MET:Reggio Emilia Approach

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Created by Shafali Hamir (2014)

Reggio Emilia is a city in Northern Italy, with a population of around 170,000 people.[1]The Reggio Emilia approach was developed by Loris Malaguzzi, a teacher in Reggio Emilia, and the parents of the villages around Reggio Emilia in Italy in the late 1940’s. The aim of this approach after World War 2 was to foster children’s intellectual development through a systematic focus on symbolic representation (Edwards, C., et al., (Eds.). 1993, p.3).[2]Young children are encouraged to explore their environment and express themselves through all of their natural “languages,” or modes of expression, including words, movement, collage, dramatic play, and music (Edwards, C., et al., 1993, p.3).[2]It is through a self-guided curriculum that the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration are brought out.

File:Reggio Town.jpeg
Town of Reggio Emilia.
File:Reggio Town2.jpeg
This is a piazza in Reggio Emilia. Piazza is a city square or plaza where one can find markets, shops, and small businesses.


  • In 1945 after Liberation Day, the first preschool in Reggio Emilia originated.[3]
  • At the end of a Fascist Dictatorship and the Second World War, it was In the 1950’s and 1960’s where an organized association of elementary teachers came together with a goal of innovation in education in mind.[4]
  • These teachers wanted to develop new ways of teaching in the new democratic society.
  • The works of John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, Howard Gardner and Jerome Bruner had a powerful impact on the development of the Reggio Emilia Approach.
  • Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) was the inspiration behind the Reggio Emilia Approach. He was a primary school teacher who studied psychology and spent most of his life working with colleagues in Reggio to further his understanding of how children learn, and to make evident his belief in his image of the competent, confident child.[3]
  • In 1963, the first municipal preschool was opened by Loris Malaguzzi, and by the late 1960’s, the schools were transferred to the city government for operation and financing.[3]
  • During the 1980’s, the Reggio Emilia Approach became known internationally as the first exhibit opened in Sweden at the Modern Museet in Stockholm. At the same time, the National Group for Work and Study on Infant Toddler Centers was formed in Italy.[3]
  • On May 24, 1994, the Friends of Reggio Children International Association was founded with over 1,000 members in Italy and other countries around the world. This non-profit organization’s aim is to promote the rights, resources, and potentials of childhood.[5]
  • In Feb 2006, the Loris Malaguzzi Centre opened. This centre is place for people in Reggio Emilia, and the rest of the world, to come together to research the philosophy and for professional development.[6]


The Reggio Emilia philosophy is a tightly woven, integrated and systemic philosophy underpinned by guiding principles. These principles represent the philosophy’s fundamental guidelines:

  • The image of the child
  • The role of the teachers
  • The role of community and parents
  • The role of the environment
  • Documentation

This is approach built upon a solid foundation of connected philosophical principles inspired by many early childhood psychologists and philosophers, such as Dewey, Piaget Vygotsky, Gardner and Bruner.[4]The Reggio Approach follows the children’s interest rather than following a set curriculum of academic goals. It is through hands-on projects related to those interests where principles of science, math, and language are covered.

“Rather than seeing the child as an empty vessel waiting eagerly to be filled with knowledge, Reggio educators believe strongly in a child with unlimited potential who is eager to interact with and contribute to the world” (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 1999).[7]

The image of the child

File:Role of child.jpg
A Reggio student explores letters by writing in white sand on a black tray.

All children have the potential, curiosity and preparedness, in constructing their own learning. They should be considered as active citizens and have the right to collaborate and communicate with others.[8]Children are able to construct knowledge based on prior experiences and interactions with others and should not be viewed as passive receptors of teacher-generated knowledge. Children also have multiple forms of representation which have been come to be known as “The Hundred Languages of Children”.

