Reggio Emilia Approach To Learning

At the heart of the Reggio Emilia approach is the belief that children are full of curiosity and creativity; they are not empty memory banks waiting to be filled with facts, figures and dates. Much of Reggio-Emilia approach to learning is based on protecting children from becoming subjected too early to institutionalized doctrines which often make learning a chore rather than an extension of natural curiosity.

Reggio-inspired preschool curriculum is inspiring, flexible and mindful of children’s ideas, thoughts and observations. The Reggio Emilia approach is to cultivate within children a lifelong passion for learning and exploration.

The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education is based on experience in the Reggio Emilia Municipal Infant/toddler and Preschool Centres in Italy. It places emphasis on children’s symbolic languages in the context of a theme-oriented curriculum. Languages of children is a term used to express the many different ways children use to communicate, explore and understand their world. ┬áLearning is viewed as a journey; and education as building relationships with people (both children and adults) and creating connections between ideas and the environment.

International recognition of the Reggio preschools exploded in 1991, when a panel of experts commissioned by Newsweek magazine identified the preschools of Reggio Emilia as one of the “best top ten schools in the world” (Newsweek 1991). Today, leading corporations and institutions are increasingly adopting the Reggio Emilia approach for their preschool programs. In recent years, notably, Google and the World Bank have become prominent advocates for this approach to early childhood education.

The Reggio Approach is based on strong guiding principles:

  • The child as protagonist, collaborator, and communicator
  • The teacher as partner, nurturer, guide, and researcher.
  • Cooperation as the foundation of the educational system.
  • The environment as the “third teacher.”
  • The Parent as a Partner
  • Documentation as communication

Emergent Curriculum: An emergent curriculum is one that builds upon the interests of children. Topics for study are drawn from the talk of children, through community or family events, as well as the known interests of children (puddles, shadow, pond life, firemen, etc.). Themes are planned and put forward to the children, and as the children discuss and work through the theme, the teachers guide them and help formulate all the possible directions of a theme and supply or help source the materials needed, support and involvement. An emergent curriculum is a living, thinking, child inspired way of learning that intrigues children, captivates their interest and holds it.

Project Work: Projects are in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests. Considered as an adventure, projects may last a day (baking bread), one week (germinating seeds) or could continue throughout the school year (charting the daily temperature). Throughout a project, teachers help children make decisions about the direction of the project, the ways in which the group will research the topic, the medium that will demonstrate and showcase the topic, and the selection of materials needed for the work.

Representational Development: The Reggio Emilia approach calls for the integration of the graphic arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development. Presentation of concepts in multiple forms — print, art, construction, pottery, drama, music, puppetry, and shadow play — are viewed as essential to children’s understanding.

Collaboration: Collaborative group work, both large and small, is considered valuable and necessary to advance cognitive development. Children are encouraged to talk, critique, compare, negotiate, hypothesize, and problem-solve through group work. Within the Reggio Emilia approach, different approaches toward the same investigation are all valued, and thus children are given access to many tools and media to express themselves. The relationship and collaboration with the home, school and community all support the learning of the child.

The Hundred Languages of Children

This poem by the founder of the Reggio-Emilia approach beautifully conveys the important roles imagination and discovery play in early childhood learning.


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 marvelling, 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 at 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
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

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