Let’s peek into a Reggio Emilia kindergarten classroom at the beginning of the school year. What do you see? The bare walls are ready to exhibit student work, and the large rug on the floor awaits eager learners. There is natural lighting and child-sized furniture, carefully placed and considered. You’ll find no shortage of hands-on teaching tools like blocks, books, and arts and craft supplies. As the year progresses, you’ll witness projects growing as children build their skills; you’ll see the unique educational approach that Reggio Emilia teachers use to guide the learning process. You will undoubtedly be welcomed into the school community, and witness how a Reggio Emilia kindergarten, such as the one at Riverside Magnet School, can be so beneficial for your child.
In the Reggio Emilia approach, children use their “many languages” of expression to direct classroom activities. Through a project-based curriculum, pupils of Reggio Emilia enter the world of learning creatively, in a manner that prepares their minds for a lifetime of educational exploration. Therefore, Reggio Emilia kindergarten classrooms are set up to support this child-centric educational philosophy. Additionally, the environment in a Reggio Emilia inspired classroom is incredibly important – so much so, that its role is said to be the “third teacher.” So, the design of the classroom matches the function of child-directed learning in these special classrooms.
Reggio Emilia teachers arrange their learning spaces from a child’s perspective: making sure that there are a variety of exploration stations, and that there are comfortable spaces appropriate for solo, small group, and large group learning. Poking around, you might find science and nature areas, costumes for dramatic play, structures to build, quiet and cozy nooks, and writing, drawing and sculpting supplies. There may be materials for counting and organizing such as colored buttons, feathers, and yarn, or sensory tables holding sand or water. Reminders of home or familiar parts of children’s worlds could be staged, such as play food and a plastic stove, or gardening tools and soil. Here, children can “practice” some of the activities that they see their families participating in. In a Reggio Emilia style classroom, where children direct their own learning, options and variety are important in order to encourage the ignition of children’s individual curiosity. It is through this emergent curriculum that teachers take their cues.
Teachers hold a special role in a Reggio Emilia classroom: they are researchers and documenters. Entire projects may be built from children’s questions; for example, how plants grow, or investigations into the properties of water. One question leads to another, and projects may be as deep as children’s interests are sustained! Teachers guide this exploration, acting as negotiators and supervisors. As children explore projects, teachers maintain an open line of communication with parents, and continuously record, collect, save, and share all of the children’s creations. Thanks to such project-based learning in a Reggio Emilia kindergarten program, grown-ups will find plentiful documentation around the classroom. From self-portraits to clay bowls, science experiments to photographs of children working together, videos of singing, to the results of giant group art projects – in a Reggio Emilia kindergarten, there will always be plenty take home and put on the refrigerator.
Kindergarten is different from preschool in that standardized elementary school benchmarks now must be met. This may seem daunting at first, however, the curriculum is approached through the same early childhood educational methods that are found in Reggio Emilia preschools. Though a head-start in a Reggio Emilia preschool classroom could be beneficial to your child, any pre-educational background is a perfect way to enter a Reggio Emilia kindergarten. At Riverside Magnet School, every student’s individuality, as well as the diversity found in our school community, is celebrated.
To find out more about how a Reggio Emilia kindergarten classroom could be a good fit for your child, we encourage you to get in touch with us at Riverside Magnet School! Parents in our Reggio Emilia community have possibly the most important role: as partners and guides for our children. We can’t wait to welcome you!