It promotes teaching and learning to ensure childrens school readiness and gives children the broad range of knowledge and skills that will provide the right foundation for good future progress, throughout school, and adult life. (Hutchin, 2012) I will be highlighting links between the EYFSs four main themes; A Unique Child, Positive Relationships, Enabling Environments and Learning and Developing, and discussing how the Reggio Emilia Approach supports these themes. The Reggio Emilia Approach is focused on preschool and primary education, originally set up in the northern Italian town of Reggio Emilia.
It has a reputation for forward thinking and excellence in its approach to early childhood education. It is an approach where the expressive arts play a central role in learning and where a unique reciprocal learning relationship exists between practitioner and child. (Tornton, 2006) According to Locke and Rousseau children are born as blank slates completely free of any predisposition or vulnerabilities, and that everything the child would become was due to the effects of their environment.
(Moyles, 2010) Though within the Reggio Emilia approach they see children as slightly different, they believe children are empty vessels waiting eagerly to be filled with knowledge. Reggio educators believe strongly that a child has unlimited potential and is eager to interact with, and contribute to the world. (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2006) The way the Reggio Emilia Approach views their children is much like the Early Years Foundation Stage. The EYFS states ever child is a unique child who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.
(EYFS, 2012) Both the EYFS and the Reggio Emilia Approach see children as individuals; this is conveyed throughout the EYFS, as one of its main themes is : A Unique Child. The EYFS states practitioners should understand and observe each childs development and learning, assess progress, and plan for the next steps. (EYFS, 2012) The Reggio Emilia approach tackles this in a very different way in relation to the UK. Childrens work is documented throughout the year on walls to display a story of the childs learning; it is not something that is made after the child has finished working.
Educators observe, document and analyse childrens learning journeys, they are able to make informed hypotheses about how to guide children in their learning. It is obvious then that documentation is far removed from photographic displays of completed project work. (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2006) Throughout the Reggio Emilia buildings there are many long, child height mirrors. This is designed to support children to help them develop a positive sense of their own identity and culture. This is one of the practices of the Unique Child theme in the EYFS.
Another way the Reggio Emilia Approach supports children finding their own identity is pedagogy this means that art is seen as another way of communicating and expressing ideas. Children are also encouraged to raise their own questions and answers, and this re-enforces the childs opinion that their thinking is valued. Education is based on relationships. Reggio Emilia teachers are seen as partners in learning, (Tornton, 2006) for example pupils and teachers work together aiming towards a common purpose: the building of a culture. This respects childhood as a time to explore, create and be joyful.
Participation begins even before the children have started school, through a comprehensive integration programme. This involves meetings between children, parents and teachers to build an image of the child as an individual. This often involves the child doing a task such as making a holiday booklet of photographs and favourite nursery rhymes; this can be used as stimulus for discussion between child and teacher. (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2006) The teachers working with the child links to one of the four themes within the EYFS- Positive Relationships.
The EYFS states you should be supportive of the childs own efforts and independence (EYFS, DATE). By the teacher being a partner in learning, suggests that children could have the freedom to convey their thoughts and ideas more freely. To give an example: The teacher strives to support and encourage the child on the learning journey, encouraging them to reflect and to question. In this sense, the role of the teacher is not to dispense information or simply to correct. Rather, the teacher is like a tool that the children use when most needed.
(Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2006) This also links to Jerome Bruners theory of scaffolding, this is the idea that you can give children support in their learning. Froebel also stressed the significance of building positive relationships within an educational environment; his most important gift to children was the classroom, symbolically viewed as an extension of a lovely, thriving garden. This enabled the teacher to take on the role of a loving, supportive parent. (Bruce, 2012) This shows that from a personal view he thought teachers should be like an empathetic parent.
Environment plays a key role in supporting and extending a childs development. Vygotsky believed that we learn from our environment and the people around us. (Vygotsky, 1978) His view is much like the teachings of the Reggio Emilia Approach, for example one of their fundamental principles says the environment is the third teacher, the environment is recognised for its potential to inspire children. (Tornton, 2006) Kerka (1999) suggests that an environment that nurtures learning provides the necessary resources and time for investigative play and experimentation.
It is one in which children are free and motivated to make choices and to explore for answers without feeling intimidated. (Cited, Danko-Mcghee, 2009) Within the Reggio Emilia settings children have lessons outside in the community, making great use of the Piazzas, which are squares within the town, where children can learn alongside the community, as well as making the most out of the outdoors. This also has an impact on positive relationships between both the community and the children, which links to the enabling environment within the EYFS.
Reggio Emilia buildings and spaces link to what the EYFS suggests practices should offer, stimulating recourses, relevant to all the childrens cultures and communities. Reggio Emilia settings, buildings and spaces reflect their relationships and view of the child. There are lots of long windows, this is so that the children can interact with the outside community, and also it reflects the idea that education is not just what you learn in the classroom. It is seen as less restricting to have long windows, and lets a lot of light into the setting creating a more natural airy environment.
Within the setting there are a lot of natural materials used, from the childrens toys and equipment to the building and furniture inside. This is much like Steiners view, in his schools all toys are made from natural materials, this is because simple toys stimulate and encourage imagination, as children can interoperate natural materials to be anything they want. Throughout this assessment I have been linking the key themes of the EYFS and relating them to the Reggio Emilia Approach, I am now going to discus whether or not the approach can be taken from Italy and brought to the UK.
As I have mentioned above a big aspect of the Reggio Emilia approach is the environment, I believe this may be a problem as many of our English calendar months can be wet, cold, and miserable. Children spend the majority of time indoors during the winter months, even sometimes on dry days largely due to protests from parents that the damp weather is bad for the children. Though in Italy they do not have this problem, if it is wet or cold they just see this as an opportunity for children to wrap up warmer.
I do believe it is counter-productive to wrap children up in cotton wall, I think that sometimes it is good for children to be taken out of their comfort zones. This will benefit a childs emotional development by trying and exploring new things and gaining self-confidence. Maybe we need to look at our cultures upbringing of our children and let children explore the different seasons. Even though the outdoors isnt a major part of the Reggio Emilia is it still highly valued, as they like to encourage a lot of natural materials and bring the outdoors in, whilst exploring the different environments.
Also we lack in open out door spaces within the community for example in Italy they have plazas Bringing this approach to the UK may cause some trouble for children who do not have a secure home setting; this is because going to school creates a secure environment. Whereas, with the Reggio Emilia approach, children may find their education too unstructured. Instead of choosing their learning methods, they might prefer a setting with secure guidelines and learning outcomes. Furthermore I think the transition from the Reggio Emilia Approach to mainstream higher education may be difficult
as the children, as they are so used to the freedom and the scaffolding of the teachers, that they might not be able to settle into the strict curriculum. I believe this quote sums up my opinion perfectly, It is a mistake to take any approach and assume like a flower you can take it from one soil and put it in another one. That never works. We have to figure out what aspects of that are most important to us and what kind of soil we need to make those aspects (Gardner, 1993)