Historical Foundations of Early Childhood Education 

Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia is both a city in Italy and a school of the same name and locale. Built in 1948 in post-WW2 by parents who hired an educational innovator named Loris Malaguzzu as its director. By 1963, the single school had become a government-funded system of Early Childhood programs throughout Italy. By the 1980's and to this day, educators from all over the world visit the Reggio Emilia to observe their methods. The schools are characterized by a set of philosophies and values based in constructivist theories and the progressive education movement, and by a deep commitment to honor the rights of parents, teachers, and children. The philosophies key concepts are that children are strong and competent individuals with the right to the best education available, that education is based on relationships, and that education is based on the interaction of children working and playing together in small groups. The school is seen as an amiable community where teachers dialogue with children, each other, with the greater community, and with families. The curriculum is not planned in advance but is created spontaneously according to the children's intellectual curiosity, social interactions, and interests. Curriculum goals and planned projects are based on teachers observations of the children, not on a pre-made plan with defined, specific goals in mind. Teachers are viewed as 'partners in learning' and work
with the children to 'co-construct' understanding and discovery.

The Reggio approach fosters intellectual development through a focus on symbolic representation. The primary curriculum is in-depth project work based on the interests of the children. Children are encouraged to express themselves through 'natural languages', including drawing, painting, working in clay, sculpting, constructing, conversing, and dramatic play. Reggio educators believe these languages are to be cherished, celebrated, nurtured, and documented, and provide children with a wide variety of materials to explore the possibilities of expression with. The environment is equally important, referred to as 'the third teacher', because of how children construct knowledge by their interactions with said environment. The classroom is set up to promote partnerships, social interaction, and constructive learning. Key elements of the classroom include the atelier (art studio), and the  piazza (central gathering area). Schools are built with skylights and plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows to flood the space with natural light and provide transparency, allowing children to see throughout the schools walls. Mirrors reflect light, plants bring nature inside, and children are provided with high quality art supplies, recycled materials, and natural objects, arranged on open shelving within reach of the children. Children's work is proudly displayed, and the environment celebrates the child's right to a beautiful, functional space to work and play.

Teachers in Reggio programs regard themselves as researchers, constantly observing and documenting the child's experience, work, and study to better understand children, curriculum planning, teacher development, and communication with families and the community. Photographs of children and transcriptions of their questions and conversations are kept  in portfolios for parents to examine.