The Reggio Emilia Approach is an innovative and inspiring approach to early childhood education. Founder of this philosophy is Loris Malaguzzi, who managed to organise a democratic school by supporting the freedom and autonomy of the child but also putting the teacher in the role of partner. It is not a method. It is a training model in which the mental, emotional, social and moral potential of the child are grown through creative ways of expression. It gives children more ways and materials to express themselves and by extension to learn. The education of early childhood in the schools of Reggio Emilia, was recognized in 1991 by the American magazine “Newsweek”, as one of the best educational systems in the world (Cadwell, 2002).
Reggio Emilia is a city of north Italy, which is known for both its rural and industrial production. However, it has attracted the interest of researchers from various scientific communities around the world, because of the innovative infrastructure developed in preschool education. Immediately after the Second World War in the spring of 1945 Loris Malaguzzi was called for a highly unusual event. People of Reggio Emilia had decided to build and organize a school for young children. The idea came from the parents, who had decided that the financial support would come from the sale of an abandoned military vehicle, some trucks and some horses left behind by the Germans when leaving. So, “mattone su mattone” (pebble by pebble) the first school in Villa Cello was built by parents and teachers. The training system, developed through a mutual agreement and a strong relationship between parents and teachers (Baldini et al., 2000).
The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based upon the following set of principles:
- Children must have some control over the direction of their learning;
- Children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, and observing;
- Children have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that children must be allowed to explore;
- Children must have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves.
The environment as the “third teacher”
The educational environment in the schools of Reggio Emilia is an important factor. The school environment constitutes a rich stimulus and provides with opportunities which with the appropriate manipulations is converted to a field of action and learning. The surrounding area is considered as a factor of the educational process as the appropriate organization and equipment enhances learning and stimulates active interaction between the child and the environment. The child is participating actively and autonomously in an environment rich in natural light and full of internal plants. The piazza, the atelie, classrooms, library, kitchen, materials, natural light and clear shaped spaces create opportunities for active participation and learning. The first and second teacher are considered to be the adults and the peers in a child’s life.
The 100 languages
The one hundred languages of children is an idea originally conceived by L. Malaguzzi and it became the “trademark” of the Reggio Emilia approach. It is a poem in which very quickly and comprehensively is reflected the faith in the abilities of children, revealing the image of the child within the context of the approach. In fact, the one hundred languages is a metaphor in order to declare the wealth of expressive means by which children represent and express ideas and feelings and the multiple ways by which they understand the world (Filippini et al, 2005).