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Inspirational Approaches Part 3: Reggio Emilia

Developed around the villages in Italy after World War II, the approach is based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interest of the children through a self guided curriculum.

Our Little Ripples team was drawn to the Reggio Emilia approach because it was created by a village who felt it necessary to develop a new, quick approach to teaching their children after the destruction from war.  The village saw the education and care of the children as the local community’s collective responsibility.  Many of the Reggio philosophies just seemed to fit with what we wanted for Little Ripples:

  • The child is an active participant in learning.  We want the children to have some control over the direction of their learning.  During free play time, children will be given a variety of options to spend time on activities of their choice.  Teachers are also receptive to class’s learning pace and the curriculum will be formative rather than rigid and timeline based.
  • Children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing, and hearing.  With each teacher training, the Little Ripples teachers are exploring different ways to lead classroom activities and guide students through their learning.  As opposed to simply standing in front of the room and guiding the class through chants, songs and rhymes, Little Ripples teachers will encourage students’ learning through a variety of play-based activities.  Little Ripples teachers are also learning how to engage students through two-way discussions and guiding questions that can help spark a child’s imagination and wonder.
  • Parents are viewed as partners, collaborators, and advocates for their children. Teachers respect parents as each child’s first teacher and involve parents in the curriculum.  Little Ripples will build a strong parent engagement strategy.  One strategy is to foster community by hosting conferences and special activities for parents.  Parents can also volunteer to help out with classroom tasks during the days or maintain the school premises.  We want to build out an educational component for parents so that the home environment and school environment mirror each other, providing a greater sense of routine and unified environment for learning.
  • The organization of the physical environment is crucial to the Reggio Emilia approach and is often referred to as the child’s “third teacher” (after the teacher and parent).  For the past two trips we have bought a plethora of classroom resources but we also want the Little Ripples classrooms to use materials found in the local environment, such as clay, and use them to learn in a hands-on way.

Do you have any experience with the Reggio Emilia approach either as a teacher or parent? How has the Reggio Emilia approach improved the life of you or your children? I would love to hear about it!  Please comment below or you can write directly to me at Jennifer@iactivism.org.


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Jennifer became passionate about international development and humanitarian work when studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, and leading youth performing arts workshops in one of the surrounding townships. After graduating from UCLA with a Masters in Public Health in Community Health Sciences, she taught adolescent reproductive health to high school students in South and East Los Angeles. She has also worked as a Research Associate at the UCLA Center for Health Services and Society, where she was able to foster an understanding of the community engagement and community resilience approaches, and hopes to incorporate these strategies in her work with Little Ripples. jennifer@iactivism.org


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