How Children Learn at a Reggio Emilia School

A Reggio Emilia School offers an open-minded, exploratory method of early-childhood learning that encourages diversity, flexibility and relationship-building. Geared towards student-directed activities and play, Reggio Emilia is a modern technique that appeals to the ideals of many families. Children learn through experience: touching, tasting, smelling; using all of their senses to communicate and absorb the wonders of their quickly expanding worlds. If you are a Connecticut family looking for the right educational match for your child, we encourage you to consider Riverside Magnet School in East Hartford. We are a Reggio Emilia school that focuses on positive child development. Here, parents can see how their children benefit from this Reggio Emilia approach.

You might be wondering, with a child-directed approach, how do children really learn at a Reggio Emilia school? As a leading Reggio-inspired magnet elementary school in Connecticut, we’re here to break it down:

Through Curiosity.

In the words of Early Childhood Today, children are “full of the desire and ability to grow up and construct their own knowledge.” You may have noticed that children are naturally curious, and are hardly shy with their questions. As they engage with the world around them, they have endless interests, and they turn to adults with their probing. Engaging in an open question and answer process supports children’s curiosity, and is in fact a founding technique that Reggio Emilia schools practice.

For example, a child may ask, “Why do some leaves change color?” The adult in this situation will encourage this child’s curiosity. They may respond, “What an excellent question! Why do you think they change?” After the child’s reply, the adult will continue the conversation by questioning more deeply; “What else do you notice about the trees and the leaves?” This exchange can lead to further hands-on exploratory learning opportunities like collecting leaves, talking about their different shapes, making prints, and much more. Reggio Emilia schools triumph in the natural observational abilities of children, and launch students’ learning from this place of curiosity.

Via Child-Led Activities.

Children’s interests, stemming from their questions and investigations, are developed into a variety of activities at a Reggio Emilia school. For instance, our example of a child/adult conversation about leaves and autumn could open the door for teachers to dive further into related topics. A classroom may investigate the changing of the seasons, cook seasonal foods, draw pictures of favorite fall pastimes (like apple picking and raking in the yard), investigate the sounds that leaves and trees can make. The creative opportunities are endless! With a child-led curriculum, Reggio Emilia schools allow children to direct valuable classroom investigations, with support.

In a Variety of Languages.

Reggio Emilia promotes the concept of “the hundred languages of children,” dubbed by the founder of the approach, Loris Malaguzzi. Beyond writing and verbal communication, students in a Reggio Emilia school are encouraged to use all of their senses. In addition to using arts and crafts for expression, students may wish to dance, move, play pretend, make music, and use other non-verbal or non-mark-making forms of communication. Contrary to the didactic, verbal and written learning that is often the standard in many Western schools, the power in other methods of expression is emphasized and encouraged in a Reggio Emilia school.

By Building Communication and Response Skills.

Children’s wonder is shared amongst the classroom with the Reggio Emilia approach, and their questions are opened up for discussion. Collaboration and group-thinking is emphasized. Let’s say that different children have varying theories about why the leaves change their colors. They have investigated this topic through a variety of approaches—from drawing to conversing to role-play. Adults compile the classroom’s theories, but never say that one child’s idea is right and another is wrong. Ensuring that both adults and students use supportive discussion language, such as “I think” or “I disagree,” constructive conversation is built, as is cumulative knowledge. In this way, each classroom participant learns more about the topic, others’ opinions, and develops a sense of respect and self-confidence.

With Reflection.

Documentation is a very important aspect of a teacher’s job at a Reggio Emilia school. Through documentation, children, “become even more curious, interested, and confident as they contemplate the meaning of what they have achieved” (Malaguzzi). In addition, parents are given an eye into the learning process through a variety of angles. Children’s artwork and writing, photographs of students creating in the classroom, recordings of songs sung together, videos of dances—all of these documentation methods bring Reggio Emilia learning full-circle to the teachers, parents and students alike.

A Reggio magnet school builds a community of mutual child/adult respect. At Riverside Magnet, children learn through curiosity, utilizing varying language, and engaging with one another as well as with adults, in a continual process of reflection and deep consideration. Children learn the value of their ideas: an incredibly empowering concept.

For families interested in learning more about Riverside Magnet School, please sign up for a parent information session here.