5 Reggio Emilia Approach Values Reflected in a Creative Curriculum Classroom
The Reggio Emilia Approach and The Creative Curriculum are both founded on the idea that children are capable of driving their own learning and benefit most from supportive teachers who listen to children’s voices and observe their interests to curate learning environments and projects that follow the children’s lead. This strong alignment of core values means that teachers who use The Creative Curriculum often incorporate Reggio Emilia Approach values into their plans, learning environment, and daily interactions with children and families.
Let’s take a look at the following examples to see how a The Creative Curriculum teacher incorporates Reggio Emilia Approach values into her teaching practice.
1. Environment Is the Third Teacher
The Reggio Emilia Approach refers to the classroom environment as the “third teacher.” This idea reflects the understanding that the environment has a powerful impact and works alongside families and teachers to inspire children’s learning. A well-planned environment reflects children’s learning; includes elements of nature, such as natural light and plants; and is comfortable and welcoming to children, families, and teachers.
At the beginning of the year Ms. Elena follows the guidance in The Creative Curriculum for Preschool: The Foundation, Chapter 2, “The Learning Environment,” to organize the interest areas in her classroom. She chooses appropriate materials, adds cozy and natural elements, labels the shelves and containers in languages that reflect what children hear in the community, and ensures that each area offers children options without being overwhelming. Before finishing, Ms. Elena looks around the classroom and asks herself, “What message is the environment sending to children and families?,” “Does my classroom feel warm and welcoming to everyone?,” and “Where can children’s work be displayed and appreciated?”
2. Project-Based Learning
A key component of the Reggio Emilia Approach is following children’s interest and curiosity in the world around them to plan in-depth projects where children explore their questions and represent their learning in a variety of ways. The Creative Curriculum supports project work through Teaching Guides that feature studies of topics that children have real-world experience with, such as balls, clothes, simple machines, trees, and gardening.
During a nature walk at the end of their Insects study, Ms. Elena invites her class to take pictures of interesting things they discovered. After the walk, the children ask to take pictures of more things both inside and outside of the classroom. Because the children are showing an interest in cameras, Ms. Elena adds a simple digital camera to the Discovery area. For a few days, she observes how the children use the camera and writes down what questions they have about cameras. Following the children’s sustained interest in cameras, Ms. Elena decides to introduce the Cameras study after they conclude the Insects study.
3. 100 Languages
Loris Malaguzzi played an instrumental role in the development of the Reggio Emilia Approach. He used the metaphor of children having “100 languages” to explain the extraordinary potential that children have to express themselves, think, make connections, and build knowledge. To embrace children’s boundless potential, the Reggio Emilia Approach values all verbal and nonverbal communications equally and provides a variety of ways for children to engage in learning, express ideas, and work on projects over time.
Throughout the Cameras study, the children explore cameras in a variety of ways by taking pictures and videos, reading books about cameras, use cameras to make video calls, and incorporate cameras into their dramatic play. During the investigations, Ms. Elena is quick to observe and slow to respond to children’s explorations. This means that when she notices a child using a camera in an unexpected way, such as holding it upside down to take a picture, she observes first to understand their interest without commenting on what they are doing. By taking the time to observe rather than engage, Ms. Elena does not break the child’s concentration and allows them to drive their own learning.
4. Collaboration Is Critical
A core value of the Reggio Emilia approach is that “children learn a lot from other children, and adults learn from children being with children. Children love to learn among themselves, and they learn things that it would never be possible to learn from interactions with an adult. The interaction between children is a very fertile and a very rich relationship” (Malaguzzi, 1993). This means that a critical component to children’s learning and development is uninterrupted time to play and work with other children every day.
Ms. Elena has 1 hour of uninterrupted choice time each day, along with a few shorter choice times. During choice time, the children are free to engage in the interest areas while Ms. Elena moves through the classroom, observing the children as they play and interact with each other. She also follows the guidance in the Cameras Teaching Guide to provide opportunities for the children to further explore cameras within an interest area. During these planned experiences and their free play in the interest areas, children work together to discuss ideas, problem-solve, and create rich play scenarios.
5. Documentation of Children’s Learning
An integral part of creating a shared learning experience with the Reggio Emilia Approach is documenting children’s learning throughout projects. This allows children’s interests, experiences, and discoveries to be visible all around the classroom and shows that their words and actions are important and valuable.
Throughout the Cameras study, Ms. Elena documents children’s learning on charts and through pictures, and the children document their learning thorough observational drawings, dictation, pictures, and videos. At the end of the study, Ms. Elena and the children celebrate their learning by organizing all of the documentation into displays that show what they have learned. They share these displays with families and guests at the end-of-study celebration.
Inspire Children With Project-Based, Investigative Learning
The Creative Curriculum builds children’s confidence, creativity, and critical thinking skills through hands-on, project-based investigations.