BlogTeaching ResourcesWhat is Reggio Emilia Approach: Features, Benefits & Traits

What is Reggio Emilia Approach: Features, Benefits & Traits

Imagine a world where children are seen as curious explorers, their creativity is nurtured, and their unique perspectives are celebrated. This is the essence of the Reggio Emilia approach, a philosophy that revolutionizes how we perceive and facilitate early education.

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In the scenic town of Reggio Emilia, Italy, after the ravages of World War II, a visionary named Loris Malaguzzi dared to envision an educational paradigm that would empower children as active participants in their growth. In this article, we will explore the secrets of the Reggio Emilia approach. We’ll delve into its four guiding principles, discover the enchanting classroom environment it creates, explore the qualities that define exceptional Reggio Emilia teachers, and understand the remarkable benefits it offers to young learners

What is Reggio Emilia Approach?

Reggio Emilia is renowned worldwide for its child-centered philosophy and unique learning environment. It emphasizes the importance of the child’s innate curiosity and natural ability to learn through exploration and hands-on experiences. 

This fundamental belief translates into a collaborative learning environment where teachers co-learn with the children, fostering a lateral relationship rather than a hierarchical one. This partnership extends to include parents and the wider community of each child.

A key aspect of the approach revolves around stimulating the children’s senses, incorporating visual, auditory, tactile, and even gustatory and olfactory experiences to facilitate learning. Consequently, Reggio Emilia classrooms often differ from conventional preschool settings, featuring spacious common areas, natural elements, and abundant accessible and intriguing materials that ignite curiosity.

4 Guiding Principles of Reggio Emilia

Illustration of kids in classroom doing project work

1. Image of the Child

The first principle tells us that every child is unique and has extraordinary abilities. They’re not like empty buckets that need to be filled with knowledge. Instead, they are like little superheroes who learn by doing things and exploring the world around them. This principle reminds us to listen to their ideas, let them make choices, and create a place where they can freely express themselves.

2. Curriculum

Instead of just being told what to learn, they get to follow their interests and ask questions about things they’re curious about. Teachers are like guides, watching and listening to what the kids are excited about and helping them learn more about those things. In their role as facilitators, teachers carefully observe and shape the curriculum, ensuring that it aligns with the children’s evolving passions and needs.

“Teachers, in their role as facilitators, carefully observe and shape the curriculum, ensuring that it aligns with the children’s evolving passions and needs.” – Carla Rinaldi.

3. Collaboration

Kid and teacher holding different colors of bell

The third principle emphasizes working together. Teachers, parents, and the community join forces to support children’s education. They create a strong team, bringing real-world experiences and diverse perspectives to enrich learning beyond the classroom.

4. Documentation

Documentation of kids art in classroom

The fourth principle highlights the importance of documenting children’s learning processes. Educators and parents can preserve precious moments that showcase children’s thoughts, discoveries, and growth by capturing photographs, videos, artwork, and written reflections. Documentation is a way to reflect on the learning journey, celebrate achievements, and collaborate with others.

“Documentation invites us to embark on a journey of reflection, celebration, and collaboration, ensuring that the marvels of children’s learning are cherished and shared with others.” –  Amelia Gambetti.

A central aspect of the educational philosophy in the Reggio Emilia movement is captured in the poem “100 Languages” authored by Loris Malaguzzi. The poem beautifully expresses the belief that children possess a multitude of languages—dance, art, laughter, play, song, and more—through which they explore and comprehend the world around them.

For optimal learning, providing children with opportunities to engage with all these languages is crucial. However, the poem highlights that traditional educational approaches, which limit children’s ability to speak, think, and actively participate, deprive them of these various means of expression.

What Does a Reggio Emilia Classroom Look Like?

Reggio inspired classroom emphasis on the classroom environment as a key element in supporting children’s learning and development.  The classroom is designed to be a place that makes kids feel welcome, excited, and ready to work together. It encourages them to explore, be creative, and feel like they belong. Here are some important things you’ll find in a Reggio Emilia classroom:

Aesthetically pleasing and homelike atmosphere

A vibrant kids classroom with wooden furniture

As you enter, you’ll immediately notice the warm and inviting atmosphere. Soft lighting and vibrant colors create a cozy and homelike ambiance, making children feel safe, comfortable, and ready to explore. The walls are adorned with colorful displays showcasing children’s artwork, photographs, and stories, proudly showcasing their achievements and documenting their exciting learning journey.