The role of the teachers

In Reggio, teachers are partners in the co-construction of knowledge with the students. Teachers know how to listen to children, how to allow them to take the initiative, and yet how to guide them in productive ways (Edwards, C., et al., 1993, p.xi).[2]The Reggio teacher is a key partner in the learning process by observing and documenting, and allowing children to:

  • Ask their own questions and generate and test their own hypotheses
  • Explore and generate many possibilities, both affirming and contradictory.
  • Encourages learning in all domains (cognitive, physical-motor, social, and affective)
  • Utilizes key moments to guide children in using appropriate tools and materials in order to express themselves in the multiple symbolic and artistic media.
  • Communicate their ideas to others
  • Through the process of revisiting the opportunity to reorganize concepts, ideas, thoughts and theories, construct new meaning

(Edwards, C., et al., 1993, pp.151-169)[2]

The Atelierista is a specialist trained in the visual arts and works with other teachers and children to develop projects summarizing learning experiences.[6]This is a central role to the Reggio Emilia approach.

The role of community and parents

The Reggio Emilia approach grew out of a parent cooperative movement; therefore, the involvement of parents and community and their partnership with educators and children has played a vital role since the beginning. Many of the parents are part of the advisory committee running each school. Parent participation is also expected in day-to-day interactions, work in the schools, discussions of educational and psychological issues, celebrations, special events, and off-campus activities.[9]

The role of the environment

File:Hallway reggio.JPG
Hallways are personal with children's work which spark conversation. Mirrors are set-up to help establish a space filled with opportunity.
Natural light promotes the concept of light and shadows, and different times of the day will create different learning environments.

The environment acts as a “third teacher”, therefore playing a strong role in reggio centers and preschools. It is meant to inform and engage the viewer with its natural light, order and beauty (Edwards, C., et al., (Eds.). 1993, p.148).[2]One will not find commercial posters and plastic furniture, rather elements of light, transparency and natural materials. There is attention to detail in all parts of the school, including unexpected spaces like stairways and bathrooms. How simple objects are arranged on shelves and tables, and light shining through transparent collages reflect the patterns both children and teachers have created.(Hendrick, J., (Ed.). 1997, p.18).[10]The environment fosters a natural link between the outside environment, as understanding what is happening ‘on the outside’ encourages students to be active participants in the greater environment.[7] The environment is a personal one as children’s own work is displayed in the halls and inside the classroom. One will find paintings, drawings, paper sculptures, wire constructions, transparent collages colouring the light, and mobiles moving gently overhead.(Hendrick, J., (Ed.). 1997, p.18).[10]Dialogues are also part of the displays as communication is valued at all levels. Children engage in communication by writing messages to others and deliver the messages in personal mailboxes. These mailboxes are often set in the halls or inside the classroom. Through preparing messages, children naturally become interested in the value of reading and writing before formally being taught in the elementary curriculum.(Hendrick, J., (Ed.). 1997, p.18).[10]Each school has a space called the atelier. This is a special workshop or studio used by all the children, teachers, and the atelierista. It contains a variety of tools, resources, and materials for children to use to represent their understanding of the world around them.(Edwards, C., et al., (Eds.). 1993, p.21).[2]


Documentation is a critical component of the Reggio Emilia Approach. Transcriptions of children’s remarks and discussions, photographs of their activity, and representations of their thinking and learning using many media are carefully arranged by the atelierista, along with the other teachers, to document the work and the process of learning done in the schools.[10]

Documentation has several functions:

  • To make parents aware of their child’s experience
  • Maintain involvement of parents
  • To allow teachers to understand children better
  • To evaluate teachers’ own work to further develop professional growth
  • To facilitate communication and exchange ideas among educators
  • To make children aware that their effort is valued
  • To create an archive that traces the history of the school and the pleasure of learning by many children and their teachers

(Hendrick, J., (Ed.). 1997, p.21).[10]


File:Space reggio.JPG
Reggio students created the moon as their study about space unfolded. Mixing white and black paint to make gray, and using shaving cream to create texture for craters, students collaboratively worked on this piece of art.

