. Considered as an adventure, projects may last one week or could continue throughout the school year. Throughout a project, teachers help children make decisions about the direction of study, the ways in which the group will research the topic, the representational medium that will demonstrate and showcase the topic and the selection of materials needed to represent the work. Long-term projects or progettazione, enhance lifelong learning.
Representational Development: Consistent with Howard Gardner's notion of schooling for multiple intelligences, the Reggio Emilia approach calls for the integration of the graphic arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development. Presentation of concepts and hypotheses in multiple forms of representation -- print, art, construction, drama, music, puppetry, and shadow play -- are viewed as essential to children's understanding of experience.
Collaboration: Collaborative group work, both large and small, is considered valuable and necessary to advance cognitive development. Children are encouraged to dialogue, critique, compare, negotiate, hypothesize, and problem solve through group work. Within the Reggio Emilia approach multiple perspectives promote both a sense of group membership and the uniqueness of self. There is high emphasis on the collaboration among home, school and community to support the learning of the child.
Teachers as Researchers: The teacher's role within the Reggio Emilia approach is complex. Working as co-teachers, the role of the teacher is first and foremost to be that of a learner alongside the children. The teacher is a teacher-researcher, a resource and guide as she/he lends expertise to children. Within such a teacher-researcher role, educators carefully listen, observe, and document children's work and the growth of community in their classroom and are to provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking, and children's collaboration with peers. Teachers are committed to reflection about their own teaching and learning.
Documentation: Similar to the portfolio approach, documentation of children's work in progress is viewed as an important tool in the learning process for children, teachers, and parents. Pictures of children engaged in experiences, their words as they discuss what they are doing, feeling and thinking, and the children's interpretation of experience through the visual media are displayed as a graphic presentation of the dynamics of learning. Documentation is used as assessment and advocacy.
The Role of Three Teachers
Reggio Emilia schools believe that there are three primary teachers of our children. The first teacher is that of the parent, the second teacher is the classroom teacher and the third teacher is the environment.
The Role of the Parent
The active participation of parents in the life of the school is an essential component of the educational experience at Oak Park Neighborhood School. Our families are actively involved in meetings, celebrations and events. We want parents to be part of the school not only by receiving feedback from teachers about their child's work but also when decisions about the school and about educational approach are taken. Partnering with parents is essential for consistent, positive experiences both at home and at school. Parents are aware of what is happening in the classroom through posting of daily schedules and lesson plans. Teachers provide written assessments on each child’s development and opportunities to learn more about the development of young children through sponsored seminars and newsletters. This all supports an open environment of communication between the parents and the teachers.
The Role of the Teacher
At Oak Park Neighborhood School we recognize the critical role our teachers play in preparing your child for a lifetime of learning. All of our teachers are highly experienced educators in the development of young children. Our expectations are high and we demand nothing less than the following from our teaching teams:
* To help children see the connections in learning and experiences.
* To co-explore the learning experience with the children.
* To provoke ideas, problem solving, and conflict resolution.
* To take ideas from the children and return them for further exploration.
* To organize the classroom and materials to be aesthetically pleasing.
* To organize materials to help children make thoughtful decisions about the media.
* To help children express their knowledge through representational work.
* To document children's progress: journals, photographs, and portfolios.
* To have a dialogue about the projects with parents and other teachers.
* To foster the connection between home, school and community.
The Role of the EnvironmentOur environment is designed to provide a variety of sensory experiences in an aesthetically pleasing manner, using both indoors and outdoors as learning spaces. Classrooms are light and bright. Items found in nature are incorporated into the classroom materials and considered an important part of developing an appreciation for the world around us. Teachers carefully arrange the room and display all materials so that children can make thoughtful decisions when working and exploring. Documentation of children's works, plants, and collections that children have made from outings are displayed both at the children's and adult eye level. Common space is available to all children in the classroom that includes dramatic play areas, sensory tables, atelier/art center, library and reading nook, block center and worktables for puzzles and scientific learning. Our classrooms provide an enriched environment that nourishes each child's development.