About Reggio Emilia

Time, and how children and adults use it, is central to the Reggio philosophy. The rhythm and pace of the child is always given overriding importance . . . This means really having time for children's thoughts and ideas, and giving value to their work, their conversations and their feelings by slowing down to listen to them.

The Reggio Emilia Approach, p21

The northern Italian town of Reggio Emilia has a firmly established worldwide reputation for forward thinking and excellence in its approach to early childhood education.

North American and Scandinavian educators have long recognised the importance of the continuing educational development that is taking place in the Reggio model, and there is much about the approach that is of interest to educators in Scotland.

It is a socio-constructivist model. That is, it is influenced by the theory of Lev Vygotsky, which states that children (and adults) co-construct their theories and knowledge through the relationships that they build with other people and the surrounding environment. It also draws on the work of others such as Jean Piaget, Howard Gardner and Jerome Bruner. It promotes an image of the child as a strong, capable protagonist in his or her own learning, and, importantly, as a subject of rights.

A photo of a boy playing the triangle

It is distinguished by a deeply embedded commitment to the role of research in learning and teaching. It is an approach where the expressive arts play a central role in learning and where a unique reciprocal learning relationship exists between practitioner and child.

Much attention is given to detailed observation and documentation of learning and the learning process takes priority over the final product. It is a model that demonstrates a strong relationship between educational establishment and community and provides a remarkable programme for professional development.

Our image of children no longer considers them as isolated and egocentric, does not only see them as engaged in action with objects, does not emphasise only the cognitive aspects, does not belittle feelings or what is not logical and does not consider with ambiguity the role of the reflective domain. Instead our image of the child is rich in potential, strong, powerful, competent and, most of all, connected to adults and children.

Loris Malaguzzi, quoted in Penn, H., Comparing Nurseries: Staff and Children in Italy, Spain and the UK, Paul Chapman Publishing, 1997, p117

All that takes place within the Reggio establishments in terms of learning and teaching, building relationships and professional development stems from one over-riding factor – the image of the child.

Rather than seeing the child as an empty vessel waiting eagerly to be filled with knowledge, Reggio educators believe strongly in a child with unlimited potential who is eager to interact with and contribute to the world. They believe in a child who has a fundamental right to 'realise and expand their potential'.

This is a child who is driven by curiosity and imagination, a capable child who delights in taking responsibility for his or her own learning, a child who listens and is listened to, a child with an enormous need to love and to be loved, a child who is valued.

Indeed the way in which children’s many strengths and abilities are valued and ‘listened to’ is fundamental to this approach. While international visitors so often concentrate on the graphic and visual aspects of children’s work, the words and conversations of the children demonstrate capacities to reflect and make hypotheses on very complex and often abstract thoughts and ideas, when given the time and emotional space to do so.

Fundamentally, then, this is an image of a child who is a subject of rights. This is highlighted in the creation of a Charter of Rights, a manifesto of the rights of parents and practitioners as well as children, which is evident in every school.

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