Projects are in-depth studies of particular topics undertaken by small groups of young children and is designed so children can make meaningful connections in their own environments. Projects are long-term and often derive from the children’s and teachers’ ideas and interests, thoughts and theories in information worth knowing about. Topics also evolve from spontaneous play and exploration, an idea or problem posed by one or more children, or from an experience initiated directly by teachers.(Hendrick, J., (Ed.). 1997, p.22).[10]

According to Gandini (1997):

Projects provide the backbone of the children’s and teachers’ learning experiences . They are based on the strong conviction that learning by doing is of great importance and that to discuss in groups and to revisit ideas and experiences is the premier way of gaining better understanding and learning.[10]

The hundred languages of children

The term “hundred languages of children” refers to the belief that children use many different ways to represent their understanding of the world around them. It is through painting, drawing, sculpting, modelling, music, and pretend play, that each of these Hundred Languages are valued and nurtured.(Edwards, C., et al., 1993, p.3).[2]

A Reggio student moulds a Macaroni Penguin after studying pictures of various penguins.

“The Hundred Languages of Children” exhibit is a display travelling around the world that describes the educational process through photographs. This includes samples of children’s paintings, drawings, collages, constructive structures, and explanatory scripts and panels.(Edwards, C., et al., 1993, p.6).[2]This exhibit has been travelling across the United States, Canada, and Mexico since 1987 and the aim of this exhibit is to reconfirm certain values which are central to the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy.[4]

Stop Motion Video - Kaitlin Burns ETEC 510-65B

See also


  1. Council of Europe Retrieved 22 February 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Edwards, C., et al., (Eds.). (1993) "The Hundred Languages of Children." Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Loris Malaguzzi and The Reggio Approach to Early Childhood Education Retrieved 2007
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 North American Reggio Emilia Alliance Retrieved 9 April 2013
  5. Reggio Emilia Australia Information Exchange Retrieved 2011
  6. 6.0 6.1 Reggio Children International Centre
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Years Education Retrieved 1999
  8. Gandini, L. Introduction to the Fundamental Values of the Education of Young Children in Reggio Emilia (adapted from Gandini, L. (2008). Introduction to the schools of Reggio Emilia). In L. Gandini, S. Etheredge, S. & L. Hill (Eds.), (2009). Insights and inspirations: Stories of teachers and children from North America (pp. 24-27). Worchester, MA: Davis Publications, Inc. </gallery>
  9. Gandini, L., (1997). Foundations of the Reggio Emilia approach. In J.Hendricks (Ed.), First Steps Toward Teaching the Reggio Way (pp.14-25). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 Hendricks, J., (Ed.). (1997). First Steps Toward Teaching the Reggio Way. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Further reading

  • Cadwell, Louise B. (2002). "Bringing Learning to Life: A Reggio Approach to Early Childhood Education." New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  • Edwards, C., et al., (Eds.). (1993). "The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education." Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
  • Fraser and Gestwicki, (2000). "Authentic Childhood: Exploring Reggio Emilia in the Classroom." Nelson Thomas Learning.
  • Forman, G. (1989). "Helping Children Ask Good Questions." In B. Neugebauer (Ed.), The Wonder of it: Exploring how the World Works. Redmond, Washington: Exchange Press.
  • Hendrick, Joanne, (ed.). (1997). "First Steps Toward Teaching The Reggio Way." Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
  • Helm, Judy G. and Lilian Katz, (2011). "Young Investigators: The Project Approach in the Early Years." New York; Washington, D.C.: Teachers College; National Association for the Education of Young Children.
  • Lewin-Benham, A. (2008). "Powerful Children: Understanding How to Teach and Learn Using the Reggio Approach." New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Rinaldi. (2005). "In dialogue with Reggio Emilia - Listening, Researching and Learning." Routledge.
  • Wurm, J. (2005). "Working in the Reggio Way: A Beginner's guide for American Teachers." St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

External links