Montessori and Reggio Emilia schools are great educational options for parents who are considering alternatives to a traditional educational approach for their children. There are many similarities between Montessori and Reggio Emilia, as well as some unique differences. It’s important to fully understand each in their entirety so that you can provide your child with the best educational experience. Below is a comparison of Montessori and Reggio Emilia programs, to help you determine which approach will benefit your little one the most.
- Self-Directed Learning:
One of the main similarities between Montessori and Reggio Emilia is the self-directed and individualized experience that children receive with both approaches. Unlike most traditional schools (where a set curriculum is put forth by a teacher and the district administration), Montessori and Reggio Emilia schools allow children to take charge of their own learning. Children are encouraged to direct their educational experiences through their interests and exploration in the classroom.
That said, Montessori schools do follow a general curriculum which includes math, science, geography, cultural studies, and music. However, Montessori students are given the freedom to choose which pre-prepared projects and activities they’d like to participate in, which ultimately relate back to the general curriculum.
Reggio Emilia schools are not as formal as Montessori schools in that they do not follow any general curriculum. The curriculum at these schools is completely guided by students’ exploration and curiosity, evolving as they evolve. Reggio students use their many languages to explore in the classroom, choosing projects and activities that spark their interests, and create meaningful learning experiences as a result.
- Classroom Environments:
Montessori and Reggio Emilia classroom environments are both designed for hands-on learning. The similarities between Montessori and Reggio Emilia classrooms encourage children to think freely, with open areas for students to explore and self-guide their own learning. Both high-quality, unconventional classroom environments support the unique learning models of each school.
The setup in a Montessori classroom, however, promotes a more independent style of work. These classrooms are designed with spaces for children to work independently, as well as in groups. Students can move about the classroom autonomously, with access to carefully chosen materials and resources that can be used for their projects and activities. Montessori schools also promote children of different ages to interact in the classroom. Therefore, there may be multiple age groups in one classroom environment. This unique approach gives children the opportunity to learn from peers of different ages.
In the Reggio Emilia classroom, the environment is seen as the “third teacher.” Classrooms are set up in a way that is flexible and encourages a child’s curiosity and creativity. There are no assigned seats in a Reggio Emilia classroom – children have easy access to a variety of materials and supplies that can be used to direct their own learning. Children are encouraged to express themselves in any way they feel comfortable, through activities that interest and engage them. In a Reggio setting, the classroom environment is typically grouped by age, rather than the multi-age groups you may find at a Montessori school. Peer play and group thinking are promoted highly in a Reggio Emilia school, which encourages children to collaborate, be respectful, and develop positive communication skills.
- Teacher Interaction:
Unlike traditional environments where a teacher directs and facilitates learning in a classroom, teachers at the Montessori and Reggio Emilia schools take a different approach. As previously mentioned, one of the main similarities between Montessori and Reggio Emilia schools is their self-directed learning models. Therefore, teachers in these schools do not necessarily tell children what to do – instead, they are there to guide children in their learning journeys and facilitate positive experiences inside the classroom.
While teachers of both schools promote self-learning, Montessori teachers take a more observational role in a child’s learning. They are there in the classroom as a guide for children, however, they do not interfere with the children’s learning. They encourage children to learn and develop more independently in the classroom.
Teachers at a Reggio Emilia inspired school, however, take more of an interactive role. They become involved in a child’s learning and their primary role is to learn together with them. If a child becomes interested in music specifically, a Reggio Emilia teacher will provide that child with engaging materials like drums, shakers, and other sound-makers. They may also create new learning activities that incorporate song and dance. Other direction may be taken if children show interest in art, nature, science, or reading – but teachers always serve as this guide, this observer, this listener, and this facilitator. Since documentation is an important pillar of a Reggio Emilia education, teachers are also responsible for making sure that children’s experiences and interactions are documented so that the parents and teachers can then together reflect on each child’s progress and growth.
There are many similarities between Montessori and Reggio Emilia schools as well as some key differences. Deciding between these two types of schools for your child is a big decision. If you are interested in learning more about the Reggio Emilia path and would like to explore a reputable school in the area, please do not hesitate to contact Riverside Magnet School for more information. You may also schedule a parent information session to learn more!
Goodwin College is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin College was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.