Natural and open materials

But it’s not just about aesthetics. The classroom is carefully designed to stimulate all senses and captivate young minds. Natural materials, such as wood, shells, and fabric, are abundantly present, inviting children to touch, feel, and connect with the world around them. These materials provide endless possibilities for open-ended play and creative expression.

Flexibility and organization

Flexibility is key in a Reggio Emilia classroom. The furniture and materials are arranged in a way that allows for movement and collaboration. Different interest areas beckon children to immerse themselves in various activities and explore their passions. There’s a cozy reading nook for those eager to dive into a world of books, a science corner with intriguing specimens and magnifying glasses, and an art station bursting with paints, clay, and endless art supplies. The space is organized, yet ever-evolving, to cater to the dynamic needs and interests of the children.

Documentation panels

One of the most captivating aspects of a Reggio Emilia classroom is the presence of documentation panels. These panels tell the story of children’s learning journeys. They proudly showcase their discoveries, questions, and reflections through photographs, drawings, and written narratives. The walls become living testaments to the children’s growth and accomplishments, sparking conversations and sparking a sense of pride in their achievements.

Collaboration and community

Kid and teacher holding different colors of bell

Collaboration and community lie at the heart of a Reggio Emilia classroom. Children work together, sharing ideas, problem-solving, and engaging in projects that captivate their curiosity. Common areas provide spaces for group discussions, performances, and celebrations, fostering a strong sense of belonging and camaraderie.

In a Reggio Emilia classroom, the environment is carefully curated to provoke children’s curiosity, stimulate their senses, and support their active engagement in learning. It is a place where children’s voices are heard, their choices respected, and their natural curiosity cherished. By creating an environment that celebrates their uniqueness and encourages exploration, Reggio Emilia classrooms spark a lifelong love for learning and empower children to become active participants in their educational journey.

5 Essential Traits of a Reggio Emilia Teacher

Becoming a Reggio Emilia teacher is more than just a profession—it’s a calling that requires a unique set of qualities and a deep commitment to the principles and values of this innovative approach to early education. Reggio Emilia teachers play a crucial role in creating a nurturing and stimulating environment that supports children’s exploration, curiosity, and development. Here are some essential qualities and characteristics that embody what it takes to be a Reggio Emilia teacher:

1. Passion for children’s learning

A genuine love for children and a deep belief in their potential are at the core of being a Reggio Emilia teacher. These educators have a passion for fostering children’s growth and development. They view each child as a unique individual, respecting their strengths, interests, and diverse perspectives. 

2. Reflective and observant nature

Reggio Emilia teachers possess a reflective mindset and keen observation skills. They carefully observe and document children’s interactions, questions, and discoveries, using this information to guide their curriculum and project choices. Reflective teachers continuously assess and evaluate their own teaching practices, seeking opportunities for growth and improvement. 

3. Collaborative spirit

Teacher and kids sitting on chair in classroom

Collaboration is a fundamental aspect of the Reggio Emilia approach, and Reggio Emilia teachers embrace this wholeheartedly. Teachers work closely with families to understand and incorporate their perspectives, cultural backgrounds, and aspirations into the learning process. They also collaborate with other teachers, engaging in co-planning, co-teaching, and regular dialogue to enhance the educational experience and create a sense of shared ownership within the learning community.

“Collaborative learning is not just about working together, it’s about discovering the power of collective knowledge and celebrating the beauty of diverse perspectives.” – Vygotsky.

4. Flexibility and open-mindedness

Reggio Emilia teachers possess a flexible and adaptable mindset. They embrace the unpredictable nature of children’s interests and needs, willingly adjusting their plans and strategies to accommodate the ever-changing dynamics of the classroom. These educators encourage children’s ideas, allowing them to take the lead in shaping their learning experiences.

5. Documentation and communication skills

Teacher teaching students in a classroom with documentation

Documentation is a cornerstone, and Reggio Emilia teachers excel in this art. They skillfully capture and display children’s work, reflections, and progress through photographs, videos, journals, and documentation panels, fostering a sense of pride and engagement among the children.

