There is a phenomenon we have all experienced when we hear a new word, phrase, or concept for the first time and then start to notice it everywhere…and I’ve been experiencing that phenomenon with regard to the Reggio Emilia schools. I learned about Reggio Emilia a few weeks ago when I attended Brooklyn College’s Universal Preschool In Sweden event. I quickly learned that the Reggio Emilia model is well-known throughout the education world. A few days later, I learned about an upcoming event about infant and toddler development through the lens of Reggio Emilia, presented by Explore + Discover and My Learning Springboard.
I attended the event on Thursday and truly enjoyed the evening. The event was hosted in a beautiful space in Tribeca. Arriving guests were greeted warmly with music playing in the background and snacks and drinks awaiting consumption. The crowd was intimate and diverse, with various professionals from different backgrounds in the audience. Although a PowerPoint presentation and video clip guided the presentation, the conversation was informal and interactive, with audience members sharing their perspectives and personal experiences.
The presentation consisted of many of the same points as were presented at the Brooklyn College event: child-centered approach (letting the child’s interests guide instruction, rather than following a predetermined agenda set by the teacher), teacher/parent as a researcher (understanding the child’s interests through observation of the child’s individual movements and patterns), and materials conducive to learning (easily accessible, natural, etc.). The overall message, to put it succinctly: encourage the child to explore and discover!
A point I hadn’t considered prior to this evening was the importance of recording children’s thoughts and comments as they explore and discover, which can help to track and understand the development of a child’s interests and his/her overall personal growth. I developed an appreciation for the importance of exposing children to sensory stimuli early on. Children also need to learn the consequences of their actions through guided exploration, rather than to fear the unknown because of overprotective teachers. To conclude the evening, we explored the similarities and differences among the Reggio Emilia model, the Montessori approach, and Dr. Stanley Greenspan’s DIR/Floortime methodology.