Fresh perspectives on the Reggio Emilia Approach with Sue Stevely-Cole

Bear Park’s group founder Sue Stevely-Cole recently returned from a week-long visit to the birthplace of the Reggio Emilia approach in Italy.

Following a 3-day Reggio Children International Network meeting and two days of professional development sessions, Sue came back inspired with fresh perspectives and reflections on the Reggio Emilia approach below.

Reggio Emilia approach

Embracing the culturally accepting character of the city.

Sue: The acceptance of different cultures has always been very strong point within the city but to see a wonderful French Market in one of the main Piazzas was very symbolic of how receptive and welcoming this special city is to others.”

Key learning from the Reggio Emilia experience.

Sue: I really like this quote from Howard Gardner, which exemplifies how the Reggio Approach is not a recipe to be copied by us all globally in our own countries. Instead, the Reggio Approach is something for us to learn from, to question, to discuss, to debate, and to reflect upon.

“I think that it’s a mistake to take any school approach and assume, like a flower, that you can take it from one soil and put it into another one. That never works. This doesn’t mean at all that [we] can’t learn a tremendous amount from it, but we have to reinvent it. … We have to figure out what are the aspects which are most important to us and what kind of soil we need here to make those aspects thrive.”
– Howard Gardner, 1997

The Reggio Approach gives us all the possibility to view things from a different perspective.

Reggio Emilia approach

Most inspired session of the visit.

Sue: There were so many fantastic speakers when I was there that it was really hard to pinpoint one particular speaker; however, one of the professional development opportunities that we were privy to be part of was especially enriching.

This particular presentation involved various atelieristas who enthusiastically shared their stories with us in regards to “in shape of clay”. All of their stories were different in their concepts, but all stories involved both the teachers and the children in a year-long research.

Reggio Emilia approach

The complexity of the thinking by these atelieristas was exquisite in the way they set up the provocations for the children to engage and how they observed and interpreted the children’s work. The attention and level of detail in their work allows such a richness for the children’s learning — there is always a clear purpose and a very definite intent behind these provocations.

These atelieristas are always aware of possibilities that the children can suggest through the children’s engagement, understanding, and how they work together with friends.

A quote from one of the exhibitions that was on display at the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre fits well within this professional development session:

“Children often force us to perform somersaults of thinking.”

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