As educators, our vision of the possibilities for schools is strongly influenced by the experiences of the infant/toddler centers and preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. As we look to the example of education in Reggio Emilia, we see a strong expression of how families and educators can create schools for young children that reflect the values of the community. To be a “Reggio-inspired” school means having a vision of children and families as strong, competent, and capable.
Inherent in our beliefs and values is the conviction that as citizens of a community, children and their families have a right to high-quality educational programs. A child enters the world as a curious, capable human being who seeks relationships and connection with others. Schools should be places where the innate strengths of young children are nurtured. Schools should be places where children are supported in growing to their full potential within an environment that is interesting, engaging, and responsive. Schools should be places where professional educators are happy, receive satisfaction from their jobs, and are viewed as valuable contributing members of the community in which they work. Schools should be places where families feel welcomed, involved, and respected for their individuality and unique points of view.
Our learning environment reflects our belief that children are inherently curious, seek relationships with others, and construct their knowledge and understanding of the world through their active engagement and experiences with their environment and the people, materials, and experiences within it. From a philosophical standpoint, we consider ourselves to be social constructivists.
As a reflection of our educational philosophy, we provide a learning environment rich in materials and possibilities. Of the utmost importance are children’s active explorations in the environment. Children’s formation of ideas through experiences and processes of inquiry are of valued. Rich and varied materials are provided for the purpose of experimentation and creative expression. Children are challenged to research their theories of how things work and are encouraged to engage in a wide variety of experiences. Children are frequently engaged in small group interactions where each voice can be heard and various ideas explored and results negotiated. Each child builds skills not only in traditional cognitive, gross motor and social categories, but also in the areas of problem solving, original ideas and strength of conviction.
A primary task of the educator is to provide an environment that is filled with unlimited possibilities – possibilities that encourage children to make discoveries, to experiment with their own ideas, and to interact in meaningful ways with other people. Educators are constantly engaged in a process of observation and documentation in order to develop the best possible educational environment for children. The environment is intended to be responsive to the interests and needs of children while simultaneously encouraging children to develop in ways that are projected by educators.
Each classroom, as well as the school as a whole, acts as a democratic model where all participants interact with one another in a spirit of mutual respect and an attitude of care.