SchoolArts Magazine

AUG-SEP 2013

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Managing the artrooM Reggio Emilia: A Child-Centered Approach Nancy Walkup T he Reggio Emilia region of northern Italy is justifiably proud of its parmigianoreggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar, but its best-known export is a child-centered approach to early childhood education. This past January, I was fortunate to participate in the Winter Institute in Reggio Emilia, along with educators from fifty countries. the reggio Philosophy The Reggio Emilia educational philosophy is focused on infant/toddler, preschool, and primary education in Italy, though its methods can be adapted for any level of schooling. Teacher Loris Malaguzzi started this approach after World War II. Because of a belief that the early years of development are crucial for children, he and local parents created a program based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community. The philosophy is implemented through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on each child's interests. an inside Look During my visit, I was able to visit four different schools and witness the program in action. Similarities between the schools were clearly evident. A common feature in Reggio Emilia schools is the presence of an atelier; a combination of an art studio and a science laboratory, usually guided by an art teacher called an atelierista. In each school, every surface is covered with all kinds of objects to explore, including every form of natural object one could imagine, and recycled materials to manipulate and place. There is an intriguing emphasis placed on the concepts of light and transparency, evidenced by large interior and exterior windows, light tables, various forms of technology, and transparent collaborative murals. 12 August/September 2013 SchoolArts In Reggio Emilia schools, students' artwork is used to visually represent the schools while making it apparent to students that their work is valued. This sign is at the entrance of the Malaguzzi Institute. The schools are decorated with students' work and are designed with students in mind. Having so much of their work on constant display shows children just how much their work is valued. In place of individual desks are interestingly shaped tables and colorful, soft furniture that can easily be moved around by the children. Each infant/toddler and preschool class has an area with dress-up clothing, and, in many of the newer schools, the classrooms open to the outside and provide children with delightful places to play such as gazebos and underground tunnels cut into hillsides. In some infant/toddler schools and preschools the kitchen is at the center of the school and students are involved in preparing and serving the meals. The children's bathrooms are unisex and often contain toys. At one school I visited, there was even a foosball table in the bathroom. Each child in the infant/ toddler schools and preschools has a mattress upon which he or she can nap after lunch, a practice I wish American schools still followed. Who wouldn't want to go to a school like this, no matter what your age? To investigate further, check out the resources listed on the right. Nancy Walkup is the editor of SchoolArts. nwalkup@davisart.com resources North American Reggio Emilia Alliance, www.reggioalliance.org The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformation, edited by Lella Gandini, Carolyn Edwards, and George Forman (Praeger, 2011). Insights and Inspirations from Reggio Emilia: Stories of Teachers and Children from North America, edited by Lella Gandini, Susan Etheredge, and Lynn Hill (Davis Publications, 2009). In the Spirit of the Studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia, by Lella Gandini, Lynn Hill, Louise Cadwell, and Charles Schwall (Teachers College Press, 2005).

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