The Reggio Approach derives its name from its place of origin, Reggio Emilia, a city located in Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy. Shortly after World War II, Loris Malaguzzi, a teacher and founder of this unique system joined forces with parents to provide childcare for young children. Originally inspired by the need for women to return to the workforce, this education system has developed into a unique pedagogy that has caught the attention of educators around the world.
Understanding this complex system of education is challenging. It invites us, as teachers, to see the possibilities of what can be, if we are willing to take risks and let go of our traditional roles.
The Reggio Approach respects and puts into practice many of the fundamental aspects of the work of Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Montessori and many others. It is a system that lends itself to: the role of collaboration among children, teachers and parents; the co-construction of knowledge; the interdependence of individual and social learning; and the role of culture in understanding this interdependence. (Baji Rankin, 2004)
At the heart of this system is the powerful image of the child. Reggio educators do not see children as empty vessels that require filling with facts. Rather they see children as full of potential, competent and capable of directing their interests and building their own theories.
Children have the right to be recognized as subjects of individual, legal, civil, and social rights; as both source and constructors of their own experience, and thus active participants in the organization of their identities, abilities, and autonomy, through relationships and interaction with their peers, with adults, with ideas, with objects, and with real and imaginary events of intercommunicating worlds. All this while establishing the fundamental premises for creating “better citizens of the world” and improving the quality of human interaction, also credits children, and each individual child, with an extraordinary wealth of inborn abilities and potential, strength and creativity. Irreversible suffering and impoverishment of the child is caused when this fact is not acknowledged.
Starting from this point of reference, we recognize the right of children to realize and expand their potential, placing great value on their ability to socialize, receiving their affection and trust, and satisfying their needs and desires to learn. And this is so much truer when children are reassured by an effective alliance between the adults in their lives, adults who are always ready to help, who place higher value on the search for constructive strategies of thoughts and action than on the direct transmission of knowledge and skills. These constructive strategies contribute the formation of creative intelligence, free thought, and the individuality that is sensitive and aware, through an ongoing process of differentiation and integration with other people and other experiences. The fact that rights of children are recognized as the rights of all children is the sign of a more accomplished humanity.
Project work is a large component of the Reggio Approach, but there is much more to this complex system. Each day, the teachers reflect on the experiences of the children, always mindful to watch for “the ants instead of always waiting for the elephants”. (Amelia Gambetti, Reggio Children)