7 Benefits of Reggio Emilia Approach

The Reggio Emilia approach to early education holds within it a treasure trove of extraordinary benefits that have the power to revolutionize the educational landscape. According to a 2018 study conducted in Italy, children exposed to the Reggio preschool approach demonstrated superior outcomes compared to those who did not attend preschool or attended different preschools. These positive outcomes included higher employment rates, improved socio-emotional skills, increased high school graduation rates, and greater participation in elections, along with lower obesity rates. Brace yourself for a glimpse into a world where children thrive, creativity flourishes, and a love for learning is nurtured like never before. Discover the remarkable advantages that make this approach a game-changer:

1. Inculcate a passion for learning

In the Reggio Emilia approach, education is a catalyst for inculcating a lifelong love for learning. Children become active participants in their own education, as their interests and questions drive the curriculum. This passion for learning becomes ingrained, empowering them to embark on a journey of discovery that extends far beyond the classroom.

“In the Reggio Emilia approach, education is a catalyst for inculcating a lifelong love for learning.” – Loris Malaguzzi

2. Nurturing holistic development

This approach places equal importance on children’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. Through artistic expression, collaboration, and rich sensory experiences, children’s creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills are nurtured. They develop emotional intelligence, empathy, and a deep sense of self, equipping them for success in all areas of life.

3. Fostering collaborative skills

By engaging in group projects, discussions, and cooperative activities, children develop essential collaboration skills that will serve them throughout their lives. They learn to listen, communicate, negotiate, and work effectively as part of a team. This not only enhances their social competence but also builds their capacity to appreciate diverse perspectives, fostering empathy and creating a harmonious learning environment.

4. Cultivating creativity and critical thinking

Children making art and craft

Creativity is celebrated, providing children with ample opportunities for self-expression and exploration. Through art, music, movement, and imaginative play, they learn to think outside the box, express their ideas, and approach challenges from multiple perspectives. This cultivation of creativity goes hand in hand with the development of critical thinking skills, as children learn to analyze, question, and solve problems independently and collaboratively.

5. Encouraging self-expression and communication

Children are encouraged to express themselves through various languages, including art, storytelling, and dramatic play. This emphasis on multiple forms of communication allows children to find their unique voices, building confidence and self-esteem. They learn to articulate their thoughts, share their ideas, and engage in meaningful dialogue with peers, teachers, and the wider community. 

6. Strong partnerships with parents and the community

Illustration of two adults shaking hands and a kid nearby

The approach recognizes the invaluable role of parents and the wider community in a child’s education. It fosters strong partnerships, creating a collaborative support system that benefits the child holistically. 

7. Building resilience and a growth mindset

Through this approach, children develop resilience, adaptability, and a growth mindset. They learn to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, viewing mistakes as stepping stones to success. The approach encourages risk-taking and experimentation, fostering a positive attitude towards learning and personal development. 

The Reggio Emilia approach offers a transformative educational framework that prioritizes children’s natural curiosity and active engagement in learning. By embracing this philosophy, you can empower children to become lifelong learners and critical thinkers. Create educational environments that foster creativity, collaboration, and a love for learning in every child. Join the movement for a brighter future in education today.

Embrace the Reggio Emilia Approach

The Reggio Emilia approach offers a compelling choice for parents and educators seeking an innovative and effective approach to early childhood education. It is a remarkable educational philosophy that prioritizes children’s creativity, exploration, and collaboration. By fostering a child-centered learning environment, this approach encourages active participation, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. With its emphasis on project-based learning and the importance of relationships, the Reggio Emilia approach nurtures holistic development and a lifelong love for learning. 

If you’re curious about innovative educational methods, exploring “What is the Reggio Emilia approach” will open doors to a world of transformative possibilities for both educators and learners alike. Start shaping young minds and nurturing future leaders with this transformative approach.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the principle of the Reggio Emilia approach?

The principle of this approach is to view children as competent and capable learners, valuing their natural curiosity and promoting self-expression through hands-on experiences.

How is Reggio Emilia used in the classroom?

Reggio Emilia is used in the classroom by creating a child-centered environment that encourages exploration, inquiry, and the use of various expressive mediums such as art, music, and movement.

What are the main components of Reggio Emilia?

The main components of Reggio Emilia include the role of the environment as the third teacher, the importance of documentation and reflection, the use of project-based learning, and the involvement of parents and the community in the learning process.

Jill Baker
Jill Baker has been teaching for 10 years and she loves sharing everything she has learned to help other teachers.