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Reggio Emilia; connecting hearts

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

When I moved from rural Connecticut to Tacoma Washington in the mid-1980s after enlisting in the Air Force, I realized that I was in need of an upgrade in driving skills. I was accustomed to parking in bountiful public lots. Skillful parallel parking would be needed to explore city life and all of it’s abundant experiences. Upon my arrival in Tacoma, I borrowed a car, loaded up on coins and drove to the center of Seattle at daybreak to practice parallel parking. I practiced parking by placing a text book on either end of various parking spaces along the city streets. And I practiced using parking meters. I then treated myself to coffee at downtown’s Beth’s Café. This strategy was my way of self-parenting by making the challenge easier and downright fun. And this is a similar strategy used in Reggio Emilia preschool curricula. Albeit in group form.

Humans are capable of constructing their own learning. What happens to that ability? What if you as an adult designed your own way of learning? What if you learned how to parallel park on your own terms rather than from a prescribed driving school curriculum?

The Reggio Emilia pedagogy was developed after WW II in the area of Reggio Emilia, Italy. A psychologist named Loris Malaguzzi collaborated with local parents to develop a new way of learning based on Malaguzzi’s theory that children inherently have 100+ ways to learn and embrace concepts.

A Reggio Emilia curriculum is designed to encourage children to learn according to their inherent learning styles. Similar to the way in which an autodidact learns, a child who engages in a Reggio Emilia curriculum can enjoy learning using their own style of pedagogy. Students are guided through the learning process by teachers who have been educated in an epistemology known as the Reggio Emilia curriculum. Students learn by navigating and experimenting with each new environment. They are encouraged to help others through and by understanding empathy. For example, when a child feels uncomfortable meeting their classmates for the first time, a Reggio Emilia- inspired classroom teacher would encourage the child’s classmates to brainstorm and quickly implement ways in which they can compassionately help their classmate acclimate to the new environment. Reggio Emilia teachers develop curricula based on their observations of the interests of their students. A teacher who studies the curriculum can see the fruitful value of allowing children to be who they are intuitively.

Compare what a teacher in a Reggio classroom would do if one of their students who, at home, witnessed parental frustration (or fascination) with the concept of parallel parking and who wanted to try it out to the teacher whose work must conform to regimented practices such as what is required of them in public school settings. A Reggio Emilia teacher would take the student out of the classroom and practice parking with schoolyard play cars, use toy cars in the classroom, incorporate this learning into all major areas of pedagogy and… make it fun. Because learning is…so….much…fun!

The One Hundred Languages of Children by Loris Malaguzzi

The child

is made of one hundred.

The child has

a hundred languages

a hundred hands

a hundred thoughts

a hundred ways of thinking

of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred

ways of listening

of marveling of loving

a hundred joys

for singing and understanding

a hundred worlds

to discover

a hundred worlds

to invent

a hundred worlds

to dream.

The child has

a hundred languages

(and a hundred hundred hundred more)

but they steal ninety-nine.

The school and the culture

separate the head from the body.

They tell the child:

to think without hands

to do without head

to listen and not to speak

to understand without joy

to love and to marvel

only at Easter and Christmas.

They tell the child:

to discover the world already there

and of the hundred

they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:

that work and play

reality and fantasy

science and imagination

sky and earth

reason and dream

So who are we? And how comfortable would we feel as adults if we were educated in a background of understanding and curiosity? What would it be like to be employed by an organization that encourages its leaders to observe team members in order to truly understand what makes them feel like valuable contributors? To extract valuable insight from such contributors? Insight that could surprisingly result in additional growth and revenue.

Please think of this idea of Reggio Emilia pedagogy as you parallel park. Think of how you mastered the practice and of how you would teach children the same given the opportunity. Beyond the fire we feel in our souls when humans respond to each other disparately, there is a Utopia of hearts that exists despite our needs to fight for our lives, for our honor and our ability to feel incorporated into this human adventure.

Bowing to you, all beings of Planet Earth.


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