In 1945 in Italy, the towns’ people of Reggio Emilia felt determined to build a school from their rumbled city after World War ll. After experiencing so much destruction, the towns’ people envisioned a different world for their children.
They decided to create a school from the bricks of the rubbed town that lay all around them. Their school was going to be a beautiful environment, rich with materials for their children to explore, investigate, inquire, and create meaningful things. They wanted an exemplary education for their children. The children would be taught how to work as a strong individuals within the community around them. The children would be free to follow their interests. The teachers would facilitate the learning process and foster critical thinking. The town believed that every “child’s right” was to have access to the highest quality of education.
An educator, Loris Malaguzzi, heard about the visionary school that the town of Reggio Emilia was building. So the story goes, “he came on his bicycle to see if the stories were true”. Malaguzzi was so amazed by the town’s approach to teaching that he stayed and taught at the school.
He developed the approach along with the teachers and the Atelierista there at the school. Later he helped to open a network of preschools and infant centers outside the Reggio Emilia city limits. These schools spread and now have gained world-wide attention.
“The child is a real researcher . . . Yet it is possible to destroy this attitude of the child with our quick answers and our certainty. How can we support and sustain this attitude of children to construct explanations?”
- Carlina Rinaldi
The Reggio Emilia approach came out of the Constructive Theories. Constructivism is based on the observation and scientific study of how children learn. “It says that children build or “construct” their own understanding and knowledge of the world, from experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences.”
This approach gain speed from a progressive and cooperative education movement. This approach is based on theorists including Dewy, Vygotsky, Bruner, Montessori, and Piaget. Psycholisist Jean Piaget’s research on early childhood learning was instrumental in developing better approaches to childcare and education. Piaget was the first psychologist to make a systematic study of cognitive development and proved that children are born with a basic but evolved mental structure. Through play experiences children form theories about the world around them. These theories are centered on critical thinking. Before Piaget’s theories the common assumption in psychology was that children are merely less competent thinkers than adults. Most of early childhood education today is based on the assumption that young children are “empty vessels that teachers fill with knowledge”.
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